Two states on different ends of the nation have taken steps, though small ones, in the direction of legalizing cannabis. In New Hampshire a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession under one-half ounce is flying high into the State House with an endorsement by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Thousands of miles away in Nevada, a state court judge has ruled the state’s medical marijuana distribution law is unconstitutional. At the same time Friday that judge, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley, dismissed drug trafficking charges against two men who operated a storefront pot dispensary in Las Vegas. In his order, Mosley concluded the law frustrates the intent of a voter-approved state constitutional amendment by failing to clear the way for a patient to legally obtain marijuana.
Before anyone starts celebrating, let’s look closer. The NH case would make first offenses punishable by a $250 fine and the second would be $500. Subsequent offenses would be subject to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Offenders under 21 could also be ordered to take a drug awareness program. Possession of the half-ounce amount is currently a misdemeanor punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Okay, a small change but in the right direction, yes? Still it’s not legalization with regulation, which is a more desirable goal. Learn more from the Boston Globe.
In Nevada Judge Mosley, who is retiring which may have helped his courage in this ruling (who cares?), stated “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, who retired Friday, stressed that he isn’t a medical marijuana proponent, but was sworn to uphold the state’s constitution.
Mosley threw out charges Sept. 12 against Sin City Co-Op owners Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, but prosecutors obtained new indictments against them two days later. A news conference is scheduled for Monday. Mosley’s ruling came five months after another Clark County District Court judge reached a different conclusion in a separate but similar medical marijuana criminal case. In September, Judge Doug Smith allowed an indictment to stand against six people arrested in a police raid of a dispensary called Jolly Green Meds. But while Smith rejected a challenge of the state’s medical marijuana laws, he noted that state law fails to provide a way for patients with a doctor’s prescription to legally obtain marijuana. This was Judge Mosley’s position, too.
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