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The State of Medical Marijuana in Nevada
2020 Grade: B+
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Attention to emergency measures related to COVID left little room for consideration of new medical cannabis legislation in 2020. However several expanded access features were authorized in Nevada’s response to COVID, including continuing delivery of medical cannabis as well as allowing for curbside pickup, and allowing for patients to secure eligibility via telehealth visits with their physicians rather than in-person visits.39 Following the trend of many states that began with a medical model and later layered on adult-use access, Nevada’s patient population has declined since our last report. In other state cannabis policy reform news, Nevada’s State Board of Pardons Commissioners, chaired by Governor Sisolak, voted to pardon more than 15,000 individuals convicted of possession of one ounce or less between 1986 and 2017.40
In 2021, ASA encourages Nevada lawmakers to review existing legal protections the state extends to medical cannabis patients and expand these provisions to cover parental and housing protections. ASA also encourages Nevada to add chronic pain to its list of qualifying conditions, as the Centers for Disease Control estimates that at least 20 percent of adults in the U.S. experience chronic pain.41
In 2000, 65 percent of Nevada voters approved Question 9, a state constitutional amendment authorizing use, possession and cultivation of cannabis by qualifying patients. To qualify patients must be evaluated by a physician for eligibility and participate in a confidential state-operated registry that issues identification cards. Under Question 9 patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in a single 14 day period, cultivate up to 12 plants, and present a medical necessity defense in court if they possess cannabis in amounts above the legal limit. Unfortunately the measure did not establish a regulated system licensing cultivators, manufacturers, testing laboratories, distributors or retailers, leaving patients without safe or legal access until such a system was authorized by SB 374 in 2014.
SB 374 established a statewide medical cannabis distribution system, allowing for the creation of up to 66 medical cannabis dispensaries and 200 production facilities as regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The law also authorized reciprocity for out-of-state patients visiting Nevada, and removed authorization for patients to cultivate their own cannabis. Patients may qualify for an exemption from this provision if the nearest licensed medical cannabis dispensary is greater than 25 miles away from the patient’s residence. Regulations governing the operation of Nevada’s medical system were organized in 2014 and 2015, with the first medical cannabis sale occurring in July of 2015.
In 2016, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services put patient applications online and began issuing temporary cards allowing patients to enroll and access medicine more quickly. That same year Nevada voters approved Question 2, authorizing the creation of an adult-use cannabis licensing regime and retail model in the Battle Born State. As Nevada adopted regulations on Question 2 in 2017, the state also increased employment protections and removed the state-imposed sales tax on medical cannabis. In 2018, Nevada promulgated permanent rules for their adult-use of cannabis model. The regulations allowed adult-use and medical cannabis establishments to be co-located and operate under the same license, and strengthened testing protocols for medical cannabis.
2019 saw Governor Sisolak signed into law AB 132 and AB 192, ending the practice of denying employment predicated on a positive cannabis screening in Nevada. The bills also allow persons convicted of a cannabis offense prior to state decriminalization efforts to have their records sealed. The Governor also signed SB 533 into law in 2019, which created two new regulatory advisory commissions, whose role will be to coordinate and provide recommendations to the Governor and legislature on improvements to the state’s cannabis access programs. SB 533 also authorized licensing public consumption facilities subject to local approval, but failed to specifically allow consumption of cannabis at these establishments. The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board was tasked with organizing a study on the viability of consumption lounges, with recommendations expected ahead of the 2021 legislative session.
Surveyed patients report feeling frustrated about the high cost of medical cannabis. However, surveyed patients also report appreciation that it is easier to get medical cannabis cards than before. They would like to see pre-ordering and delivery services maintained in the state.