Senate subcommittee backs medical marijuana bill in Nevada |

Senate subcommittee backs medical marijuana bill in Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – A Senate subcommittee has come up with proposed changes to an Assembly-approved bill allowing medical marijuana in Nevada and defelonizing possession of small amounts of weed.

But Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said she won’t fight the changes proposed by the Senate Human Resources and Facilities panel to her AB453 because ”I think they’ve made the bill better.”

The measure lets seriously ill Nevadans have up to seven marijuana plants for personal use despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

Also, 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.

Human Resources and Facilities Chairman Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, said the subcommittee’s recommended changes call for felony charges on a fourth or subsequent case of marijuana possession.

”This is a critical part of it,” said Rawson. ”If they grow plants and supply it to others, there has to be a stiff penalty.”

Also, the panel decided to rewrite the bill’s preamble to reflect the Legislature’s reasons for legalizing medical marijuana.

”It states that we’re carrying out the will of the people,” said Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas.

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.

”Every legislator has to grapple with this and come up with their own conclusion,” said Rawson, adding that AB453 has a good chance of passing out of his committee.

If the measure is approved as amended by the full committee, the Senate must still OK it. After that, it must return to the Assembly for final action before Monday’s scheduled adjournment.

Rawson said he’s satisfied with the amendments, adding that he wanted to ensure that the bill wouldn’t put Nevadans in a position of violating federal law.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling held 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

Other proposed amendments allow the state to apply to the federal government for permission to conduct a research program in which doctors would try to see whether marijuana helped ease pain, nausea or other symptoms. Also, the state Department of Agriculture could apply to the federal government for a seed lab.

”We need a serious research program,” said Rawson. ”We’re not the first state to try to pave this path.”

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

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