Nevada Assembly Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana
The Nevada House yesterday approved a bill already passed by the Senate that would "legalize marijuana for medical purposes and relax penalties for possession of the drug," the AP/Nando Times reports. Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) is expected to sign the measure. Under current state law, people possessing "any amount" of marijuana face a felony charge and prison sentence of one to four years; "first offenses involving small amounts" of the illegal drug usually result in misdemeanor charges and no jail time. In 1998 and 2000, Nevadans "voted overwhelmingly ... to amend the constitution" to allow medical marijuana use by people with "painful and potentially terminal illnesses," such as cancer and AIDS. The Assembly bill, based on those votes, includes the following provisions:
- "[S]eriously ill" patients could "have up to seven marijuana plants for personal use."
- The state would establish a registry for patients whose physicians recommend the use of medical marijuana.
- The state would ask federal permission to "conduct research into whether marijuana helps ease pain, nausea or other symptoms of seriously ill patients."
- An individual possessing and a ounce or less of the drug would face a misdemeanor charge and a maximum fine of $600; second offenders would face a "higher fine" and placement in treatment or rehabilitation; third-time offenders would be charged with a gross misdemeanor and face even higher fines; and those with four or more offenses would face felony charges.
If Guinn signs the bill as expected, Nevada will become the second state to approve the use of medical marijuana by legislative efforts, following Hawaii's effort last year. Seven other states have approved the practice through ballot initiatives: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon and Washington. The AP/Times reports that the Nevada approved bill "puts the state on a potential collision course with the federal government," as the Supreme Court ruled last month that "medical necessity" is not a valid defense against the federal law that classifies marijuana as illegal (McDonough, AP/Nando Times, 6/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.