Winding down the War on Drugs

Nevada voters approved medical marijuana at the polls, placing it in the state constitution in the year 2000 and instructing “The Legislature shall provide by law for … appropriate methods for supply of the plant to patients authorized to use it.”

Now, sick Nevadans can pay a $150 fee and acquire a physician’s recommendation for the medicinal plant. Then — they can’t get any.

Oh, some do. They can grow their own, with an absurd limitation on the number of seedlings grown at any time. (Imagine a gardener trying to grow a crop of carrots … while being limited to seven seedlings.)

But police have continued to bust well-meaning souls who have tried to help patients acquire this medicinal plant, threatening Biblical prison terms.

A year ago, District Court Judge Donald Mosley — in his last day on the bench — condemned the absurd state of Nevada’s medical marijuana law, calling it “ridiculous.”

Judge Mosley dismissed a drug trafficking case against Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, who supplied the herb to patients unable to grow it themselves.

“It is apparent to the Court that the statutory scheme set out for the lawful distribution of medical marijuana is either poorly contemplated or purposely constructed to frustrate the implementation of constitutionally mandated access to the substance,” Mosley wrote.

Prosecutors argued the marijuana dispensary staff suggested a specific cash donation for the marijuana, which under state law qualifies as “consideration” and is illegal. They also charged the dispensaries were growing more than seven plants.

“It is absurd to suppose that from an unspecified source ‘free’ marijuana will be provided to those who are lawfully empowered to receive it,” Mosley wrote.

Now comes state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, with a bill to authorize 10 medical marijuana dispensaries initially in Clark County, to be expanded as needed. A $20,000 fee — and a $5,000 annual renewal — would be required to operate a for-profit marijuana dispensary, treating such operations in a manner similar to the current regulation of pharmacies.

In a hearing on SB374 last week, Metropolitan Police Department lobbyist Chuck Calloway said the agency has some concerns about the plan. He also asked the Legislature to increase sentences for those who grow marijuana outside the new regulated regime.

“We have a huge problem with indoor and outdoor grow houses,” Mr. Calloway stated.

What kind of problem? Toxic pot? Low potency? Illicit growers charging extortionate prices?

The problem Metro has with marijuana growers is that they don’t want any marijuana growers. Their conduct in busting even the most well-intentioned dispensaries — enabling a prosecution racket that demands heavier sentences than those meted out to armed robbers — is further evidence of a decade of foot-dragging on the part of a public agency that has arrogantly refused to comply with the obvious direction of the very electorate they claim to “serve and protect.”

Yes, “grow houses” can trash the interiors of rental houses, which is a property crime. But these illicit activities persist precisely because “law enforcement” has been ignoring the law in order to wage their own moral jihad against a plant which Americans are now unmistakably shepherding toward commercial normalcy.

Americans finally figured out in 1933 the best way to keep their neighbors and kids from going blind on toxic bathtub gin was to make sure a product of guaranteed purity — regulated for purity and truth in labeling — was available for modest cost down at the corner liquor store.

Sobriety still beats drunkenness. The police and the pulpit and everyone in between can and should urge moderation. But our prisons aren’t full enough of non-violent, victimless offenders?

Draconian cries for ever harsher sentences for docile pot-smokers who nurse along an eighth seedling have lost all credibility, are embarrassing, and should be ignored.

Mr. Segerblom’s bill could use some fine-tuning. If anything, it continues the tradition of imposing levels of government regulation for which I can find no justification in either the state or federal constitution. An adult should have no more trouble buying marijuana than aspirin — a drug from which (unlike marijuana) it is actually possible to die of an overdose.

But SB374 is a heck of a lot better start at complying with the decade-old instructions of Nevada voters than anyone else has presented. Give it a try, and make any necessary adjustments later.

Though I would suggest one addition: legislative amnesty and a recommendation for a full pardon for any non-violent offender who’s been caught up in the legal system for merely trying to do what the voters ordered done a dozen years ago — providing marijuana to sick people.


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