LAS VEGAS (CN) – Nevada defrauds patients by charging annual fees for medical marijuana prescription cards, but refusing to license dispensaries in and around Las Vegas, a cardholder claims in a federal class action.
John Doe sued the state, the governor and the Department of Health and Human Services, which has the power to issue licenses for marijuana dispensaries but has not done so in Clark County.
The 2 million resident of Clark County, home to Las Vegas and Henderson, account for more than two-thirds of the population of Nevada.
Doe claims that forcing Nevadans to get prescription cards but forcing them to buy the drug on the street constitutes fraud, unjust enrichment, unequal taxation and violation of equal protections.
(On Friday, the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Sparks, Reno’s sister city, 444 miles from Las Vegas. Doe filed his class action on Wednesday.)
Nevada amended its constitution in 2001 to allow medical use of marijuana and distinguished medical marijuana from street varieties by establishing testing, purity and labeling standards for it.
But aside from growing one’s own, Doe says, the state provided no way for patients to get pot other than “from the local street corner drug dealer” until 2013, when it enacted laws to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Patients must get a prescription from a doctor and pay a fee to the state to get a medical marijuana card. The cards expire in a year, requiring another trip to the doctor and another fee to the state, Doe says.
The state “engaged in fraud by collecting fees and issuing registration cards when they had not licensed nor had they planned on licensing dispensaries during the time covered by the cards,” Doe says.
Ninety companies applied for medical marijuana business in Clark County in 2014, Doe says, and the county issued several business licenses, but the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did not issue any licenses to dispensaries.
Doe says there is nowhere in Clark County to test the contents of medical marijuana to determine therapeutic benefits or dosage levels, no place to get objective data about medical marijuana, and no place to buy it or buy seeds.
In short, Doe says, the state sells medical marijuana cards that expire in a year, “knowing that no dispensary would be licensed during that time.”
After paying money to comply with the law, Doe says, he and others continue to experience “prolonged pain and suffering.” Doe says he has had migraine headaches since he was 15, and that, at his doctor’s suggestion, he used marijuana to treat it, successfully.
He seeks class certification, declaratory judgment, refunds of the fraudulently obtained fees, nominal damages and costs of suit.
He is represented by Jacob Hafter, who was not immediately available for comment. Nevada officials did not reply to requests for comment.
There are no licensed medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Clark County, but several online sites promote delivery services and Nevada voters in 2016 will vote on a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Silver State Relief, the state’s first dispensary, expected a big crowd Friday. Nevada has about 9,000 medical marijuana cardholders, and the state has reciprocity agreements with other states that issue medical marijuana cards, according to Marijuana Business Daily, an online source of marijuana news.
Silver State Relief is limiting customers to ½ oz. due to limited supply. It planned to open on Tuesday, Aug. 11 – the day before Doe filed the lawsuit – but had to wait for test results. The four types of marijuana on its online menu list THC contents of 15.3 percent to 22.7 percent, all at $195 per ½ oz. – taxes included.
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