Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Copyright: 2000 Nevada Appeal
Author: Associated Press


A Nevada panel headed by Chief Justice Bob Rose is going to recommend
reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and
being under the influence of drugs.

The Judicial Assessment Commission of the Nevada Supreme Court made
the same recommendation five years ago, but the Legislature didn't buy

Nevada has one of the nation's toughest laws on marijuana possession,
making it a felony punishable by prison time. The recommendation from
the commission is to make it a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of
six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The recommendation is to bring Nevada law ''in line with the other
49'' states - ''a more realistic penalty,'' Rose said.

Rose said Tuesday the 40-member commission's final report will be out
in September. Half of the commission members are judges and lawyers,
the other half lay persons.

Judicial officials point out that many cases of possession of 4 ounces
or less of marijuana are reduced to misdemeanors in Clark and Washoe
counties but are prosecuted to the fullest extent in rural Nevada.

The commission also recommended the penalty for a person who uses or
is under the influence of a controlled substance be lowered from a
felony to a misdemeanor. Under current law, a person who drives while
under the influence of drugs is charged with a misdemeanor. But people
who walk down the street while high on drugs can be charged with a

The commission also recommended minor traffic offenses be
decriminalized from misdemeanors to civil offenses. That would clear
the court calendars to hear more serious offenses, the panel reasoned.

The commission also plans to encourage Gov. Kenny Guinn to pump more
money into mental health programs. Commission members reason that
mentally ill people are clogging the courts, because Nevada does not
have an adequate mental health system to deal with them.

The panel also suggested a major change in the way Nevada elects
judges. Vacant judicial seats would be filled by a regular election.
But sitting judges would face re-election with no opponents. Voters
would simply decide whether to retain or bounce the judges from
office. All judges now can face opponents in every election.
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