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January 31, 2015

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j. patrick coolican:

The blunt truth: Medical pot situation is an unclear mess, thanks to Legislature

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 | 1:06 p.m.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Medical marijuana affected by conflicting laws

Vegas Inc discusses the legal status of medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada with attorney Robert Draskovich.

Nevada’s medical marijuana statute is a cruel farce, like a dark Kafka story for those in need of weed.

Passed by voters in 2000 as section 38 of Article 4 of the Nevada Constitution, the measure calls on the Legislature to approve “appropriate methods for supply of the plant to patients authorized to use it.”

Shocking: The Legislature largely ignored the mandate and told patients and caregivers to more or less fend for themselves.

So as it stands now, dispensaries are illegal, and even though you can grow your own plants, you may not purchase the seeds to grow them.

Patients and patient, um, advocates, have tested the law by opening large-volume “co-ops” and nonprofit dispensaries. In retrospect, it was probably foolish, as both local and federal law enforcement have cracked down.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2009 he would stop prosecutions of medical marijuana in states where it is legal, though the order was confused by a second one from his deputy David Ogden, who said the feds would prosecute growers and sellers who go big.

After all the arrests this year, here and in other states, medical marijuana advocates asked for some clarity, but Holder has yet to offer it.

No doubt Holder is thinking that the last thing President Obama needs is another moniker — “dope fiend abettor of the Mexican drug war” — to add to “America-hating Muslim socialist.”

On the local front, the medical marijuana community scored a victory recently when Judge Donald Mosley — whose reputation is hardly that of Louis Brandeis — dismissed a grand jury indictment against Leonard Schwingdorf of Sin City Co-Op (poor choice of name, kids!). The judge ordered the dismissal because the jury didn’t see exculpatory evidence that showed the pot wasn’t for sale and that a donation wasn’t required.

Robert Draskovich, Schwingdorf’s attorney, is a libertarian who was feeling the indignation when I talked to him: “They prosecuted cases that they shouldn’t be prosecuting, and then they broke the rules.”

Separately, the judge also questioned the law’s “you can smoke it but you can’t own it” ambiguity: “I’m looking at it thinking I can’t make any sense out of this law,” he said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

I’m torn. On the one hand, I don’t want to see anyone suffer, so the Legislature should create regulations, as they have in other states, to enable patients to get their pot.

On the other hand, there’s a reason, back to Upton Sinclair and “The Jungle,” that the federal government regulates food and drugs. And I want the feds to maintain that primacy because they have the resources and can set national standards. What if I said to you, “Oh, I’ve got this awesome aspirin substitute. No side effects. Great pain relief.” Would you really want Nevada to decide if it were safe and effective? Wouldn’t you kind of want it to be tested and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, imperfect as that agency is?

Of course, while some will deny it, there’s no question that medical marijuana advocates were savvy enough to realize that if they could use the states and suffering patients to create a sweet-smelling smoke screen, swaths of the country would barrel right through that drug war brigade.

It hasn’t happened here in Nevada, but go to Venice Beach in California and you’ll see what I mean. It might as well be Amsterdam: Your medical marijuana card and your high-quality bud, right in the same place, right near the drum circle on the beach.

The problem is that it has also created a mostly unregulated market prone to thuggishness and unsafe and unstable working and cultivating conditions for growers, their workers and their weed.

The real answer, of course, is not the shortcut approach we’re using with medical marijuana, however effective it has been in creating national dialogue.

It’s time for a frank discussion here in Nevada and around the country about the failure of the drug war and especially the quixotic but still destructive war on pot, medicinal and not.

Obama can’t run on the economy, so maybe this is his winning issue.

UPDATED at 1:06 p.m. Tuesday:

I just talked to Lt. Laz Chavez of Metro narcotics, and he helped me understand this labyrinthine law. I originally said you can't "possess" the seeds to grow the plants if you're patient. I should have said you can't "purchase" the seeds. You can't sell marijuana, seeds, plants or clones, so ergo you can't buy them either. But Chavez says patients can give away seeds, or more commonly, clones, that will allow the other patient or his caregiver to grow marijuana legally. He also says Metro has no interest in messing with patients as long as they're not engaged in selling marijuana or other crimes.

I appreciate his help, but I still think the Legislature took a cowardly way out and need to address this at the next legislative session.

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  1. Collican, I have found your articles insightful and interesting. However, can we please stop it with the puns in your own headlines? This isn't FARK.

  2. "...there's a reason ... that the federal government regulates food and drugs. And I want the feds to maintain that primacy because they have the resources and can set national standards..."

    Coolican -- another good one! But your feds having "primacy" shows you don't know the republic you live in. The feds were never meant to be the bloated, all-powerful central government We have allowed. Crimes are mostly a state issue, and "national standards" are not always within federal jurisdiction.

    Overall you pointed out the conflict between what our state Constitution says and what's being done, and you laid the blame right where it belongs, the legislature. It just continues to perpetuate the utter stupidity of anti-canabis laws, the most useful botanical gift mankind has.

    "Tobacco, hemp, flax and cotton, are staple commodities." -- from Thomas Jefferson "The Works," vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782), "A Notice Of The Mines And Other Subterraneous Riches; Its Trees, Plants, Fruits, &C."

  3. Chunky says:

    There was a time way back when he was a daily recreational user but that was a long time ago. Chunky doesn't personally care if people partake safely for recreational use or if they genuinely require it for legitimate medicinal purposes.

    One of the reasons medicinal legalization is failing is that the process has become barely more than a thinly disguised veil for those who simply want to use the drug and the medical legalization for recreational purposes. The legal eagles see straight through it and are not so understanding as those of us with a moderate view on it.

    We should never restrict a useful drug for those who really need it. But we shouldn't let the recreational users abuse the laws meant for legitimate medical use.

    Until marijuana is legalized for everyone (and it probably should be), it's still illegal...period.

    How can our law makers and law enforcement agencies respect a law that is so easily abused?

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  4. Another good one Patrick. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  5. I don't write the headlines. And Alexander Hamilton most certainly did want a powerful central government. Thanks for reading everybody.

  6. If you support safe access for NV patients, please sign & share this petition:
    Thank you for your support.

  7. Fair enough. I would then direct my comment towards the editor or whomever does in fact write the headlines.

  8. Re: the update - I don't think so. There is no way to obtain them legally even if not paying for them and being given medicine by co-op members that is what the court case is about! Then why not drop the case? I would appreciate some more in-depth investigative reporting on the issue. Exactly how many patients have been prosecuted? Or raided? And is it Metro or the DEA? What about all the public outcry - nationally on "we the people" and locally with my petition. Please do more reports on this topic.