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With recreational weed sales coming, what will happen to medical marijuana in Nevada?
Marijuana is also known as pot, grass and weed but its formal name is actually cannabis. It comes from the leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. It is considered an illegal substance in the US and many countries and possession of marijuana is a crime punishable by law. The FDA classifies marijuana as Schedule I, substances which have a very high potential for abuse and have no proven medical use. Over the years several studies claim that some substances found in marijuana have medicinal use, especially in terminal diseases such as cancer and AIDS. This started a fierce debate over the pros and cons of the use of medical marijuana. To settle this debate, the Institute of Medicine published the famous 1999 IOM report entitled Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. The report was comprehensive but did not give a clear cut yes or no answer. The opposite camps of the medical marijuana issue often cite part of the report in their advocacy arguments. However, although the report clarified many things, it never settled the controversy once and for all.
Let's look at the issues that support why medical marijuana should be legalized.
(1) Marijuana is a naturally occurring herb and has been used from South America to Asia as an herbal medicine for millennia. In this day and age when the all natural and organic are important health buzzwords, a naturally occurring herb like marijuana might be more appealing to and safer for consumers than synthetic drugs.
(2) Marijuana has strong therapeutic potential. Several studies, as summarized in the IOM report, have observed that cannabis can be used as analgesic, e.g. to treat pain. A few studies showed that THC, a marijuana component is effective in treating chronic pain experienced by cancer patients. However, studies on acute pain such as those experienced during surgery and trauma have inconclusive reports. A few studies, also summarized in the IOM report, have demonstrated that some marijuana components have antiemetic properties and are, therefore, effective against nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some researchers are convinced that cannabis has some therapeutic potential against neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Specific compounds extracted from marijuana have strong therapeutic potential. Cannobidiol (CBD), a major component of marijuana, has been shown to have antipsychotic, anticancer and antioxidant properties. Other cannabinoids have been shown to prevent high intraocular pressure (IOP), a major risk factor for glaucoma. Drugs that contain active ingredients present in marijuana but have been synthetically produced in the laboratory have been approved by the US FDA. One example is Marinol, an antiemetic agent indicated for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Its active ingredient is dronabinol, a synthetic delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
(3) One of the major proponents of medical marijuana is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a US-based organization. Many medical professional societies and organizations have expressed their support. As an example, The American College of Physicians, recommended a re-evaluation of the Schedule I classification of marijuana in their 2008 position paper. ACP also expresses its strong support for research into the therapeutic role of marijuana as well as exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.
(4) Medical marijuana is legally used in many developed countries The argument of if they can do it, why not us? is another strong point. Some countries, including Canada, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, and Finland have legalized the therapeutic use of marijuana under strict prescription control. Some states in the US are also allowing exemptions.
Nevada, Clark County may clear way for recreational pot delivery services
An early start to recreational marijuana sales in Nevada cleared the final state hurdle Monday, paving the way for the program to roll out in under two months. The Nevada Tax Commission adopted temporary regulations proposed by the Department of Taxation that will allow the state to issue recreational marijuana licenses by July 1. Most of the regulations were copied from the state’s medical marijuana program. Tax department director Deonne Contine stressed the urgency in getting the regulations adopted so the state can meet Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget request, which includes $70 million from recreational marijuana taxes over two years. ADVERTISING “If we don’t adopt the regulations, we will not have a temporary program. If we don’t have a temporary program, we will not have the revenue that’s included in the governor’s budget,” Contine said. For the marijuana industry, Monday’s decision means lifeblood. “Its great for the state. It’s great for the industry. I think its great for everybody,” said Armen Yemenidjian, owner of Essence Cannabis dispensaries. “This is a display in how Nevada gets things done.” The state’s stamp of approval shifts the focus to local governments. Marijuana companies need both a state and local license to operate. Clark County is scheduled to begin licensing by July 1, and officials for the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas said Monday both municipalities plan to do the same. Henderson could be the outlier, however. The city council implemented a 6-month moratorium on any marijuana licenses in February, meaning recreational sales by the five dispensaries in the city cannot happen until at least August. Potential snag Not everyone was happy with the regulations adopted Monday, and a group that wants exclusive rights on transporting recreational pot from growing facility to retail shops could cause a snag in rolling out the early start. Sam McMullen, representing the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada, said the ballot measure voters approved in November gave currently licensed liquor distributors an 18-month monopoly on marijuana distribution licenses. Contine said “we fundamentally disagree with what Mr. McMullen has said.” The department will accept applications from liquor distributors, medical marijuana companies and medical marijuana distributors. Contine said they decided to open the applications beyond liquor distributors because of the potential conflict with federal licenses. Liquor distributors are licensed federally. And like banks or casinos, choosing to participate in a market that is federally illegal could jeopardize that license, Contine said. McMullen said his clients are aware of the risk, and added that “they’re totally willing to apply.” When the issue first arose in March, McMullen told the tax department his clients were considering taking legal action to protect their exclusivity on the distribution licenses. When reached by phone Monday, McMullen said his clients were considering their options and that he would meet with them within the next day or two. Jamie Munks contributed to this report.