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October 20, 2014

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State senator wants pardons for medical marijuana card holders

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Andrew Doughman

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore inspects the product and learns about the different uses for and varieties of marijuana during a trip to a dispensary in Arizona on Friday, March 22, 2013.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wants to pardon felony convictions for marijuana possession and sale for some Nevadans.

He said he plans to introduce a bill during the 2015 legislative session requiring the state to grant pardons for medical marijuana cardholders in Nevada.

“The idea is to go back and clean up some records for people whose sole crime was possession or sale of marijuana,” he said. “I’m going to propose a pardon, essentially.”

He said such a bill would be a way to forgive Nevadans who operated under an unclear law governing medical marijuana and inadvertently became criminals.

Although access to medical marijuana has been a state constitutional right in Nevada for more than a decade, patients had no legal way to obtain the drug.

Patients could grow plants but not obtain seeds. They could have marijuana but not transfer it to another patient. So patients often were arrested and convicted for the possession or sale of marijuana.

Segerblom noted the prosecution of patients who banded together in cooperative growing agreements that accepted donations in exchange for marijuana — a system that was later deemed illegal.

Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley declared the law unconstitutional last year in a case involving one such cooperative group.

Mosley ruled the law was vague and would prevent the sale of the drug to valid marijuana card holders. He called the law “ridiculous" and said that, in effect, it "would make impossible any commercial distribution of medical marijuana.”

That case is before the Nevada Supreme Court now.

Segerblom and Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, pushed a bill through the Nevada Legislature earlier this year establishing a regulated, taxed and licensed system for dispensing of medical marijuana to patients who have a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The new system should make it clear who can legally grow, sell or possess marijuana.

Segerblom reasoned that because the old system unjustly criminalized Nevadans trying to exercise a constitutional right, it’s fair to retroactively pardon patients whose convictions originated from an unfair law.

“(The bill) would say that people who have convictions — and I’m not sure exactly how it would be worded — that if you have a conviction for possession of marijuana or even sale under a certain amount when you had a prescription, that those convictions would be pardoned,” Segerblom said.

But state pardons have a specific legal meaning in the state’s constitution.

The state constitution affords the governor, the Nevada Supreme Court and attorney general the right to grant pardons.

So Segerblom may need to find a different legal mechanism by which he could propose to forgive or negate such convictions.

“There will be a process where you can come back to court, and if you have a medical marijuana card and you have some kind of criminal record, there would be a process where you could have that removed,” he said.

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