Medical marijuana bill introduced |

Medical marijuana bill introduced

Geoff Dornan

A bill to implement the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative was introduced in the Assembly on Monday.

Assembly Bill 453 would exempt not only the patient but the patient’s primary caregiver from prosecution for possession of 2 ounces of pot, implementing the mandate approved by some 65 percent of the voters in the last two general elections.

But the bill doesn’t stop there. It would also reduce the state penalty for possession from a felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison to a misdemeanor.

The measure was requested by Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, who said she did so because no one else had asked for a bill that would implement the wishes of Nevada’s voters.

It was introduced just a week before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on medical marijuana distribution in California.

The sections reducing the penalties for possession of marijuana are similar to those in a measure she introduced in 1999.

Assembly Bill 453 would require people needing medical marijuana to apply for an identification card issued by the state. To get that card, the individual would have to provide documentation from their attending physician stating that they have been diagnosed with “a chronic or debilitating medical condition” and that the marijuana may mitigate symptoms of that condition.

The bill would also reduce the penalties for possession and use of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor. The first offense would be punishable by a fine not more than $600, the second by up to $1,000 and a treatment program.

Three or more offenses would be treated as gross misdemeanors with a fine up to $2,000.

For children under age 18, the maximum fine would be $300 for a first offense and a mandatory substance abuse evaluation. The second or subsequent offense would be a fine up to $500 and up to 10 days in a juvenile hall, as well as a treatment program.

The task of issuing medical marijuana registry cards would be assigned to the state Department of Agriculture. Copies of the application would go to the patient and the primary caregiver, the board of medical examiners and the state repository of criminal history.

The patient’s primary caregiver could also get a card exempting him from prosecution for possession of marijuana. Both cards would have to be updated annually with new documentation confirming that the individual still suffers from a debilitating medical condition.

The fee for the original card can’t exceed $150 and $100 for renewals.

The proposed law also prohibits police from using the fact that a person possesses a registry card as probable cause to search the person or his property. It prohibits police agencies from taking medical marijuana and destroying it and prohibits them from using the possession as a tool to try seize any other property. Once it is determined that the person was entitled to have the drugs for a medical condition, any marijuana or paraphernalia must be returned to the patient.

And the proposed law protects the physician who writes a letter on behalf of someone who can benefit from medical marijuana from any disciplinary actions.

All the records in a patient’s application including the physician’s identity would be sealed. State and local law enforcement agencies would only be entitled to information verifying that the patient holds a lawfully issued registry card.

The bill would require the state to create a list of diseases and conditions that qualify for a “pot card.”

It was referred to the Judiciary Committee for study.

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