Medical marijuana as a pain reliever | NevadaAppeal.com

Medical marijuana as a pain reliever

Seven years ago, Kevin Brent was taking out the trash at his job as a kitchen manager when he slipped.

"I ended up with a hematoma the size of a football. And nerve damage," said Brent, who's 55 and lives in Gardnerville.

He's had five surgeries and has been on narcotics — Norco and Vicodin — for the pain and Gabapentin for the nerve damage.

"When I first got the injury I was like a vegetable. I couldn't take it anymore," said Brent, who had trouble sleeping due to the pain.

On the recommendation of a physician he saw in Reno, Brent applied for a medical marijuana card.

"It's been phenomenal. I sleep so much better," and takes less of the narcotics than he once did, he said.

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Brent is a typical medical marijuana patient, according to Tyler Brennan, general manager, RISE, the Carson City dispensary.

"Sixty to 70 percent are 55 or older and looking for pain relief," said Brennan. "A lot have aging issues, back pain, arthritis."

Like Brent, some are trying to reduce consumption of opioids for pain and many have insomnia.

"Sleep is a big one," said Brennan.

Another is anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"When I first got out of the military I had a mental breakdown and physical pain and their way of treating it was to hand me a bunch of meds," said Nate Long, who served in the U.S. Army and now lives in Washoe Valley. "I ended up standing there like a zombie. I wasn't a person anymore. I couldn't be an active father or a good husband."

His wife suggested he try medical marijuana and despite being a veteran, who are often reluctant to try medicinal pot because it's still not legal under federal law, he gave it a shot.

"I feel it's worth the risk to not be doped up on those other medications," Long said.

Brennan said that's where recreational marijuana may end up playing some role.

"Veterans will feel a lot more comfortable," he said.

There's expected to be minimal tracking of buyers of recreational pot, although he said the information gathered on medical marijuana users is being reduced as well.

But recreational marijuana users will likely pay a higher tax: a 15 percent wholesale tax and an additional 10 percent excise tax proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that needs to be approved by the Legislature.

That's why Brennan thinks medical marijuana isn't going anywhere.

"The tax collected is minimal and Nevada is changing the law to collect less in the database," said Brennan.

RISE may soon be selling both. The dispensary is applying with the state to begin selling recreational marijuana in July and the business has leased additional space starting in June, when Dream Dinners, its current next door neighbor, closes.

That will double RISE's space and, Brennan anticipates, its business.

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