Nevada Regulators Cannot Agree on Medical Marijuana Laws for Casinos
Nevada legalized medical marijuana nearly a decade and a half ago. Fourteen years after pot was made legal for certain medical conditions, Nevada gaming regulators still have not figured out how the law applies to smoking pot on casino premises. Under Nevada law from 2000 to 2014, people with a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana could not purchase weed from a provider, but could grow its own marijuana.
A bill signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval in Nevada opened the way for private businesses to sell medical marijuana to the public. At the time, Nevada’s gaming regulators told casino gaming companies in no uncertain terms they could not invest in companies which dispense medical marijuana. The reason was simple: distribution is still illegal under federal law and would bring added scrutiny to the gambling industry by federal authorities.
Gaming Companies Make Their Own Policies
Around the same time, Nevada officials told the Las Vegas casino gaming companies they had the right to determine their own policies involving the smoking of medical marijuana at a casino resort. Casino management on the Las Vegas Strip banned the smoking of marijuana in casinos, once again fearing the backlash this could bring to the gaming operation. Such policies appeared to put to rest marijuana in casinos, but the Nevada State Bar is not so certain.
Last week, the State Bar said it was not so certain that casinos could ban the smoking of medical marijuana on their grounds. Their legal opinion seems to be similar to the argument made by a man in Atlantic City, who is suing for the right to smoke marijuana in casino. The New Jersey man claimed the casinos were discriminating against him, because his pot smoking is meant to help avoid seizures and reduce irritable bowel syndrome. To avoid discrimination lawsuits, casinos might need to allow such smoking.
Nevada Supreme Court May Look at Laws
To clarify the issue, the Nevada State Bar has asked the Nevada Supreme Court to look at statewide policies. If the Nevada Supreme Court rules on a case involving medical marijuana, it would set a precedent which would be trumped only by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Nevada Supreme Court has its work cut out for it, because no one has a simple solution. Douglas Cooper, the executive director of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, says, “It’s a complicated issue.”
Stacy Woodbury of the Nevada State Medical Association said, “We are just beginning to look at aspects of medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as the potential ballot initiative for recreational marijuana use. Clearly, there is a delicate balance at stake between federal law, Nevada law and the practice of medicine.”
Clark County: An Example
Clark County is a stark example of the medical marijuana issue. After Gov. Sandoval signed the bill into law, Clark County received 206 applications from 109 various companies to sell legalized pot.
Several of the applicants were respected doctors. Dr. Rachakonda Prabhu is on the medical examiners board, but he wanted to sell marijuana. Dr. Florence Jameson is on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board of directors, but she filed an application to sell medical weed.
Dr. Babuk Ghuman and Dr. Jaswinder Grover of the Nevada Spine Clinic filed petitions for a license. Dr. Nick Spirtos and Dr. Geoffrey Hsieh of the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada each filed an application.
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