Nevada Assembly approves medical marijuana |

Nevada Assembly approves medical marijuana

CARSON CITY – A measure authorizing medical use of marijuana and easing Nevada’s harsh penalties for possessing small amounts of the illegal weed 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 prosecution.

”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 illnesses.

The task of implementing the voters’ mandate was left to the Legislature.

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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