First week of medical marijuana law brings first four official applications

The first week of Nevada's medical marijuana law brought four formal applications for cards allowing possession and use of pot.

"Two of them are OK and I'm processing them," said Cecile Crofoot, who manages the program for the Department of Agriculture. "The other two, I have to send back for errors."

She couldn't release any details on those two applications other than to say the paperwork was correct, a doctor's letter was included and the doctor in each case was a properly licensed Nevada physician. The law allowing people with chronic or debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana protects both their and the doctors' identity from the public and law enforcement.

"Now it's a matter of getting the right papers to DMV and the applicant," said Crofoot. "You do the doctor check to make sure they're licensed and you have the criminal check to make sure they don't have any drug convictions."

After that, she said a certified letter goes out telling the applicant they can legally use marijuana as a medication in Nevada. The letter serves as a valid permit for up to 30 days until the person gets their medical marijuana card from DMV.

Crofoot said she had mailed out 355 applications in the two weeks since the agriculture department began accepting requests - 201 in the first week.

"It's slacked off a bit - until you write another story about it," she told a reporter.

She said she expects more applications to come in but said most application packets probably didn't get to those who requested them until sometime this week.

Crofoot said last week that most of those making the requests seemed legitimate. The program requires a letter from a licensed physician stating marijuana could help with symptoms of their particular illness. Illnesses where the drug is permitted include AIDS, cancer, glaucoma or conditions causing chronic pain.

The state advises those who apply that the Nevada law only protects them from state prosecution for use or possession of less than an ounce or seven live plants. It doesn't excuse possession of larger quantities. Other drug crimes including trafficking, providing the drug to others, using it in public and driving under the influence are still prohibited.

And, probably most importantly, Nevada's law can't protect those with a card from federal prosecution.

But there was testimony in the 2001 Legislature that Nevada is the ninth state to legalize medical marijuana and that the federal government had not shown interest in any of the other programs until Sept. 28 when it seized the records of more than 5,000 Northern California medical marijuana users. Though seized, the records from the California Medical Research Center in El Dorado County remain sealed. They were taken as part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into alleged marijuana distribution by the clinic. A federal judge will hear arguments Oct. 22 on whether the records should be opened.

Prior to the seizure, as long as "cannabis clubs" growing and providing the drug are not permitted and the state isn't involved in growing or providing pot the federal government had left the programs alone.


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