By Michael Bodley
LAS VEGAS – Giant marijuana leaf-emblazoned billboards across Las Vegas promise an easy way to “get legal today!” Online advertisements laud money-back guarantees. Websites offer payment plans and free consultations.
Local medical practices have aimed their marketing efforts at people who hope to get medical marijuana cards, which allow them to grow and possess weed in Nevada.
At Dr. Reefer, Nevadans pay $300 to obtain a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana. Dozens – 30 or more – do each day, a spokesman said.
Dr. Reefer, a doctor’s office that sees only marijuana patients bills itself a “one-stop shop.” The service orders the application paperwork and helps clients fill it out before a doctor there issues a recommendation.
It’s one of a handful of operations around Las Vegas that target potential marijuana patients.
“We want to make this medicine available to as many people who qualify,” said Derek Sante, a spokesman for Dr. Reefer. “It’s that simple.”
Dr. Reefer’s original owner, Pierre Werner, was sentenced to jail time in 2011 for selling marijuana illegally, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported. The business has been sold since and now has no affiliation with Werner.
Once the state approves a medical marijuana card, a patient can legally grow up to a dozen plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. Though the state’s medical program was first legalized via a voter initiative in 2000, the state Legislature did not establish a system for sales until 2013.
Regulators are still sorting out the rules, and there are still no marijuana dispensaries open in Las Vegas. For now, patients can grow their own at home, their only legal option.
Any licensed physician in Nevada can write a recommendation for medical marijuana. Although not all will do so, it’s important patients realize they have options, said Pam Graber, a spokeswoman for the state’s medical marijuana program.
“It’s unnecessary,” Graber said. “If patients deal directly with the (medical marijuana program) and their own doctor, they can get a patient card.”
Despite the financial incentive for Dr. Reefer to approve patients and a track record of 90-percent approval from the state, Sante said the company does not pressure its doctors to approve everyone who walks through the door.
“We’re not a rubber stamp,” he said. “Our doctors see people, and if they agree, that’s great. But we put no pressure on them to do that.”
Potential patients must submit an application with a doctor recommendation and undergo a background check. If approved by the state, it costs another $75 to register with the program. Patients must renew cards every year.
Though Dr. Reefer and other services tack on fees that add on hundreds of dollars more, Sante said the in-and-out convenience factor makes it worth it. Dr. Reefer also handles all of the paperwork and state processing.
“We make it quick,” he said. “We make it easy.”
Come back in August to see the full News21 report on America’s Weed Rush. Follow Michael Bodley on Twitter @