Pubdate: Mon, 19 Aug 2013
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2013 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Tom Ragan


But Legal State Dispensaries Still Risk Federal Crackdown

A medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors just a mile from the 
U.S. Capitol in recent weeks, operating at a fast clip and dishing 
out different strains of the weed to cancer and AIDS patients.

Now, Nevada's medical pot advocates are hoping the dispensary, 
Capital City Care, could discourage federal government crackdowns and 
possibly even lead to repeal of the federal law that currently 
outlaws such medicinal use.

"This could help our cause. If all goes well out in D.C., then maybe 
it'll persuade the U.S. attorney general's office that medical pot 
isn't that bad," said state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

He is the chief author of a law this spring that legalized 40 
dispensaries in Nevada after a 13-year wait.

"But I still think it's hypocritical. The feds keep saying medical 
pot should be illegal; then they look the other way when one turns up 
in their own backyard," said Segerblom, who experimented with pot at 
Pomona College in Southern California in the 1960s and is now 
considered the "father of legalization" in Nevada.

Legislators in Carson City are already working to establish a fund to 
collect the millions of dollars in taxes that Nevada's dispensaries 
are expected to generate, the chief reason behind allowing pot 
dispensaries to open their doors here.

But some weren't so quick to take a toke of what they see as "Kool 
Aid" being fed to the masses.

Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, the sole legislator to vote against the 
pot dispensary bill in the Nevada Senate, said he is not entirely 
convinced that medical pot is a good thing for the state - regardless 
of the money.

A physician, Hardy said pot, when eaten, can cause a host of 
problems, showing up in even the bloodstreams of newborns, according 
to studies published by highly respected medical journals.

What's more, Hardy said, over time marijuana is going to become 
increasingly potent and will lose that "natural herb" quality, much 
along the same lines as fruits or vegetables that eventually are 
mass-produced to meet customers' demands.

"Would you rather pick and eat a tomato from the garden?" he asks. 
"Or buy one from the store? I'd go with the garden, but soon the 
medical pot we're talking about is going to be no different than that 
tomato that comes from the store."

Andrea Barthwell, a physician who was President George W. Bush's 
deputy director for Demand Reduction, a program geared toward 
reducing drug dependency and addiction, agrees.

She said medical marijuana isn't yet a bona fide medication; in fact, 
it can't even be classified as an herbal or alternative medicine 
because it is so addictive.

"We reject the notion that it's a medicine, and we reject smoking as 
a delivery system to begin with," she said.

Worse yet, Barthwell said, is that the legalization of medical pot 
that is sweeping the country has forced physicians in those states to 
consider writing prescriptions based on the opinions of a few who 
regard it as legitimate medication and have convinced others.

"It's all being foisted upon us," she said. "And everybody is 
celebrating. But you know what everybody is forgetting? They're 
forgetting about the patients in this rush to make it legal all over 
the country. What ever happened to the patients?"

There are an estimated 3,800 medical marijuana patients in the Silver 
State, which for the past decade or so provided no access for them to 
obtain their medication legally.

While various states from Oregon to Vermont have approved the weed as 
a legitimate medication - starting with California in 1996 - the 
federal government has opposed it, randomly arresting business owners 
and shutting down pot dispensaries, including in Nevada.

Segerblom put it bluntly: "There are no guarantees. Your whole 
investment could be wiped away, if the U.S. attorney comes in and 
decides to swoop down and wipe you out."

While those busts are becoming increasingly rare, there is no telling 
what the next presidential administration is capable of, said Joe 
Brezny, executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry 
Association, a budding network that is growing since Nevada legalized 
medicinal use.

"Hopefully what's going on in D.C. will help," said Brezny, former 
state director for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Nevada.

So, the medical marijuana fight isn't exactly being waged along 
liberal-versus-conservative lines.

Brezny said he is mostly libertarian, believing in very little, if 
any, government intervention. And he is applying that these days in 
his quest to make Nevada one of the more successful states to operate 
medical pot dispensaries, learning from the mistakes of other states, 
foremost among them California. Hardy is not convinced. He contends 
that the new Nevada dispensaries will only create an uncontrolled 
substance, more so than it already is.

He said AIDS and cancer victims have plenty of medications at their 
disposal, including some over-the-counter drugs that can boost 
appetites and which contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
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