In a ruling Friday, a Nevada district court judge ruled that the state's laws for the distribution of medical marijuana were unconstitutional because they seemed designed to thwart their ostensible purpose. The ruling came in the case of two dispensary operators, Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, who had been charged with drug trafficking for taking money to grow marijuana for patients.
"It is apparent to the Court that the statutory scheme set out for the lawful distribution of medical marijuana is either poorly contemplated or purposely constructed to frustrate the implementation of constitutionally mandated access to the substance," Mosley wrote in his decision.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing patients to use medical marijuana in 2000. That amendment charged the legislature with crafting "appropriate methods for supply of the plant to patients authorized to use it."
But the legislature didn't do that. While the law allows patient cardholders to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, other state laws make it illegal to buy or sell it.
Although a number of dispensaries opened up in Las Vegas, they have mostly vanished now, after police and prosecutors made several dozen arrests of dispensary operators who charged set prices and thus received "consideration." Such a legal situation was "mind-boggling," Judge Mosley wrote.
"The law falls short however in providing a realistic manner in which a qualified purchaser and a qualified distributor of marijuana may function, thus frustrating the clear intent of the Nevada Constitutional Amendment," the judge's decision read.
Mosley found that disallowing any payment for the marijuana, as well as limiting anyone from possessing more than one what patient can possess, was simply unworkable.
"It is absurd to suppose that from an unspecified source 'free' marijuana will be provided to those who are lawfully empowered to receive it," Mosley wrote. As to the limited amounts, "This arrangement is of course ridiculous and in effect would make impossible any commercial distribution of medical marijuana," Mosley said.
Another Clark County judge has ruled differently, setting up a showdown over the law at the state Supreme Court. District Judge Douglas Smith denied a motion to dismiss another Las Vegas case even as he acknowledged that the legislature had not adequately addressed "methods of supply of medicinal marijuana to patients authorized to use it."