Pubdate: Fri, 31 Aug 2001
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Nevada Appeal
Author: Geoff Dornan
Bookmarks: (Cannabis - Medicinal) (Question 9 (NV))


With several members expressing concerns the state is headed for
trouble, the Agriculture Commission on Thursday approved regulations
to implement Nevada's medical marijuana program.

"I think it's a major slippery slope here," said member John

"We're going into uncharted territory with this," agreed board member
Jim Johnson. "But let's get it going and find out where the problems

The regulations laid out by Agriculture Director Paul Iverson and
Assistant Director Don Henderson make it clear the state is only
reviewing applications for patients who need medical marijuana and
issuing registration cards exempting them from state prosecution.
Henderson said the state is assuming no responsibility for how
patients get their pot or seeds to grow it and will provide no help in
growing it.

Registered users and their designated caregiver are allowed to possess
up to an ounce of prepared marijuana, three mature plants and four
immature plants without fear of state prosecution. But Henderson made
it clear that doesn't protect them from the federal law.

"People who are in this program are susceptible to federal
prosecution," he said.

And he said neither the department nor the board was taking a position
on the validity of the program.

"Decisions whether this is right or wrong - the medical use of
marijuana - have already been made by the Legislature and are not the
purview of this board," Henderson said.

With that assurance, the board voted unanimously to approve the
regulations so that the program can start as legislatively mandated on
Oct. 1.

Also on Oct. 1, the penalty for possession and use of small amounts of
marijuana drops from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Cecile Crofoot, who will manage the program for the department, said
she will begin taking applications for medical marijuana registration
cards Sept. 24 and that Iverson will begin ruling on those
applications Oct. 1.

The notification letter patients receive, she said, will be the
patient's temporary registration card for up to 30 days while they go
to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a permanent card.

But she said after the meeting she doesn't expect a large number of
applications immediately because, in the experience of other states,
it takes a while before doctors start signing the letters agreeing
marijuana might help in the treatment of specific medical conditions.

In Oregon, which Nevada used as a model for its law, it took nearly
two months for the first doctor to sign a recommendation letter.

Doctors will write letters, rather than prescriptions, because writing
a prescription for marijuana would violate federal medical standards
and cost doctors the right to prescribe any controlled medicines.

The Nevada Legislature was mandated to approve a medical marijuana
plan by a vote of the state's residents. Some two-thirds of the
electorate supported the plan.

The board was also told Nevada will be the ninth state to approve
medical marijuana and, although it still violates federal law, the
federal government hasn't gone after individual registered users in
any of those other states.

Henderson agreed there may be problems with the law but said they were
looking at the period between now and the 2003 Legislature as a "trial
period" to work out those bugs.

Iverson said his department will watch the registered users and
caregivers while the Medical Examiners will keep close tabs on doctors
to make sure none of them abuse the new law.

One of the problems, he said, may be the cost. He said they may have
to ask the 2003 Legislature to put some money in their budget to
manage the program if it grows to any size.

Board Chairman Benny Romero asked him to report back at each board
meeting over the next year on progress and problems with the medical
marijuana program. 
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