Commentary - May 12, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

By July 1, those over 21 years of age will be able to purchase recreational marijuana in Nevada. So does this make Nevada's medical marijuana program obsolete?

No, says Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas. Already, medical marijuana card-holders enjoy reduction of fees. Also, Araujo has a bill that makes adjustments to Nevada's medical marijuana laws to help those who use it specifically to fight seizures, pain, PTSD and other serious health issues.

First, Araujo's bill would stop the tracking of patients' purchases and other data. No medical records. No social security numbers. Why should the state act like Big Brother for the medical marijuana patients when pot is legal for everyone over 21?

Although patients would still need a prescription from a doctor, Araujo's bill removes the $100 fee for a medical marijuana card.

Plus, the cards would only need to be renewed every other year instead of annually.

(Why can't the DMV do that for car registration?)

Eventually, Araujo and other Democrats hope insurance companies will cover the cost of medical marijuana prescriptions -- much like they do now with prescription pain killers and other pills.

"Yes, that is part of the goal," Araujo said. "Some insurance companies are starting to gravitate toward accepting medical marijuana patients. That is a part of our reason for preserving it (medical marijuana program)."

The bill, however, does not address insurance coverage.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that may factor into any possible medical-marijuana-insurance-coverage, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, said.

"My only hesitation there is that insurance companies have some federal mandates that they have to comply with," Yeager said. "So to the extent that those conflict ... there might be some issues but I certainly hope we move in that direction."

If insurance covers pain pills, it should cover medicinal marijuana, Yeager said.

"These (insurance) companies now cover opiates and other medications that, particularly in Southern Nevada, have been extremely detrimental in terms of the opioid addiction problem," Yeager said. "By last calculation, opioid overdose is the No. 1 cause of death in Clark County -- prescription drug overdose. So my hope is that as we move forward with this, insurance companies would cover that because I think it is a much safer alternative than the opiates that are out there now."