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Nancy Smith

Does Medical Marijuana Have a 'Visit Florida' Future? Check Out the New Las Vegas

April 21, 2016 - 8:45pm

Las Vegas has changed, folks. I couldn't believe how much since I last visited. And I'm not talking about the glitzy hotels or the towering slot machines or the raving nightlife. I'm talking about changes you can see on the airport concourse two minutes after you deplane. I'm talking about medical marijuana. OMG.

Could this be Any Florida Airport in 2020?

You know how you used to walk down the moving walkway toward baggage claim, past casino show ads, and you'd hear a flutter of jokes from resident comedians? Now the jokes are gone. Most of the show ads are still there, but the posters directing visitors to medical marijuana will knock your eyes out.

I Beg to DifferAds for businesses like Las Vegas ReLeaf, a 3,700-square-foot "pharm" that bills itself as "the Bellagio of dispensaries." Or, if you prefer, set your GPS for Dr. Green Relief. Or, Sahara Wellness. Or, The Travel Joint.

On the other hand, once you reach the strip, you can always keep an eye out for the "Cannabus," run by 420 Tours, Las Vegas' first cannabis tour company. It's more an SUV than a bus, but its promise is, "We take people looking for a medical marijuana card and legal pot from street corner to dispensary in less than an hour."

I have to admit, it sounds wilder and woolier than it actually is. Las Vegas isn't Colorado or California or Oregon yet. There are strict rules about how dispensaries can advertise in the city limits, for one thing. But it has a proposition on the November ballot similar to United for Care's in Florida. That's all cannabis entrepreneurs are waiting for to put doctors in charge and get the government out. Then, they say, medical marijuana will be snuggled in right next to -- probably even part of -- every corner of the Vegas tourist scene. They are so ready to set up shop in a bigger way. You can feel it in the air.

I saw one ad on television -- shot in what amounted to a greenhouse, or a grow house, with all the "plant attendants" wearing white coats, soft music playing in the background. Strangest ad I ever saw. Memorable, somehow.

At any rate, right now it's tough for long-suffering Nevadans with conditions that might be helped with pot to get it. They have to stumble through the state's months-long red tape to get a medical marijuana card. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are cashing in on the state’s reciprocity laws. In 2015 Nevada became the first state to allow nonresident reciprocity, giving medical marijuana cardholders from other states the legal ability to buy medical marijuana in Nevada.

To explain further:

The Las Vegas Sun reports the Nevada Legislature legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in 2013. Although lawmakers undeniably had fiscal considerations in mind, they wanted to make it easier for patients with cancer, AIDS, seizures and other serious conditions to find legal relief from pain and chronic suffering. Medical marijuana itself had been legalized in 2000 in Nevada, but it was pretty much a bust. Patients had to grow their own supply and had few legal options for obtaining seeds or clones. 

Medical marijuana cards in Nevada are valid for one year, but because of the state’s lengthy processing time, by the time many patients receive their card, it often is valid for only eight or nine months.

“Just in case you haven’t waited long enough for your card, you have that much less time before you have to reapply,” Andrew Jolley, owner of the Source dispensary, told the Sun.

Nevada Organic Remedies' grow house in Las Vegas
Nevada Organic Remedies' grow house in Las Vegas

While Nevada law states that a medical marijuana patient’s application should be processed in fewer than 30 days, it almost always takes longer, explains Pam Graber, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health. The process, which includes a background check, often takes state officials 33 to 35 days to finish. 

And that’s for only a portion of what’s required. That timeframe doesn’t include the time needed to process a prospective patient’s original application request to the state, nor does it account for getting a signed physician statement or completing the last step -- making a trip to the DMV.

In other pot-friendly states, such as California, Washington and Oregon, patients need only a doctor’s note to load up at dispensaries, including those in Nevada.

The lawmaker who championed the medical marijuana cause in the Nevada Legislature, Sen. Tick Segerblom, told the Sun the reciprocity law, which has attracted “thousands” of out-of-state patients, is part of a move to increase tourism in the state.

“We encourage the convention authority to promote that for our visitors,” Segerblom said.

Why would residents of California or Oregon buy their meds in Las Vegas instead of at home? One dispenser claims it's because "people just don’t want to travel with their meds because it’s still a federal crime."

In some ways, I understand casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's hostility toward medical marijuana. He's a very savvy billionaire who can see the future. He doesn't want visitors spending their money in dispensaries instead of his casinos. Anyway, by Nevada law, casinos aren’t allowed to get into the cannabis business, and so therefore have little incentive to back legalized marijuana.

