Now that recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for some time, many of you may be wondering what differences exist between the two. While the legalization of recreational weed didn’t change how the medical marijuana program was governed, legal differences between the two may affect whether you decide to apply for a medical card.
First, medical users can possess up to two and a half (2.5) ounces of “usable marijuana” in a two-week period, while recreational users can only possess one (1) ounce. Basically, if you don’t have a medical card and you’re caught with more than an ounce of marijuana on you, it’s a felony charge.  Significantly, medical users also don’t have to pay a hefty 10% tax that recreational users pay.
A restriction that applies to recreational users that doesn’t necessarily apply to medical users is the right to grow your own marijuana. Medical users can grow their own pot even if they live within 25 miles of a retail store as long as they are too ill, don’t have the ability to travel, or if they are grandfathered in as a cultivator prior to July 2013. Furthermore, while recreational users can only grow 6 plants per person, medical users can grow 12.
Another difference between recreational and medical use is the legally allowable age. As many of us are familiar with, a person must be over the age of 21 in order to use and buy recreationally, but not so for the medical side of things. Persons under the age of 21, and even 18, may use marijuana if they have qualified for the card. Those under the age of 18 just need to have an official care-giver. Of course, qualifying for a medical marijuana card requires written affirmation from a healthcare provider.
One of the most notable differences is the Medical Marijuana Registry. While those over the age of 21 can purchase marijuana somewhat anonymously in Nevada, those who have a Medical Marijuana license will be on the state’s database of cardholders. There’s no way around this, since the Medical Marijuana program is run by the state. There are also some nuances involved with the registry, since the information technically falls under HIPPA; while HIPPA protects a person’s medical information, it won’t necessarily stop the fact that you’re on the registry from showing up on background checks.
The law does not prevent employers or landlords from discriminating based on the fact that a person uses marijuana. Furthermore, being a Medical Marijuana Cardholder means you won’t be able to apply for gun licenses, or purchase guns. A Nevadan woman actually appealed this very issue all the way to the 9th U.S. Circuit, but the court ruled that the ban of gun sales to cardholders does not violate the Second Amendment.
However, with more states slowly legalizing recreational marijuana, and with the huge amount of tax revenue it’s brought in for the government, the overall stigma will probably fade. The recreational market has also made purchasing marijuana a much easier task for medical users, as more and more legal dispensaries open to support the growing market. Marijuana is still a new industry, so there’s a way to go before all the kinks are ironed out, but for now, there are some significant differences between being a cardholder and buying recreational marijuana.
And finally, as we always say, “If you think you might need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us before anything is set in stone. We love answering questions!
By Winnie Wu, Legal Assistant at Morris Law Center, Former UNLV Undergraduate Research Scholar and 2018 University Libraries Lance and Elena Calvert Undergraduate Research Award Winner
 NRS. 453A.200 3(b)(1)
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 Thanawala, Sudhin. US Court Upholds Ban on Gun Sales to Marijuana Card Holders. (August, 2016). Associated Press. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/bbb3ef37357d4799bec33cb2d36a7bae