On her way Wednesday to pick up her 7-year-old son from school, Tonya Snider stopped at the Henderson Police Department to score some dope.
"You want what?" asked one bewildered and fidgeting staffer at the information desk, staring at a ruling by Municipal Court Judge William Brown ordering police to hand over Snider’s marijuana and pipe.
Snider whispered: "This just blows me away. They can’t believe it, and I can’t believe it. I’m going to get my marijuana back from the police. Like, wow."
Like, wow, indeed.
When Snider and her attorney first asked Henderson’s finest and their administrative staff to give her back the weed she’d grown, you’d almost expect that the crime fighters, who appeared to have copped a high energy buzz from Snider’s request, would dial 911.
"This is a first for us," Detective David Barnes said before he stuffed Snider’s stash in a paper bag. "It’s different."
But lest you think the Henderson Police Department is dealing dope, know that Snider is a medical marijuana patient who challenged the case in court, saying her stash was wrongly seized in February.
Snider, whose muscle spasms cause her to toke about four times a day, had her less-than-1-ounce pot possession case dismissed Wednesday. Under state law, when it is determined that seized marijuana and drug paraphernalia have been used in accordance with the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act, "the law enforcement agency shall immediately return" them to the rightful owner.
"I think this may be the first time this has happened in Nevada," said Snider’s attorney, Ryan Mortier. "I’ve worked out plea deals with prosecutors for maybe a dozen clients in the past but never asked that the marijuana be returned. I was always afraid that the prosecutor may play hardball and we’d end up going to trial. But now I’m confident in the law. It is clear."
Jennifer Bartlett, program officer for the state’s medical marijuana program, said no data is kept on law enforcement agencies returning marijuana, but she said she has never heard of any confiscated herb being released from police impound.
More than 700 people, she said, have been issued registration cards to use marijuana. Before such a card can be issued, a doctor must find that an individual has a condition — such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, muscle spasms, severe pain or seizures — that can be ameliorated by the use of marijuana.
Criminal background checks are done on applicants. Successful applicants grow their own marijuana.
Snider said she began to use marijuana about four years ago after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points.
"Sometimes just a little pressure on my body causes indescribable pain," said Snider, the mother of three. "The marijuana and pain medicine allow me to function."
Snider realizes she largely created her own problems with law enforcement in February.
"I made mistakes," she said.
On Feb. 19, shortly before 1 a.m., according to police reports, officers found the marijuana and pipe in Snider’s parked Chevrolet Suburban in Equestrian Park. The park had been closed nearly two hours.
Snider said she was simply talking with her boyfriend and had not smoked any of the marijuana in the park when four police cars drove up.
Her registration card for the drug had expired, and the new one she had sent away for had yet to arrive in the mail. She also had a straw with crystal methamphetamine residue in the car.
Charges filed against her included illegal marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. She spent a day in jail before making bail.
During a plea arrangement Mortier worked out Wednesday with Henderson deputy city attorney Lin T. Ng, the marijuana charges were dismissed. Snider received a 30-day suspended sentence on the methamphetamine paraphernalia charge. If she stays out of trouble for a year, she won’t have to serve the jail time.
She also pleaded no contest to a trespassing charge for being in the park after hours, receiving credit for time served.
In court, Ng recited the terms of the plea agreement. She declined to comment on the case afterward, but Mortier praised her for following the law.
"I’ll never do meth again," Snider said. "I’ve seen what it did to my brother. I just used it a few times. But I am going to do a good bowl of marijuana tonight. I’ve got my stuff back. I just wish I knew how to grow stronger stuff."