Pubdate: Thu, 10 May 2001
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Nevada Appeal
Author: Geoff Dornan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The Assembly voted 30-12 Wednesday to adopt the wishes of Nevada voters
and legalize medical use of marijuana. 

Assembly Bill 453 also drops Nevada's historically tough felony penalty
for simple use and possession of pot to a misdemeanor. 

Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, pointed out that
permitting medical use of marijuana for those with terminal, chronic and
debilitating diseases such as cancer was supported by two-thirds of
Nevada's voters in the past two general elections. 

It was voter mandate that put the question before lawmakers, and
Giunchigliani pointed out that the question got more votes than Gov.
Kenny Guinn and all but two of Nevada's lawmakers in the 2000 elections. 

As for reducing the penalty from a felony, she said, that is "simply
codifying existing practice." She said judges routinely reduce the
charge for simple possession and use of pot to a misdemeanor conspiracy
charge and order probation. 

Medical marijuana registry cards would be available from the state
Department of Agriculture to people with certain diseases. Those
individuals would be allowed to grow, possess and use - in private, but
not in public - small amounts of marijuana. They and their family or
caregiver would be exempted from state prosecution. 

Supporters agree those people would still be subject to federal
prosecution but said it's doubtful the federal government has any plans
to mobilize forces of agents to hunt them down and prosecute them. 

Giunchigliani said Nevada law isn't affected by the recent U.S. Supreme
Court ruling which said medical necessity can't be used as a defense
against federal marijuana charges. 

"This is a state's-rights issue," she said. 

Republican John Carpenter of Elko said the most important component of
the bill is the treatment required for those charged under the new
misdemeanor statute. First and second offenses would be misdemeanors.
Any additional offenses would be considered a gross misdemeanor. 

"If we're ever going to make any headway on this problem, it's through
treatment," he said. 

He also termed it a state's-rights issue. 

"As far as wanting to go against federal law, well, that's right down my
alley," said Carpenter, who helped lead the "shovel brigade" to keep
federal authorities from closing down a wilderness road in Elko County. 

Assemblyman Greg Brower, R-Reno, opposed the bill, saying is puts
Nevadans in a "Catch-22" since it's still a federal crime. He said
judges he has talked to want to keep the felony option. 

"In my opinion, frankly, it's going to take Congress changing this law,"
he said.

But a number of other Republicans joined in backing the bill, including
Bob Beers of Las Vegas, Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick of Gardnerville,
John Marvel of Battle Mountain and Dennis Nolan of Las Vegas. 

Also among the supporters was Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, who
is deputy chief of police in Henderson. 

AB 453 goes to the Senate for consideration.
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