Medical marijuana decision won’t affect Nevada, officials say

CARSON CITY — The Obama administration’s decision to no longer prosecute medical marijuana users won’t have any effect in Nevada, which never has had an approved patient face federal charges, state and law enforcement representatives said today.

“In other states, they were prosecuting people at distribution centers, at dispensaries,” said Ben Kieckhefer, a spokesman for the state Health Division. “We never had that in our state. Our law allows people to grow their own.”

Under a voter-approved medical marijuana program set up by the Legislature in 2001, 2,416 Nevadans are registered to grow as many as three mature and four immature marijuana plants. They may possess no more than 1 ounce of usable marijuana at any one time.

Kieckhefer said the number of Nevadans receiving medical marijuana cards has been growing by about 100 per month over the last six months.

These patients are people whose physicians stated in writing that they need marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other medical problems.

Kieckhefer said the program’s entire $400,000-a-year budget is supported from fees collected by medical marijuana card holders.

While Nevada users have not been prosecuted by the federal government, the state still gives all medical marijuana card holders a warning that they are not exempt from prosecution under federal law.

In other states, notably California, medical marijuana is not grown by patients, but available for purchase at dispensaries.

Some of the dispensaries are veritable marijuana drugstores, with many exotic sounding varieties of marijuana for sale.

Fourteen states have medical marijuana laws.

The federal government has gone after some of those businesses because of allegations that marijuana is sold to people without medical problems.

A U.S. Justice Department memo issued today advises prosecutors not to “focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws …”

U.S. Attorney Dan Bodgen said the administration’s medical marijuana policy, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, “reinforces our thinking in the district of Nevada.” No medical marijuana patients have been arrested on federal charges in Nevada, he said.

“We haven’t had these kind of cases. We look for drug trafficking operations or major growing operations. Those we prosecute,” Bogden said.

Lt. Laz Chavez, of the Metropolitan Police Department’s narcotics unit, said the medical marijuana program has caused his agency “no problem whatsoever” and he doubts the new directive will affect anything in Nevada.

“We don’t target medical marijuana users as long as they follow our law,” Chavez said.

The law prohibits driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of the drug.

Steve Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed the directive won’t cause dramatic change in Nevada.

“The gist is, if the user is complying with state law they won’t bother you,” said Fox, whose organization has twice put marijuana legalization questions on the state ballot.

Fox said the Marijuana Policy Project is evaluating whether to place another marijuana legalization question on the Nevada ballot in 2010. The 44 percent vote for legalization in 2006, which would have allowed possession of as much as 1 ounce of the drug by any adult, not just patients, was a record high number of support for any state in the nation, he said.

Former Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, who drew up the medical marijuana legislation, said the Justice Department ruling might induce more ill people to grow marijuana and doctors to sign their authorizations.

“The (threat of federal prosecution) was a deterrent for some people who were extremely ill,” added Giunchigliani, now a Clark County commissioner. “It (the Justice Department memo) also will get more physicians (to issue authorizations) as well.”

Maggie McLetchie, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, shared her view.

“Although no one was prosecuted to date, there was always the risk,” she said. “We think this is an important development. The voters in Nevada have spoken and said it should be legal. We think medical marijuana is best left to the states.”

Giunchigliani still favors a dispensary system where pharmacies or hospitals would give out medical marijuana.

She had proposed such a system in 2001, but it was rejected by other legislators. The Department of Agriculture could grow the marijuana and the state could earn income on the sales, she said.

Would-be Nevada patients who want to grow marijuana now are on their own in finding a physician who will write an authorization that they should receive medical marijuana cards.

But the names of doctors who are willing to grant such requests often are found on the advertising pages of free weekly newspapers. No doctors in Nevada have ever been prosecuted for doing that for patients who don’t need the drug.

In addition, there are Web sites, such as, that will put patients in contact with willing doctors for a fee. The site is operated by Reyna Barnett and her son, Pierre Werner.

Werner is a former medical marijuana patient who was arrested and imprisoned by the state for growing more marijuana plants than permitted under Nevada law.

Chavez said Werner would not have been arrested if he had followed the limits on the number of marijuana plants that can be grown.

Nevada medical marijuana users also must find their own seeds, a tricky situation since marijuana use is illegal for everyone but them.

Dozens of Web sites, however, offer marijuana seeds for sale, along with literature on growing the plants.

Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in Nevada by other than a medical marijuana card holder is subject to a $600 fine.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.


Mojave Poppy Bees
Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list. (Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology)
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like