Pubdate: Thu, 24 May 2001
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Tahoe-Carson Area Newspapers
Author: Siobhan McDonough
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


CARSON CITY - A measure authorizing medical use of marijuana and  easing
Nevada's harsh penalties for possessing small amounts of the illegalweed
won approval Wednesday in the state Assembly. 

AB453, sponsored by Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, lets
seriously ill Nevadans have up to seven marijuana plants for personal
use despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue. 

''This implements the will of the people. This is a state's rights issue
which Nevadans hold dear,'' Giunchigliani said as the bill moved to the
Senate on a 30-12 vote. 

The medical marijuana plan was backed by Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman,
D-Reno, who said she's ''puzzled why there are so many hoops to jump
through for something that's so helpful.'' 

''There's no reason why we didn't (approve medical marijuana) a long
time ago,'' added Freeman, a retired nurse. 

Assemblyman Greg Brower, R-Reno, opposed the bill, urging lawmakers to
heed a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a federal law classifying
the drug as illegal makes no exception for ill patients. The court's
action leaves those distributing the drug for that purpose open to

''This bill puts Nevadans in a Catch-22,'' Brower said. ''It says we're
not going to prosecute for use - it's a federal crime - but don't worry
about that.'' 

Nevadans voted overwhelmingly in 1998 and 2000 to amend the Nevada
Constitution to authorize use of marijuana by those suffering from
cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other painful and potentially terminal

The task of implementing the voters' mandate was left to the

Besides Nevada, voters in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine,
Oregon and Washington have approved ballot initiatives allowing medical
marijuana. In Hawaii, the legislature passed a similar law and the
governor signed it last year. 

The Nevada bill also would create a state registry for all patients
whose doctors recommend they use marijuana for medical reasons. 

The reduced penalty for possessing marijuana, from a felony to a
misdemeanor, goes beyond the constitutional amendment by changing the
law on possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Nevada is one of
only a few states with a felony law for marijuana possession. 

Under AB453, a person with an ounce or less of marijuana could be
charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $600. A second offense would
result in a higher fine and assignment to a treatment or rehabilitation
program. Third-time offenders would be charged with a gross misdemeanor
and have to pay an even steeper fine.
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