Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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Medical marijuana approved, voters want to see 120-day Legislature

CARSON CITY -- Nevada voters Tuesday told the Legislature to do something it hasn't done since 1977, complete the session in 120 days.

The constitutional amendment was approved Tuesday by nearly 70 percent.

Voters also took the first to two steps to allow marijuana to be used to cure illnesses or relieve pain. In Colorado and Washington, medical marijuana measures passed, but one in Arizona was rejected.

There were 10 questions on the ballot and seven passed.

Rejected was Question 8 to bounce the lieutenant governor from the job as president of the Senate where he or she steers the course of debate.

Also turned down were Question 6 to allow a tax break on property that conserved water and Question 7 that would have imposed a sales tax on items purchased from local government stores.

There was overwhelming approval for Question 5 to limit the length of the Legislature, which in 1995 and 1997, both lasted 169 days.

Senate Majority Leader William Raggio, R-Reno, a leading proponent, said leadership has already set a timetable to conduct its business within the 120 day limit. There will be deadlines for each house to pass its bills, except in certain cases. And committee actions must be taken by certain dates.

The 1997 session cost a record $15.5 million, and this is expected to reduce the cost several million dollars.

Although opposed by most law enforcement officer, Question 9 on medical marijuana handily won passage 58-41 percent. But it must be approved again at the 2000 election before it is written into the Constitution. It is patterned after the California initiative, which has run into trouble from federal law enforcement officials.

But the Justice Department has agreed to take another look at the possibility of allowing a government-supervised use of marijuana as a treatment for certain sick people. This would be a major reversal of the policy of the department, which since January has filed suit seeking to close at least six California "marijuana clubs" that supply members, including disease sufferers, with the drug.

Other amendments approved by the voters included:

--Question 1: changed the Constitution to resolve a conflict when competing issues appear on the election ballot and both win. The one with the most votes is considered victorious.

--Question 2: Removed the state Judicial Discipline Commission from under the authority of the Nevada Supreme Court and put it under the Legislature. The commission was given more independence in setting its rules and has the authority now to open investigations without waiting for a complaint.

--Question 3: The Legislature is now empowered to allow district judges to hold court outside the county seat. The impetus for the change came from Nye County where the population center of Pahrump is more than 100 miles from Tonopah, the county seat. But this could apply in Clark County to such places as Laughlin and Mesquite.

--Question 4: An advisory ballot issue whether Nevada Day should be changed from Oct. 31 to the last Friday in October so there will be a three-day weekend. It will be up to the 1999 Legislature to change the law, if it wants.

--Question 17: The Nevada Constitution will now have the so-called "scarlet letter" on term limits. It requires Nevada's Congressional delegation and state legislators to push for term limits for Congress either through a constitutional amendment or a constitutional convention. Those who did not follow this direction would have a notation placed beside their names on election ballots.

It had passed overwhelmingly two years ago and now goes into the state constitution.

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