Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2019

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Guest column:

How to avoid charging a privacy tax for medical pot

People say medical marijuana is fading away. It’s simply not true.

It might appear that way because since the legalization of purchasing marijuana for recreational purposes began, sales attributed to medical patients have not substantially grown and the number of people seeking medical marijuana cards has diminished.

However, these statistics do not include the thousands of people who purchase marijuana under recreational regulations for medical purposes. Why are these people paying the extra recreational tax? The reason is that it’s nobody’s business that they are using marijuana. Period.

In talking with people in the industry, it’s estimated that over 40% of recreational sales are for medical purposes. These are people who, with complete anonymity, are going into dispensaries and purchasing marijuana.

If you wish to be an official medical marijuana patient, you have to go through a process and the cost of obtaining a medical marijuana card from the state. This also puts you on the official registry as a medical marijuana user. Even though the list is HIPAA-secured, a list is still a list and you’d be on it.

At this time, it is still federally illegal to consume marijuana. Hundreds of federal forms require you to swear that you are not taking any of the controlled substances listed in federal law. If you have a medical marijuana card, you are violating federal law and you can be disqualified or terminated from various federal programs and also barred from exercising many or your rights as a citizen, such as owning a gun.

In a word, you are now a criminal. And your name is on a list that says you are violating federal law. Not a lot of people want to sign up for that, especially senior citizens.

I propose that all people over age 50 should be automatically considered medical marijuana patients. All they would need to do is show a Nevada ID as proof of age and walk in as a medical marijuana patient.

In addition to the tax breaks medical marijuana users receive, there are also certain strains of marijuana and products that can only be purchased by medical marijuana patients. Many of these are considered to be good choices for pain, opioid addiction and other medical conditions.

People over age 50 are the largest demographic group with some medical condition that marijuana could be considered helpful in treating or alleviating. The problem is the way the medical marijuana ballot question and subsequent regulations were written.

The key problem is the medical marijuana registry. All medical marijuana patients must be registered. So much for anonymity. However, there is a simple way of satisfying that requirement. All the state would need to do is create a data dump of all persons over age 50 with a Nevada ID and add those names to the medical marijuana registry.

I doubt any federal agency is going to add a regulation that people over age 50 in Nevada are barred from federal programs. Besides, it’s nobody’s business.

James Lamb is the vice president of governmental affairs for the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association.