In the coming weeks, the first crops of cannabis will begin blooming in warehouses across the valley, the most tangible sign yet that medical marijuana is headed to Southern Nevada.

Businesses that received state approval in November have been busy preparing buildings, sourcing crops and getting ready to open their doors. When they do, an industry that has been almost 15 years in the making will be born.

Voters first legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the state never established a formal system for growing and distributing it. Patients grew their own plants for personal use.

That changed in 2013 when lawmakers approved a statewide system of dispensaries, growing facilities and labs. It has taken nearly two years to write rules, collect applications and award licenses, but Nevada’s first medical marijuana businesses finally are set to begin operations.

Clark County’s 40 dispensaries likely won’t open for several more weeks or months as they have wait for their marijuana to be harvested.

The medical marijuana industry will be one of the most heavily regulated in the state, with government oversight on par with gaming and liquor. Even so, the field is relatively new, and Nevada still is working out details about how medicinal pot will be handled.

Who can get a medical marijuana card?
Marijuana is shown at the home of James Parsons, a licensed medical marijuana patient and president of Medical Cannabis Consultants of Nevada, Oct. 26, 2010.

Only people with one of eight specific ailments can qualify for a medical marijuana card. They are: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and conditions that include muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, severe pain or wasting.

After a patient receives a recommendation from a doctor, he or she must apply for a card with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health and pay a $25 fee. The application requires a signed, written statement from a doctor, a photocopy of the patient’s driver’s license and personal information such as a Social Security number.

If approved, the patient pays a $75 fee and takes his or her written approval to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which issues physical medical marijuana cards. Cards must be renewed annually and be updated to reflect address changes.

The state also allows patients who are too sick to visit a dispensary designate a caregiver to buy medical marijuana on their behalf. Caregivers must go through the same state licensing process as patients.

Can any doctor prescribe medical marijuana?
Any doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy licensed by the state is eligible to recommend patients for medical marijuana cards. But because medical marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, doctors can’t prescribe it.

Can patients use medical marijuana anywhere?

No. Medical marijuana can’t be used in public places.

How much marijuana can each patient buy?
Patients can buy 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks. Edibles and other infused products are limited to the amount made with 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and card holders are allowed to keep up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at home.

Patients must register and shop at only one dispensary, so the amount purchased can be tracked.

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