RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — Nevada lawmakers recently made a major change to the way medical marijuana cards are issued in the Silver State. They reduced the process from more than 40 days in some cases to less than 24 hours.
Steve Gilbert is a program manager for the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. He said there are several reasons lawmakers decided to reduce the process. "The main reason is to allow a patient that qualifies and has a need for medical marijuana to get that medicine fairly quickly and safely."
He said the division's patient count has doubled in the past year, bringing the total number of medical marijuana patients in Nevada to about 20,000. To deal with the influx of applications, his department cut out unnecessary steps. "We've made an online application available. We've increased our staff level through contractors. We've made availability to be able to come in and walk in."
The division also made the process faster by issuing temporary marijuana prescriptions before running a background check. However, Gilbert said if the applicant fails the background check, the patient's card will be revoked and their patient number will be removed from the system.
"I use it for chronic pain. I have some back pain." Michael Seibert's medical marijuana prescription recently expired, so he decided to take advantage of the new, shorter prescription process.
Seibert recalled the process he went through to get his prescription last year. "I had to mail in a check for $25 to get an application that I had to fill in and send in to get another application which I then could finally bring to my doctor and send in and there was this waiting period. I think it took over 60 days total."
Seibert started his renewal process at Fountain of Youth, a medical spa that also offers medical marijuana recommendations. Office administrator Brittany Thomas said, "Fountain of Youth focuses on helping the patient get their card from A to Z. So in the sense of registering with the state, understanding the whole process and how it works, doing the evaluations; we do have a notary here, so we do notarize everything for you and we also get the money order and expedite the packet to the state."
Seibert met with the medical director at the spa, Dr. Usha Kiran Nuthi. She said, "we do just the recommendation here. We don't do any kind of dispensing of the medication here. This just evaluates whether you qualify, whether the conditions that you have meet what is good for guidelines for medical marijuana."
The qualifying conditions are written directly into Nevada's medical marijuana law. They include:
Seibert qualified because of his severe pain. Once he had his paperwork notarized and his recommendation in hand, he headed down to the Division of Public and Behavioral Health in Carson City to submit it in person. Patients do still have the option of mailing in their recommendation as well.
He said, "I had the paperwork signed from the doctor, went in there, presented it. They reviewed the application then issued me a temporary 60-day letter.... Now I still, before that 60 days is over, have to go to the DMV and get my official card, but it allows me to get access to my medicine right away, which is great."
When Seibert received his temporary prescription, he was able to drive directly to a medical marijuana dispensary and purchase his medication.
He said getting his prescription this year went much more smoothly than the process last year. "It's like night and day. Honestly, it was super easy."
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