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Medical marijuana bill proposed for 2013 Legislature

CARSON CITY – A bill allowing registered medical marijuana users in Nevada to acquire the outlawed drug is one of the 144 bills being drawn up for consideration at the 2013 Legislature.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said Monday he requested the bill, which would be introduced in the state Senate if he is elected to the upper house, because there is no legal way to obtain the drug, which is used to help people with glaucoma and cancer patients who suffer loss of appetite because of chemotherapy.

The medical marijuana law, implemented in 2001 after overwhelming voter support, allows each person with a state card to grow as many as three mature and four immature marijuana plants and have on hand no more than 1 ounce of usable marijuana.

Unlike Colorado, upon which Segerblom patterned his bill, Nevada does not allow dispensaries where marijuana is sold.

He said his bill is a response to a decision by then-Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley in March throwing out charges against two men who supplied marijuana to patients. He said the Legislature has failed in its duty to create an appropriate way for legal users to acquire marijuana.

In 2011, there were more than 3,000 registered medical marijuana users in Nevada.

The challenge will be to pass a law that does not run afoul of federal law that makes it illegal to possess the drug. President Barack Obama in April asked federal agencies not to prosecute individual medical marijuana users and instead to concentrate their resources on large suppliers of the drug.

Metropolitan Police Department officers do not arrest medical marijuana patients unless they violate the limits of the state marijuana law, a department spokesman said.

Segerblom wants to establish certified marijuana dispensaries and licensed farms where marijuana may be grown and to allow patients to buy from California dispensaries.

His bill also calls for this medical marijuana to be taxed, although a rate has not been established.

Another medical marijuana bill is being introduced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Details were not available.

FIRST BATCH OF BILL REQUESTS

Monday was the first day in which the Legislative Counsel Bureau began releasing a weekly list of the bills being sought by legislators. The names of the sponsors and brief descriptions are included, but the text of the proposals are not.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, requested a bill to adopt all legal ways to reduce the illegal immigration population in Nevada and another to let election workers request photo identification before voters cast ballots.

And Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, is seeking a bill that would allow concealed-weapons permit holders who pass one firearms course to carry multiple revolvers or semiautomatic weapons. Now they have to pass a separate course for each type of weapon they want to carry.

But the medical marijuana bill is sure to generate the most debate, particularly because it is sought from a veteran legislator and former state Democrat Party chairman who has a lot of influence.

Since the 2001 medical marijuana measure was approved, legislators have proposed other bills calling for dispensaries, farms and marijuana taxes, but none of them has been approved. Petition drives to legalize marijuana for public consumption also twice failed to win voter approval.

Segerblom, a candidate for the state Senate, said it is even illegal to buy marijuana seeds over the Internet, although many out-of-country companies sell them. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now have medical marijuana laws. He said that because the users cannot find seeds, or are unable to grow marijuana on their own, the Legislature needs to change the law so they can use the drug.

During hearings on the law, supporters said marijuana is helpful for people with glaucoma, who suffer loss of appetite because of chemotherapy and who have migraine headaches and other medical problems.

RELAXED ENFORCEMENT

In recent months, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Las Vegas police have busted several stores they suspected to be marijuana dispensaries and head shops where both synthetic and real marijuana were sold.

The DEA contends marijuana has no medical or other useful value. It has focused its prosecution on dispensaries and large suppliers, not on individual users. In an April interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Obama said the government is not going to "prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana" and instead "will focus on large-scale operations."

He added they were not busting users of medical marijuana. The president said he could not ignore the federal law against marijuana but added he wants federal authorities to "go after things that are really doing folks damage."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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