While some programs including California's are mired in controversy and court battles, Nevada's medical marijuana program has grown quietly over the past year.
Cecile Crofoot, who runs the program within the Department of Agriculture, said Monday there are now 154 registered users in Nevada's program along with 18 caregivers. To her knowledge, none of those registered have gotten into legal trouble for drug violations.
The program was approved but not funded by the 2001 Legislature. Crofoot said the problem for Agriculture Director Paul Iverson is that handling it has developed into a full time job for her and is straining the department.
Much of that time was spent setting up the program but now, she said, renewals are just a few months away. Nevada law requires registered users to renew the letter from their doctor and get their card re-issued every year.
"Now I've got to gear up for renewals," she said.
But, she said, the program is helping some seriously ill people.
"There are a few out there this is really doing some good for," she said. "I talked to one guy, he just got married, and I asked, 'Is it helping you?' and he said yes. He's starting to ease off his prescription drugs. If he's getting married, he must be having a reasonably full life."
Crofoot said still gets calls from people hoping to find a legal way to get stoned.
"I'm still contacted by what I lovingly call the druggies," she said. "That'll probably go on forever."
She tells them Nevada's law is designed to prevent drug abusers from getting a card, and that it's only for those with a "chronic and debilitating" disease such as AIDS, cancer or glaucoma. For those illnesses, marijuana reportedly eases the symptoms -- in some cases significantly.
Nevada law, enacted after voters put a mandate in the state constitution, allows those individuals to register with the agriculture department and get a registry card that exempts them from state prosecution for possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. To get the card, they must have a licensed physician to sign a letter saying they have one of those listed medical conditions which might be helped by marijuana.
But Crofoot says Nevada doesn't allow anything like the Cannabis Club, which was shut down in the Bay Area, and doesn't allow anyone to provide pot even to a cardholder. They have to either find it on their own or grow it without state help and anyone caught providing the drug to someone is subject to drug trafficking laws.
She said she also still gets a few calls from people wanting to open a "marijuana store" to provide pot to cardholders. Nevada law prohibits that.
She added that those calls increase after a news story is done on the Nevada program.
Nevada's is modeled after Oregon's program, which has also been ignored by federal prosecutors.
California, however, has faced repeated challenges from federal authorities including an attempt to get the list of those registered and, most recently, a move to overturn the law allowing physicians to recommend pot for patients.