Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after waking up during a botched surgery, Las Vegas native Kara Sharpe reached a point of taking three opiate painkillers a day.
A self-described “zombie” with no emotion, feeling or perceived control of her body, Sharpe felt helpless and out of options.
Then cannabis became legalized in Nevada.
Using a combination of flower and marijuana oils, the 55-year-old Sharpe said she’s down to one painkiller a day. She feels more vitality than any time during the several years after her surgery.
“I’m alive again, thanks to cannabis,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Kareen Lay had lived a happy life in rural Montana before she and husband, Robert, moved to the valley in 2008. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer and directed to undergo more than two months each of radiology and chemotherapy treatments.
Lay, 69, combined cannabis oil with those treatments and was completely cancer-free within a year.
Sharpe and Lay were two of nearly a dozen patients speaking at an hourlong event Thursday at Sahara Wellness hosted by the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association.
The workshop illustrated a need for medically focused products in Nevada’s thriving pot industry. While more than 16,000 Nevadans still hold state-issued medical cards, that number has dropped by nearly 12,000 in 15 months since recreational marijuana sales began.
Industry members and patients have complained the state medical cards, which cost $100 for two years and require a doctor’s note as part of the application, are not incentivized enough under the current tax model.
State medical cardholders pay 10 percent less taxes than recreational customers, meaning cardholding patients would have to buy $2,000 to $2,500 worth in product to account for the cost of doctor’s fees and state licensing.
John Laub, the medical marijuana group’s president, said other patients have left behind their cards for the anonymity. Medical marijuana patients with state-issued cards are banned from owning firearms, and in some cases, lose benefits as military veterans.
With the drop in medical cardholders, flower cultivators and producers of edibles are less incentivized to make medical strength products, because the versions with larger THC concentrations can’t be sold to recreational buyers by law.
At least half of the patients who come into Sahara Wellness buying under the recreational model are former medical patients, dispensary owner Brenda Gonzalez said.
“There’s enough proof that marijuana is medicine,” Laub said. “This is something that is very needed.”