The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau this week released its list of bills that legislators have asked to be prepared for the 2001 session. Among the 242 requests is one from Assemblywoman Chris Giun-Chigliana (D-Las Vegas) for a bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor.
Under current Nevada law, one of the harshest in the nation, possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison for a first offence, 10 years for a second offence, and 20 years for a third offense.
Sale of any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison; with a second trafficking offense, mandatory minimum five-year and up sentences kick in.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that Nevada judicial officials say many cases of possession of less than four ounces of marijuana are reduced to misdemeanors in Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno) counties. In the rest of the state, however, possession charges are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Giun-Chigliana's bill would follow the path of a state judicial study commission whose report will be released in September. That commission, the Judicial Assessment Commission of the Nevada Supreme Court, headed by Nevada Chief Justice Bob Rose, will recommend that simple possession of small quantities of marijuana be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail.
Chief Justice Rose told the Sun that the recommendation will bring Nevada law "in line with the other 49 states, a more realistic penalty."
The commission made essentially the same recommendation five years ago, but the Nevada legislature refused to enact the changes.
The commission will also recommend that Nevada's felony "high" law be changed. Under that law, persons using or under the influence of a controlled substance may be charged with a felony. This reform would redress an anomaly in the Nevada statutes: Under current law, a person who drives while under the influence of drugs is charged with a misdemeanor, but one who walks down the street while "high" faces felony charges.