Many people are nevertheless optimistic that soon enough, Nevada will allow everyone -- locals and visitors alike -- to use marijuana. That includes longtime local marijuana activist Jason Sturtsman. The International Business Times writes that while Sturtsman advocates for patient rights as a part of the organization Wellness Education Cannabis Advocates of Nevada and is lobbying to keep testing requirements reasonable as a member of the state’s Independent Lab Advisory Committee, he’s also working as a part-time manager at Las Vegas ReLeaf and welcomes the Las Vegas-ification of cannabis. Even if that means exacting regulations and an industry dominated by the rich and powerful, he believes the payoff nationwide will be worth it. 

Oh, yes, and there are 43 pending medical marijuana business licenses in Clark County, and more than a dozen more pending in the county seat Las Vegas and in Henderson and Reno. There are eight production facilities, 21 cultivation facilities and five testing labs operating in Clark County.

I walked the Strip this past weekend, from MGM Grand to Harrah's, and at more than half a dozen spots along the way, smoke from the weed -- legal or not -- was clearly wafting in the air. I make that walk every trip, and the unmistakable aroma of cannabis there, in cold light of day, was a first in my experience.

I felt as if I were getting a vision of things to come -- the changing face of tourism -- not just in Sin City, but eventually in Florida. Florida is a tourism state, too. In fact, a state with more cities than Nevada to attract out-of-state visitors, many of them carrying notes from their doctors. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Orlando for starters. Walt Disney World might be a family-friendly Magic Kingdom now, but I can see it developing another identity down the road. And it has nothing to do with casinos.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 

 

Comments

Cachexia is seen in patients with cancer, AIDS,[1] celiac disease,[2] chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, tuberculosis, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, mercury poisoning (acrodynia) and hormonal deficiency. It is a positive risk factor for death, meaning if the patient has cachexia, the chance of death from the underlying condition is increased dramatically. It can be a sign of various underlying disorders; when a patient presents with cachexia, a doctor will generally consider the possibility of cancer, metabolic acidosis (from decreased protein synthesis and increased protein catabolism), certain infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, AIDS), chronic pancreatitis, and some autoimmune disorders, or addiction to amphetamine. Cachexia physically weakens patients to a state of immobility stemming from loss of appetite, asthenia, and anemia, and response to standard treatment is usually poor.[3][4] Cachexia includes sarcopenia as a part of its pathology.

My wife is stage 4 pancreatic cancer I have pre glaucoma and arthritis. Canabis is helps in more ways than can be explained on this site. It is really sad how such ignorance persists. Please don't say such irresponsible things about something you don't understand. Have you ever seen someone waste away from the the affects of chemo? Have you ever seen a grown man, your father cry when told their sight wouldn't return? My dad never saw my son before he died. My wife almost died of cachexia from cancer. Look up cachexia and see if you still can say such cruel flippant uninformed ignorant comments. or maybe someday your time will come and your sick with cancer. See how you will change your tune. Good luck

My wife is stage 4 pancreatic cancer I have pre glaucoma and arthritis. Canabis is helps in more ways than can be explained on this site. It is really sad how such ignorance persists. Please don't say such irresponsible things about something you don't understand. Have you ever seen someone waste away from the the affects of chemo? Have you ever seen a grown man, your father cry when told their sight wouldn't return? My dad never saw my son before he died. My wife almost died of cachexia from cancer. Look up cachexia and see if you still can say such cruel flippant uninformed ignorant comments. or maybe someday your time will come and your sick with cancer. See how you will change your tune. Good luck

I sure hope people wake up. It has just been reported on many more young people are dying because of marijuana in Colorado and how many more younger kids are getting hooked on it. The number of people getting killed in accidents has just about doubled. The only people who will benefit from legalizing marijuana are the growers and sellers. Those already addicted to it may think it's great, but it's just another step to destroy the moral foundation of this country. Grow up before it's too late!

Addition Rate for Marijuana is less than alcohol, Caffeine,and any opiate based drug you currently taking. I sure hope people get educated... There has NEVER been any deaths reported due to Marijuana a over dose. All these accidents you are talking about,How many people tested positive for alcohol when they had the crash? A person that smokes marijuana will test positive for 30 days after smoking so of coarse you might find some trace of marijuana in his system but it doesn't mean he was high when he had the accident but if he tested positive for alcohol he was drunk since alcohol cant be pickup in a test after 3 hours Grow up and get educated before its too late!!

