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Cannabis in Nevada became legal for recreational use effective January 1, 2017, having been legalized by ballot initiative in 2016. Medical marijuana use was legalized by ballot initiative in 2000, and has been available to licensed individuals in the state since shortly after that date. Nevada also licenses growers and distributors, and citizens of Nevada are banned from growing their own cannabis unless they live more than 25 miles from a licensed dispensary.
Nevada first banned cannabis in 1923, during a nationwide trend of states limiting the drug between 1911-1933.
Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (1998, 2000)
In 1998, Nevada voters approved the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act (Question 9) with 59% of the vote. It was approved again in 2000 with 65% of the vote. Because the initiative was a constitutional amendment it required approval in consecutive elections in order to become law.
Medical use was officially legalized with the June 2001 passage of Assembly Bill 453, which took effect on October 1.
Assembly Bill 453 – which legalized medical use of cannabis in Nevada – also contained a provision to make possession of up to one ounce a fine-only misdemeanor for first and second-time offenders. No criminal record would be imposed until a third offense.
Prior to the passage of AB 453, Nevada was the only state in the U.S. for which possessing any amount of cannabis was a felony offense.
Failed Legalization of Marijuana Amendment (2002)
In 2002, the Decriminalization of Marijuana Amendment (Question 9) was put on the ballot as a proposal to legalize and regulate the recreational use of cannabis in Nevada – but it was soundly defeated by a 39–61 margin. Drug czar John P. Walters traveled to Nevada twice to campaign against the initiative.
Failed Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (2006)
In 2006, the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (Question 7) was voted on by Nevada citizens. It unsuccessfully sought to amend the Nevada Revised Statutes to allow for up to one ounce of marijuana to be purchased by individuals 21 years of age or older in a regulated, controlled, and state-taxed system. The measure was defeated 56% against and 44% for.
Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (2016)
In 2016, the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana (Question 2) was put before Nevada voters. The measure, which appeared on the November 8, 2016 ballot, sought to legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. The initiative did not include provisions for regulation beyond taxation, such as licensing retailers.
Question 2 was opposed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $3.35 million to the campaign to defeat the initiative. Adelson also purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in December 2015, after which the editorial board reversed its earlier endorsement of the initiative. Prior to the flip-flop, the Review-Journal supported legalization as far back as 2002 when it endorsed Question 9.
Delays and permit process (2002-2013)
Following the establishment of NRS 453, broad language in the statute prevented the erection of a state licensure program for commercial businesses. Personal cultivation of marijuana for private medicinal use was the only available means of consumption, with a maximum of 12 plants allowed Following the passage of NRS 453, medical marijuana advocates and commercial business owners criticized the Nevada's slow handling of the legislative and regulatory process. One 42 year-old Las Vegas resident even filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Nevada's medical marijuana registration program was unconstitutional for its excessive impedances and delays.
First commercial operations (2013-2016)
It was not until June 12, 2013 when Senate Bill 374 was passed and signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval that commercial distribution was made possible. The process, however, continued to take time. A contributing factor to the state's slow commercial license approval process was the limited availability of licenses and a lengthy scoring and ranking system. The first Provisional certificates for legal commercial medical marijuana operations were limited to 372 businesses within the state: 182 for cultivation, 118 for production, 55 for dispensaries and 17 for independent testing laboratories. 12 licenses were initially awarded to dispensaries, sparking "fierce competition" among applicants. Journalist Bruce Barcott of Leafly posited that the thorough vetting process created a favorable environment to patients of the dispensaries, as "applicants were graded in a host of categories — security, financing, environmental plan, etc. — and the most robust business plans won the coveted licenses. For patients, that means the dispensaries are well financed, beautifully designed, and expertly managed."
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services states that there were 9,542 cardholding participating patients as of July 2015. 6716 of these patients were located within Clark County. As of February 3, 2016, there are 5 laboratories, 19 cultivation facilities, 8 production facilities and 15 licensed dispensaries operating in Clark County. Sales figures as of that time were not available, but one dispensary assistant manager estimates that they receive 50 to 70 patients a day on average, roughly 60% of which are tourists. At the time, there were about "11,000 medical-card holders" living in southern Nevada.
Legal possession amounts
State law currently allows for the possession of 2.5 ounces of consumable marijuana in any 14-day period (NRS 453A.160). Twelve marijuana plants are permitted, irrespective of their maturity (NAC 453A.080). Consumable products are permitted with an equivalent content of psychoactive compounds such as THC (NRS 453A.112). The state of Nevada conducted a public workshop on February 4, 2016 in order to solidify proposed changes to NRS 453 defining serving sizes for edible products containing THC as well as clarifying language within the statute.
Requirements for legal patient use
The following are approved conditions for legal medical use of marijuana or marijuana products:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Persistent muscle spasms or seizures
- Severe nausea or pain
- Other conditions are subject to approval
The State of Nevada maintains strict control over the use of medical marijuana in certain situations. Consumption in a public place, at a detention or correctional facility or during delivery of marijuana to another person is illegal. Being under the influence of marijuana while driving is illegal. The state maintains a permissible limit of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of urine and 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood when operating motor vehicles. Operating an aircraft while under the influence is illegal. Possession of a firearm, licensed or unlicensed, while under the influence is illegal.
Additionally, performing certain recreational activities while under the influence of marijuana is illegal. (For instance, operating a water ski, surfboard, windsail or similar device.)
Application process for an MMR card
The process of obtaining a permit to consume medical marijuana in Nevada begins with the applicant paying the $25.00 application fee for their application packet. Upon receiving the packet, they must satisfy the needed documentation and return the packet to the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Needed materials include an attending physician's statement from a Nevada board-certified physician in good standing, a legal waiver and proof of Nevada residency.
Applicants mail the application along with a $75 registration fee. The application is verified for completeness, and the applicant undergoes a background check for drug-related criminal history. If no felony charges for distribution or trafficking of controlled substances, the applicant will be approved for their MMR card subject to further approval by the Division. An approval letter is sent, which the patient may use for 14 days as a viable permit until their photo ID MMR card is received in the mail.
Registry cards must be renewed yearly. Anyone leaving the registry program must surrender their card to the state within 7 days.
Reciprocity for other programs
Nevada is a state which recognizes reciprocity for out-of-state marijuana card holders. For example, the state of Nevada recognizes MMR and MMJ cardholders from other states with regulated medical marijuana programs, such as Colorado and Washington. According to Leafly, permissive practices and a strong tourism industry in Las Vegas has made the city a viable test case for how reciprocity policies affect income for the medical marijuana and tourism industries. Some dispensaries estimate that around half of their business comes from out-of-state cardholders.
Dispensaries in Las Vegas
The first dispensary to begin operations within Las Vegas, Nevada was Euphoria Wellness, which opened to patients on August 24, 2015. Since then, seven other dispensaries have opened within Las Vegas city limits.
Driving a vehicle under the influence of cannabis (even for approved medical use) is illegal and depending on the kind of offence one will be penalized. The offender will be penalized with $400 fine, 2 days in jail, 48 – 96 hours of community service to $5000 fine and 1 – 6 years in prison depending on the first, second and third offence.
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