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August 24, 2019

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Efforts to make it easier to get medical marijuana in Nevada are lauded

Sahara Wellness Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Steve Marcus

The bobby area is shown at Sahara Wellness, at 420 E. Sahara Ave., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The facility is the the first all-female-owned medical marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas.

Instead of waiting as long as three months for access to medical marijuana dispensaries, prospective Nevada patients can now be approved on the same day thanks to a new Las Vegas-based Division of Public and Behavioral Health office. For medical marijuana officials, that's a step in the right direction to establishing a healthy and safe medical marijuana industry.

The office opened last week on 2300 W. Sahara Ave in partnership with the Nevada Dispensary Association — a group of over 60 dispensary owners in Nevada — and allows up to 25 patients to apply in-person for their medical marijuana cards daily instead of sending their applications to Carson City.

The administrative improvement transpired after about six months of conversation between the dispensary association and state officials, said Riana Durrett, the association’s executive director.

“We wondered why it was taking so long and what we could do to help with the industry,” Durrett said. “Patients should be able to get medicine, either at the office or online.”

Applicants require a doctor’s note and background check. And to apply at the new office, they must schedule an appointment through a dispensary.

“We’re doing our part and the industry is doing theirs,” said Chad Westom, who represents the Nevada state Bureau of Preparedness, Assurance, Inspections and Statistics, which oversees the medical marijuana industry.

While Nevadans can receive immediate approval, which is good for 60 days, patients still must wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles to complete the process of receiving their actual medical marijuana card. The cards take about two weeks to be mailed.

That, too, may change.

Officials say they’re working toward a system where a Nevada patient can complete the application and approval process online, and receive their cards without having to step foot in any state offices.

Durrett said that within a month patients will be able to upload both their application and doctor’s recommendations on the Division of Public and Behavioral Health website, before receiving a downloadable, same-day approval from the state.

Through a new online network, they will forward the approvals to the DMV, where cards will be linked to the patient’s address on file, and mailed with the same picture as their driver’s license.

The process, from the beginning of a patient’s application to the time they receive their medical marijuana cards in the mail, will take no longer than 10 days, Durrett said. In the interim, they’ll still be able to use their approval, issued the same day, for up to 60 days.

“What we have now is a great improvement, but we’re still on the road to a long-term solution,” Durrett said.

The new office, which opened nearly a year after the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in July 2015, is celebrated by dispensary owners, who say business has grown significantly. Nevada has more than 18,500 cardholders, compared with about 13,500 cardholders through December 2015.

“Our goal is to establish a healthy and safe medical marijuana industry, to develop best practices for our members and to work collaboratively with our elected leaders and officials,” said Andrew Jolley, the dispensary association’s president and owner of the Source Medical Marijuana dispensary, 2550 S. Rainbow Blvd.

David Goldwater, owner of Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary, 2520 S. Maryland Pkwy., just off the Las Vegas Strip, said as many as half of his customers come from other states, thanks to Nevada’s “reciprocity” law, which allows patients from outside the state to purchase legally at Nevada dispensaries with documentation from their own states.

With the new expedited process for Nevada cardholders, Goldwater now expects a larger percentage of his customers to come from in state.

“It’s a great example of the industry working together with the regulator to benefit the patient,” he said “They want to make it easy and still remain compliant with all the law.”

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