We moved from FL to AZ during the winter, and since medical marijuana is legal here, we are getting a first-hand look at the consequences. Folks can go to a chiropractor, claim that they have severe headaches, get their medical marijuana card, go next door to the "dispensary", and pick up their marijuana. As a result, (and this will happen in FL too) folks get their marijuana, gather in groups at someone's home (outside), day or night, and smoke at their pot parties! The smell is overwhelming, the noisy parties can go on for hours, and if anyone challenges what they are doing in our neighborhoods, they just claim that they all have cards. So this is what "medical" marijuana looks like! If I needed medical marijuana, I would probably be smoking it in my home and getting relief for pain. Once the doors are opened to medical marijuana, they are actually opened to recreational marijuana....that's what we see in our neighborhoods already. No more considerate, good neighbors! Plus, the personal selling goes up as well, because someone will have the ability to get it on the black market (much cheaper), and re-sell for less than the dispensaries...we already see that too! Check out the new stats on Colorado.....dui car accidents are up 40% since marijuana is allowed, and the hospital treatments for marijuana problems is up at least 30%. This should not be a recreational drug, and the medical availability needs to be regulated on a stricter, tighter control....for those who really need pain relief! Let's just say that "medical marijuana" is a joke, and it is causing problems in local neighborhoods.

You forgot to mention that you will need to purchase a medical marijuana card in Arizona it's $300.00. Then there's their marijuana, low grade from the dispensary. Pure B.S.! Now for that auto accidents up 40% because of marijuana, what they found is marijuana was in the drivers system and marijuana stays detectable for 30 days in ones system and never mentioned who's fault the accident was, maybe a call to Dan Newlin will help. Hospital treatments for marijuana are up 30%, all those dummies needed to do was stop off at 711 for a bag of chips or Twinkies. Better to go to California or Oregon and get some super better weed for half the cost!

dui car accidents are up 40% since marijuana is allowed .. Hard to believe I'd have to see proof

You would have to see some proof.... (like someone has to hold your hand and read YOUR 'acceptable version' of proof to you...); Get off your Mother's couch and do some research on your own "lazy slug"... You are exactly the "type" we have all been referring to (Are you on disability, by some chance ?

I, for one, AM on disability actually. I had to give up my career as scientist for the department of defense supporting our country's military after decades of service due to cancer treatment. You should be thanking me for my service in keeping you safe. Medical marijuana helped pull me through the worst -did you ever see some one sick following radiation??? Or chemo??? Would you rather I starved from cancer or poverty?

This is such a BAD idea (for a myriad of various reasons) portending consequences that YOUR family has yet to even begin comprehending. Know anyone, at THIS time, with a questionable or phoney "disability classification" in order to 'scam' the "entitlement cornicopia"?... Well multiply THAT person by a million in a very short time, and you will see how our "tourist industry" is 'drying up' all across Florida in a much faster manner than Panhandle "Spring Break" ever suggested... Want to reverse the rising population & business trend here with all of its "wealth producing jobs"?...Then add legality to marijuana (medical or otherwise,...because very soon " one begets the other")...and THAT progression is unstoppable!

Are you mis-informed? Or just lying because the facts don't support you stance? Colorado... tourists numbers are up. Las Vegas.... tourists numbers are up. Nevada.... tourists numbers are up. Thousands of jobs created in both states. Oh yea, and opiate overdoses are down. Medical Cannabis saves lives.

I make that walk every trip, and the unmistakable aroma of cannabis there, in cold light of day, was a first in my experience. The question is Nancy, how many trips a day did you take the walk and did you enjoy?

Nancy, you hit the nail on the head...this is Florida's future because Amendment 2 isn't about "medical" pot...it's really about legalization...caregivers once again is the Achilles heel of this amendment effort...you won't need a bus to get to the pot store, you can just call up your "caregiver" and he or she will deliver it to you - if they don't steal some first, or smoke it all!...I'm NOT against medical marijuana for those that truly need it for debilitating pain, end-of-life, etc., it just shouldn't be in our Constitution...so come on now all you potheads come get me!

There ya go with the disingenuous and misleading comments. The reason we need it in our state constitution is that lawmakers can't or won't set reasonable reforms. You used the same quasi-prohibitionist line last time. "Let lawmakers do it". Balderdash! It has been 2 years and the best lawmakers could do was to add terminal Patients. Ignoring that a majority of Floridians support real reform. Refusing to allow Patients who would use cannabis to live or to live better lives. Barney, you are a bought and paid for political estabishment mouthpiece. Go back to the obscurity you deserve. You don't represent Floridians, you don't represent me. It is time for real medical cannabis reform. YES on 2. ForThePatients!

OK Nancy, and here I thought you were pro-medical cannabis.... yet this could well be a scare piece. Nothing in A2 says we would end up with the commercial environment you described. That is up to lawmakers. Nothing in A2 says anybody but Florida Residents will be eligible. That is up to lawmakers. A2 will start to force lawmakers out of the examination room. Something republicans were against when it came to obamacare, but are for when it comes to others. A2 won't be a big change, just a good one. YES on 2. ForThePatients!

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