CARSON CITY, Nev. (CN) – The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that the state’s registry of medical-marijuana users does not run afoul of the constitutional provisions of due process, equal protection and the right against self-incrimination.
“We conclude Nevada’s medical marijuana registry does not impinge upon a fundamental right,” the court ruled in a 12-page opinion written by Justice Ron Parraguirre upholding a Las Vegas judge’s decision. “We further conclude the registry is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
The decision came on an appeal by an anonymous plaintiff who received a registry identification card in 2015, after his doctor recommended he try medical marijuana to treat his migraine headaches. Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000 through an amendment to the state Constitution, leading to the creation of the registry by the Legislature.
John Doe filed suit against the Legislature, Gov. Brian Sandoval and a state agency. In his appeal he claimed that under the due-process clause he has a fundamental right to access health care recommended by a licensed physician and that the medical-marijuana registry and fees violate that right under the equal-protection clause. He also argued the registry tramples his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The state’s high court, however, refused to expand due process to encompass a new fundamental right to use medical marijuana.
“To date, no court has recognized a fundamental right to use medical marijuana recommended by a physician, and the use of medical marijuana is still prohibited under federal law and the laws of 22 states,” the court noted.
In rejecting the equal-protection argument, the court ruled that the registry is related to a legitimate state interest.
“The Nevada Constitution states that one of the purposes of the registry is to provide enforcement officers a means ‘to verify a claim of authorization,” the opinion states.
Regarding the contention that the registry violates the right against self-incrimination because patients must disclose that they intend to use medical marijuana in violation of federal law, the court stressed the voluntary aspect of the registry and cited a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the military draft.
That case involved a requirement that male students applying for college financial aid must certify that they had complied with the Military Selective Service Act by registering for the draft. Some students who failed to register argued that the requirement forced them to confess to a crime in violation of their Fifth Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected their argument, ruling that a person who has not registered clearly is under no compulsion to apply for financial aid.
The Nevada Supreme Court agreed that such reasoning applies to the medical-marijuana registry.
“Nevada law does not compel anyone to seek a registry identification card, and if an individual does apply, Nevada law does not impose criminal or civil penalties on them if they do not complete the application,” the court concluded. “Rather, the application may simply be denied.”