Pubdate: Mon,  1 Oct 2001
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Nevada Appeal
Author: Geoff Dornan 
Bookmark: (Question 9 (NV))
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Possession of marijuana drops from a felony to a misdemeanor in Nevada
today, but Carson City and Douglas County sheriffs' departments are warning
that's no excuse for conduct they call "felony stupid" by pot smokers.

Carson City Chief Deputy Scott Burau said an prime example of "felony
stupid" would be getting arrested the weekend before the new law takes

"It may not end up in a report, but there's certainly going to be a
heart-to-heart conversation with that idiot," he said.

"I think that lecture would probably come from his lawyer and even from a
judge," said Douglas Chief Deputy Bob Wenner.

"I can almost guarantee you on Monday there's going to be some fool out
there sitting on the Capitol steps smoking dope," said Wenner. "There's
going to be some educational process."

Both men made it clear that any arrests before 12:01 a.m. today would be
treated as felonies until and unless the prosecutor or judge decides to
reduce the charge. And they said that, frankly, anyone that stupid deserves

Once the new law is in effect, Carson and Douglas plan to take different
approaches to handling arrests.

In Carson City, Burau said a suspect caught with less than an ounce of pot
will receive a misdemeanor citation and, unless there are other issues
involved, be sent home.

He said that's how the department and District Attorney Noel Waters
interpret the intent of the law.

"The state Legislature has made it clear they want to not decriminalize but
certainly minimize the enforcement necessity," he said.

Wenner said Douglas plans to treat marijuana cases more formally, much like
a first-time driving under the influence charge. The violator arrested in
Douglas will be taken downtown and booked before being released.

"We'll handle it through a booking and a formal arrest process because the
law says there's a progression," he said.

Wenner said that refers to increased penalties for a second, third or fourth
offense. He said the more formal record will help support those enhanced

Burau said although Carson sheriff's deputies would handle most first
offenses with no complicating factors as a citation, the department was
giving deputies considerable latitude. He said if there is paraphernalia
involved, a criminal history or evidence of deeper involvement in drugs, the
deputy will have the ability to take a suspect into custody.

Assembly Bill 453 was introduced for two purposes. First, the bill by
Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, set up the voter-mandated
system for permitting medical marijuana.

That, too, takes effect today and by Friday, some 200 individuals had
contacted the State Department of Agriculture seeking information and
application packets to register as medical marijuana users.

The law also reduced Nevada's penalty for simple use or possession of pot
from a felony; one of the nation's toughest penalties; to a misdemeanor.

The penalty for a first offense possession of less than an ounce is a
maximum $600 fine and a drug addiction evaluation. The second offense is
also a misdemeanor but with a fine of up to $1,000 and a mandatory drug
abuse treatment program.

The third offense would be a gross misdemeanor and the fourth a felony for
those Giunchigliani described as "really slow learners."

Nevada's penalties for trafficking and for use and possession of other drugs
such as cocaine or methamphetamine remain among the nation's toughest and
both Burau and Wenner said anyone caught in those activities will face the
full weight of the law.
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