Medical marijuana program draws steady stream of calls

More than 150 requests for information about Nevada's new medical marijuana program have been received by the state in the last three days.

Nevada Department of Agriculture workers began mailing packets Monday for the program that goes into effect Oct. 1. It permits people with specific diseases to possess and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve their symptoms without fear of state prosecution.

"It's been steady," said Cecile Crofoot, who is managing the program. She said she mailed out 125 packets Monday and Tuesday and received another 30 requests by late Wednesday.

The packets outline the requirements for a medical marijuana registration card permitting them to use pot. Cards are available if a doctor certifies it could help in treatment of conditions including AIDS, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma or to combat nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Crofoot said most of the requests are by phone and that the majority sound like people who are legitimately sick.

"I actually had a physician who had me send him a packet for one of his patients," she said. "The patient has terminal cancer."

And she said nearly all the callers have been polite and friendly.

"They seem to want to talk about it," she said.

But she said a few callers seem to think they've found a way around laws banning marijuana use.

"One guy asked me, 'What kind of pipe you gonna send me?' I said, 'What?' and he said, 'What kind of pipe you gonna send me?'"

She said she explained to the caller that the state is only in the business of registering those who have a physician's statement saying they have one of the few "chronic and debilitating" diseases or conditions for which medical marijuana may help relieve pain or other symptoms.

She emphasized the law says the state will not supply marijuana, paraphernalia or even advice on where to find the drug and how to grow it.

"Another guy said he wanted to set up a business where people could come in, show their registry card and get an ounce of marijuana," she said.

Again, Crofoot said she explained that the Nevada law won't allow marijuana stores, that the Oakland Cannabis Club got in trouble for supplying pot in California and that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld federal authority to shut it down.

She said the operators of that kind of "store" would face both state and federal prosecution for selling the drug.

"I don't think I convinced him," she said. "He still thought he had a great idea."

She said no one has yet returned one of the application packets seeking a registry card but that, since at least one doctor made a request, she expects it won't be long. In Oregon, the first state to adopt medical marijuana, it took more than a month for the first doctor to agree to sign a letter for a patient.

"I think there were about 50 percent legitimate calls," she said. "You can kind of tell the ones that aren't.

"But we're not making any kind of judgment," she said. "What the Department of Agriculture is doing is issuing a registry card. We're just strictly going by what the law says."

The names of those who do qualify will go on a registry so that, if they are arrested for possession, they can prove they weren't violating state law. But those names and the names of physicians who sign application letters will all be held in confidence Ñ even from law enforcement.


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