Arizona's medical-marijuana patients now can patronize newly opened dispensaries in Reno and Las Vegas and possess up to 2.5 ounces anywhere in Nevada.
Arizona, like some of the other 23 states with medical-marijuana laws, allows people with valid medical cards from other states to legally possess marijuana in Arizona, but they can't legally buy it at Arizona dispensaries.
Nevada apparently is the only state that allows its dispensaries to sell to patients from other states. And now its dispensaries have begun to open, greatly expanding where Arizona's 80,000 patients can legally buy cannabis.
Two Reno-area dispensaries got started in July. Las Vegas saw its first dispensary — Euphoria Wellness — open a couple of weeks ago. More dispensaries in Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada are expected to pop up in the coming months; the state has processed more than 60 dispensary applications.
A representative at the store at 7780 South Jones Boulevard tells New Times that the business already has seen many Arizona patients among its out-of-state customers since it opened on August 17.
The dispensary offers four strains and promises much more, including edibles and concentrates. Supply is limited, in part because of state testing for mold and pesticides that recently resulted in the destruction of several pounds of tainted pot. But with high demand from Nevada residents and tourists, any glitches in the roll out of medical-pot stores probably will be fixed soon.
The 2013 law, meant to finally establish a medical-marijuana program that Nevada voters approved in 2000, declares that Nevada authorities and dispensaries must have access to other states' medical-marijuana databases to validate non-Nevada residents' cards. However, Arizona is among the states that don't let anyone from out of state access medical-marijuana databases because they contain private medical information. So Nevada authorities decided to go with an on-your-honor approach.
Besides having to show state-issued cards at the new dispensaries, non-Nevada patients simply must sign an affidavit affirming that they are legally allowed to use marijuana in their home state.
Patients from Arizona and other states can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana products from Nevada dispensaries and take it almost anywhere in the state legally.
The actual use of marijuana by patients, though, may be restricted by the policies of individual hotels or property owners. Many Las Vegas hotels have rooms that allow cigarette smoking so patients should check to see if pot smoking is authorized. Even if a complaint is filed at a hotel that doesn't explicitly forbid pot smoking, the patient cannot be arrested or ticketed.
At the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, for instance, smoking is allowed only on its rooms' terraces. A representative of the hotel's guest services department tells New Times that patients could smoke their medicine on the terraces, as well, "as long as no other guests call to say it's drifting into their rooms." He added that if someone complained, the hotel would ask the patient to "wait until maybe a time when other people are asleep."
Chuck Callaway, director of intergovernmental services for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, says his state is moving into "uncharted territory" when it comes to legal medical-marijuana but that police are told to "err on the side of caution" when dealing with someone in possession of marijuana claiming to be a patient.
Police have had many discussions about where people might use medical marijuana, and they've decided that hotel rooms are okay, as long as the hotel allows it. Police will consider casinos public areas where marijuana smoking isn't allowed — unless the casino specifically allows it.
Even without a medical-pot card, possession of several ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Nevada (unlike Arizona, where any amount is a felony), he explains. With an overcrowded jail, Vegas police say they aren't typically interested in arresting people with small amounts of pot, medical qualification or not, unless some other crime is involved.
If an Arizona patient lost his or her registration card, he says, it would be similar to getting stopped without proof of auto insurance — the person might get a ticket that would be dismissed later if he or she showed evidence of a valid card.
The affidavit signed by out-of-state customers who buy at Nevada dispensaries doesn't just create a paper trail to prove someone's legal, it releases the dispensary from legal liability if the customer "jumps off a building" or otherwise causes problems directly related to the purchased marijuana, Callaway says.
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Eventually, the state hopes to create its own database of out-of-state medical-marijuana patients that can be used to cross-verify registration cards. For now, if the card "looks valid," then a Nevada officer will deem it valid, Callaway says.
Public smoking of marijuana is illegal in Nevada even for patients, but Callaway suggested that patients might be able to get away with using vaporizers in public if no marijuana odor could be detected.
Nevada has a zero-tolerance law on driving with marijuana metabolites in the bloodstream, similar to Arizona, meaning that impaired drivers are at risk of getting busted for a marijuana DUI even though possession of the marijuana is legal.
"We definitely welcome tourists — they're the lifeblood of the economy," Callaway says. "If somebody is a valid patient and they want to purchase what they see as medicine here in our state, we don't have any issues."