Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

Currently: 51° — Complete forecast

Five reasons to consider investing in a medical marijuana card

Marijuana Dispensary Bus Tour

Steve Marcus

Alyssa Justino helps Michael Brousseau as he shops at Exhale Nevada dispensary during a dispensary bus tour sponsored by the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association Friday, April 20, 2018.

With more than $380 million in estimated sales and $62 million in state tax revenue collected through 11 months, Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry is booming.

While the number of medical marijuana cardholders in the state has slipped to fewer than 17,000 from its May 2017 high of 28,000, investing in a card still has its perks.

Here are five reasons why — despite the availability of recreational pot — getting a medical marijuana card is still worth the trouble for some Nevada marijuana patients.

1. Lower age requirement

Medical marijuana buyers must be 18 or older to apply for a medical marijuana card and purchase pot. Recreational buyers don’t need a state-issued card to purchase pot, but they must be at least 21 years old.

2. Higher individual purchase limits and plant potencies

While recreational buyers in Nevada are limited to purchasing an ounce of marijuana flower a day, medical cardholders can buy up to 2.5 ounces of “usable” marijuana within a 14-day period, even if that purchase is made all at once.

While edibles and concentrates for recreational marijuana use are limited to 100 milligrams of THC per container, medical buyers can purchase products with up to 1,000 milligrams THC per container.

3. Lower cost

By Nevada law, medical marijuana cardholders are exempt from a 10 percent excise tax charged to recreational buyers on their purchases. Products for medical patients — the exact same as products sold to recreational patients — are often subject to additional discounts from dispensaries looking to attend to cannabis patients.

Armen Yemenidjian, owner of Essence Cannabis Dispensary, said his pot store feels a social responsibility to make sure patients can afford their medicine. Ditto for Andrew Jolley of The+Source and David Goldwater of Inyo, who said they support the medical industry both as business owners and advocates of marijuana as medicine.

Keep in mind, medical marijuana cards cost $100 when applied for directly through the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, and a mandatory doctor’s referral for the application could cost an additional $100 to $200. Good for two years, the cards would only pay for themselves after $2,000 to $3,000 worth of marijuana purchases over two years.

4. Priority shopping

Most dispensaries in the Las Vegas Valley have separate lines and check-in areas for medical marijuana patients, which, especially during busy times, have significantly shorter waits than for recreational purchases.

5. More availability

While nearly all of Nevada’s 63 dispensaries offer recreational weed in addition to medical marijuana, two do not. For shoppers in Churchill County, the county’s only dispensary — Green Cross Farmacy in Fallon — sells pot only to medical customers. Likewise, Clark County’s recently opened Cultivate Dispensary near Chinatown on Spring Mountain Road is medical-only.

As many as 32 recreational-only licenses — the first of their kind in Nevada — are set to be issued by October, said Stephanie Klapstein, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Taxation.