It’s no different than the pharmacy on the corner,” explains Tom Roberts, Deputy Chief of the Investigative Services Division for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “Medicinal marijuana is legal and so we are going to do what we can to support the businesses that operate in the industry and the people who consume it.”
With almost a half-dozen medical cannabis dispensaries now open in Southern Nevada, Chief Deputy Roberts and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro) believe licensing dispensaries is necessary.
“I think the dispensaries opening and the ability to have growers and the regulation of the market is a positive step,” says Roberts.
“I believe that like anything, the industry will find a cheaper, more effective way to do it, and if it’s regulated, then you know that people are getting what they should be getting. I think that’s a positive for the industry.”
Though licensed dispensaries began opening this year, medicinal cannabis has been legal in Nevada since 2000, with access to medicine only available to patients who grew their own plants.
“We have had medical marijuana in our state for some time, so our officers are used to dealing with medical marijuana patients. Of course, the change now is we are moving from homegrown and self-medicating to dispensaries. I don’t think our philosophy has changed, we just have to be careful that we educate our employees on what the law is, and what we can and can’t do,” Deputy Chief Roberts notes.
As a progressive organization, Metro is proactive in keeping their officers up to speed as laws change and medicinal cannabis regulations are put in place. Metro is training its officers with Powerpoint presentations, including how to identify an official medicinal cannabis patient card.
Roberts and his colleagues also met with their law enforcement counterparts in other jurisdictions such as Colorado and Washington to learn what kind of challenges they can expect as the industry opens to the public.
Crime, illegal operations, robbery and theft can be expected, but their Colorado brethren also emphasized the challenges Metro might encounter with regard to edibles. “In Colorado, they were making really potent edibles and people weren’t following the directions, and so they were having psychotic episodes. There were a few murders and suicides associated with edibles,” Roberts says.
“That is one of the biggest dangers that I see for public safety — edibles, oils, extracts and overconsumption. Children ingesting edibles is another problem Colorado ran into. If you are consuming or medicating, keep it out of the reach of children. If you are using edibles, remember what they may look like to somebody else. Don’t leave them lying around,” cautions Roberts.
Another unforeseen issue in Colorado has revolved around pets. “Pets were eating this stuff and becoming sick.”
Deputy Chief Roberts warns: “It’s like anything else, you certainly don’t leave your prescription pills sitting out. You should have childproof caps. That’s what the industry needs to look at, if it’s all about medicine and public safety — maybe provide containers that are childproof or offer protection.”
As long as patients are obeying the law, Deputy Chef Roberts says they should not be concerned about any interactions they may have with Metro while in possession of medical cannabis. Metro will approach medical cannabis responsibly, treating it like any other legal substance, and urges users to do the same.
SIDEBAR: SAFETY TIPS FROM LAS VEGAS METRO
“If you are a medicinal marijuana patient and you have a card, you shouldn’t fear law enforcement. You should be comfortable being a medicinal marijuana user in Southern Nevada,” explained Metro’s Deputy Chief Roberts, especially if patients keep the following in mind when medicating with cannabis.
Should you come in contact with law enforcement, explain that you are a medical cannabis patient and have some in your possession. “If the officer has more information on the frontend, than they are more apt to not make judgments or draw conclusions that it’s illegal,” says Roberts.
Don’t be afraid to transport medical cannabis in your car.
Don’t drive while medicating with cannabis. “Even though you may feel that it is safe, your impairment and your judgment and your reaction time is diminished,” Roberts explains of driving while under the influence of medical cannabis. “It is legal. It’s no different than anything else,” Roberts imparts, adding, “Please just use it responsibly, just like you would anything else.”