Nonsensical law

A district judge on Monday tossed out an indictment in a Las Vegas medical marijuana case, calling current state law governing distribution of the drug “mind-boggling.”

In November 2000, an overwhelming 65 percent of Nevada voters approved Question 9, amending the state’s constitution to recognize the medical use, cultivation and possession of marijuana by patients who have “written documentation” from their physician that marijuana may alleviate a medical condition. The law calls for issuing identification cards to qualifying patients.

But it remains unclear what quantity a patient can possess, as well as how a user with no gardening skills or inclination is supposed to legally obtain it, as other state and federal laws still make it illegal to buy or sell marijuana.

Of late, police have raided and closed nearly all the local entities distributing marijuana to state-registered patients, contending the cooperatives were receiving compensation in the form of donations, thus violating Nevada law.

Leonard Schwingdorf was indicted on suspicion of sale of a controlled substance when he gave marijuana to a Las Vegas cop toting a medicinal marijuana registration card at the Sin City Co-Op on West Charleston Boulevard. He and more than a dozen other defendants under indictment for distributing medical marijuana have argued the Nevada law is nuts, because it allows patients registered with the state to possess the drug but makes it illegal to obtain it.

Judge Donald Mosley agreed. “Why don’t they (lawmakers) make up their mind if they want to make it legal or not?” the judge asked. “I’m looking at it thinking I can’t make any sense out of this law. … Are people supposed to give it away? I mean it just makes no sense.”

Judge Mosley dismissed the indictment “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors could re-indict Mr. Schwingdorf at a later date.

No, judges are not supposed to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on personal preference. But when the provisions of current statute are contradictory or make no sense, it is indeed the court’s job to throw the whole mess back to the Legislature to sort it out.

Far too many judges check their common sense at the courtroom door. Thank heaven for the plain-talk approach of Judge Mosley.

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