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Lawsuit challenges state marijuana card fees

A 42-year-old Las Vegas man with a history of migraine headaches has filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Nevada over the fees it charges for medical marijuana registration cards.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Clark County District Court, says the state has engaged in fraud and unjust enrichment by accepting fees for registration cards without giving patients a legal source for obtaining marijuana.

“This lawsuit also raises critical constitutional questions about health care and the equal protection of our citizens’ access to health care,” the complaint says.

Las Vegas attorney Jacob Hafter represents the plaintiff, identified only as “John Doe,” who filed the 20-page complaint “on his own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated.”

Spokeswoman Patty Cafferata said the Nevada attorney general’s office does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit specifically names the state Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Brian Sandoval as defendants.

“While the defendants have been accepting the fees for the registration cards, and have been issuing such, they have failed to license any dispensaries in Clark County, to date,” the complaint says.

In fact, the state has issued a final registration certificate to one Clark County dispensary, Euphoria Wellness, but the business has not opened amid disputes with the county about how it can obtain marijuana.

The lawsuit seeks a ruling that the fees associated with the registration cards are a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, “in so much as no patient has to pay a tax in order to be able to receive any other treatment regime prescribed or recommended by a licensed physician.”

In addition, the lawsuit seeks a ruling that the creation of a registry of patients is a violation of the same clause, “in so much as no patient has to register with the state in order to be able to receive any other treatment regime prescribed or recommended by a licensed physician.”

The complaint also says the payment of registration fees amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property.

Ultimately, Hafter wrote, “this case will require this court to address the next fundamental rights question — whether access to health care, in whole or in part, is a fundamental constitutional right.”

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff has suffered from migraines since he was 15, and only marijuana has succeeded in relieving the related nausea.

He applied for his registration card from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2013 and paid the necessary fees before being issued a card that expired after a year. He later renewed his card.

“Notwithstanding the lack of access to any ‘medical’ marijuana, defendants repeatedly took plaintiff’s money and, in return, issued him multiple registration cards,” the lawsuit says.

Hafter estimates in the lawsuit that the potential class, which includes all Clark County residents who applied and paid for a medical marijuana registration card from the state, consists of more than 6,700 patients.

The lawsuit seeks compensation “for all fees and costs associated with the acquisition of a registration card” and “for pain and suffering associated with the inability to obtain, legally, medical marijuana in Nevada.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer

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