Nevada medical marijuana program streamlining issuance of cards

The head of Nevada’s Bureau of Public and Behavioral Health says the demand for medical marijuana patient cards is continuing to grow rapidly but staff is managing to reduce processing times.

There were complaints at the February Interim Finance Committee the bureau was far too slow in getting patients their cards.

Phil Peckman of the Nevada Cannabis Coalition said the result is dispensaries, growers and producers of edibles and oils just don’t have enough customers to justify the huge investments they have made.

“The industry is struggling and patients are the key to it,” said Marla McDade Williams representing the Coalition. “That is one reason you have third party entities flourishing in Nevada because the in-state system isn’t processing applications fast enough.”

She added the slow pace is also preventing the state from collecting the amount of tax money medical marijuana was supposed to generate. According to state records, the tax had generated just $121,317 between July and December.

But those collections are growing stronger every month and a full third of that total — $41,770 — was collected just in December.

Bureau Chief Chad Westom said there are now more than 16,000 cardholders in Nevada and the caseload increased 46 percent during the past month.

He said staff is streamlining the process and is now turning around new applications in just 15 days — half the time it was taking just a couple of months ago.

One major change, Westom said, is the bureau is now issuing temporary letters authorizing patients to purchase marijuana products before passing their background checks. Those letters are good for up to 60 days while the actual card is printed and mailed to the patient.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, asked what happened then if the person failed the background check.

Westom said the bureau revokes the approval letter and “deactivates” the patient card number in the computer, which tells dispensaries they can no longer sell to that person.

One roadblock to getting the cards issued has been the time it takes to go through the Department of Motor Vehicles, which actually prints and issues the permanent card. Westom said that problem will go away in June when his division and DMV will complete the electronic interface. He said after that, there will be no need for the person to go to DMV to receive their card. By June 30, Westom said, patients will be able to do the entire process online, which he said should reduce the turn-around time to just eight days.

The money generated by the marijuana tax is split with three-quarters of the total going to K-12 education and the rest to the health division.


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