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Bad Bills: Nevada Legislation Could Send Parents to Prison for 15 Years for a Single Plant

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #474)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Building on a 2005 law that made it a felony offense for people to operate methamphetamine labs in homes where children are present, a Nevada legislator has introduced a bill that would subject people growing even a single marijuana plant to the same penalties. Under the bill, they could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

The bill, Senate Bill 6, was introduced by state Sen. Joe Heck (R-Las Vegas), who doesn't see any difference between undertaking a complicated and risky chemical process and growing a plant. "You are exposing children to dangers when you are selling any illegal substance out of your house or growing any illegal substance out of your house, so you should be held to the higher penalties," Heck told the Senate Human Services and Education Committee.

"If a guy has a couple of (marijuana) plants in there (now), he could be out in a week," Heck said. "But if there is a child present, with this, now he could serve five to 15 years for exposing that child to the dangers of this activity. The very behavior of small children puts them at risk around these materials, including marijuana," Heck said. "As any parent knows, the first place a toddler places anything they find is in their mouth. What if this object is a marijuana plant?"

But during the Monday hearing on the bill, representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Clark County (Las Vegas) Public Defenders Office urged legislators to think twice. "The way the bill is currently drafted states that someone could be growing marijuana for their personal use and not for the purposes of distributing it, selling it or engaging in drug trafficking and they would be treated as if they were engaged in those activities," said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada.

The proposed new law amounted to "shooting fleas with cannons," Peck said, adding that it could impose an even greater burden on the state's overflowing prison population. "No one who is testifying in support of the bill can actually talk about the implications in respect to the incarceration rate," Peck said.

Applying the same penalties to meth lab operators and pot plant growers is inappropriate, said public defender Jason Frierson. "The reason that statute was written the way it was is because meth labs have a tendency to explode and the chemical components, the fumes and the chemical burns -- the exposure to those were the reasons for the greater penalties," Frierson said. "As I read it, this is treating the growth of one marijuana plant similarly with the existence of a meth lab in the presence of children."

The usual suspects supported the bill, including the Nevada District Attorneys Association, the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association. "It is our belief that anytime you have drugs and children together, it is a dangerous combination, a dangerous mix," said Kristin Erickson, a Washoe County deputy district attorney speaking for the state association.

Nevada is a state where medical marijuana is legal and patients or caregivers can grow up to three or four plants, but the bill makes no mention of that.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

There`s a 22 year old man that was sent to prison for 4 years for a blog in Egypt the other day, for expressing his thoughts on terrorism, he`s against it if you care. but if we don`t take care of our rights , who knows what will happen?

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 5:20am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Mr. Joe Heck proposes that a pot grower (of even one plant) be set along side a meth lab operator. If I were that pot grower and had to go to prison for, maybe 15 years, while the state took care of my child (children), I suppose I would learn some very valuable lessons.I would learn that it cost more to house me in prison than I could probably make in a year myself, thank you all taxpayers. I have no idea what the financial cost to care for my children would be, but with the help of foster parent program, it shouldn't be all that much. And if the children should get shuffled around, well that will just give them a broader knowledge base. Yes, for growing a plant around my children, my family and I will now discover how "dangerous" that was.

When are politicians going to STOP using drug laws as a platform. And how can some of our law enforcement agencies be so short sighted as to encourage bills of that nature? Don't you guys have real criminals to catch? Me for one, when I get out of prison for growing that one plant and having learned my lesson. I now cannot get a decent job, my children are grown, one is in prison, the other runs a child porno web site. But I did learn some new skills in prison, like how to fight, how to run a meth lab, how to murder and not get caught. Oh, I've learned some great life skills, especially how not to trust our government to be sensible, stop operating out of self agrandizing ways, and to put humaneness back into our world. (I am not in prison, have no children, don't even smoke pot, but this scenario is more real than most of you can imagine) It's not rocket science!!!!!
Gaynel in Arkansas

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 8:04am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Why doesn't this fascist vermin worry about children learning to drink killer alcohol from their parents, that's where the cycle of violence gets transmitted to the next generation (or thru fetal ALCOHOL syndrome or thru child abuse, common among alcohol abusers). Given that 44% of Nevada voters voted last November to fully legalize adult marijuana possession and to regulate sales, it's safe to say this bill would not be supported by the majority of Nevadans.

Opposition to marijuana is being led by the special interests who profit from it: big pharma, big alcohol, big tobacco, the prison industrial complex (including the rural towns that depend economically on prison jobs), the rehabilitation industry, and most of all law enforcement/criminal justice which get larger budgets and power and opportunities for corruption undreamed of by most people. And also the military industrial complex, which does not need peace loving heads voting. Our boy king NEVER would have won Florida in 2000, even with the cheating, if weed was legal.

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 10:28am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Public Execution of all public servants caught breaking ANY laws or civil rights of US citizens. I hope they have a great foster care program to go along with the no spanking California bill up by our new and unimproved government. How do these ideas ever see the light of day on the face of them they are so ridiculous it amazes me everytime yet they keep on coming.

Serenity NOW!

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:15am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What unbelievable hypocrisy from this alcohol supremacist bigot. No one is going to die from eating marijuana, and I don't think it's tasty enough for a child to eat enough to get even the slightest buzz. You have to eat much more than you would need if you smoked it. It would be easy, on the other hand, for a child to die of an overdose of their parent's alcohol.

Get real, America, alcohol is far more dangerous (violence causing) than marijuana. Stop defecating on your pledge of liberty and justice for all. You're certainly not allowing marijuana users liberty, and given alcohol's status, you're providing PATHETIC justice.

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:29am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Nevada seems prone to legislation which goes against reason or science when it comes to cannabis. In my opinion, this reflects it's bias towards alcohol as a drug of choice, as its use is needed to promote much of the tourism and related industries which sustain the Nevada economy. Does Joe Hicks know that ingesting raw cannabis does nothing? I'm reasonably sure not. He states a concern that a toddler may eat it (cannabis) if they find it growing in the home. I am a parent of young children and am familiar with kids eating things that they shouldn't, but I still have batteries, mouse traps, alcohol, various medications, cleaning products, etc in my home which could kill my children if ingested. I must be a terrible father! Would this bill (growing cannabis in a home with children) count each plant as a separate violation? If so, people growing for their own personal consumption (not dealers) who have a few plants could be incarcerated for the rest of their natural lives, and for what? Come on Silver is time for reason.

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 1:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sorry, me again (Bad Bill), TYPO...Joe Heck, not Joe Hicks (Freudian?)

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 1:23pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

"As any parent knows, the first place a toddler places anything they find is in their mouth. What if this object is a marijuana plant?"

NOTHING would happen, that's what. This Senator sounds like a complete moron. I find it frightening that such an idiot is in office at all.

Comparing this to a meth lab is ridiculous. If a kid eats meth or meth-making chemicals, of course that would be a very bad situation with regards to their health. But if they ate a piece of a plant? Absolutely NOTHING would happen. As someone else stated, they'd have to eat quite a bit of the actual bud of the plant in order to even get a buzz. Not likely to happen, and even if it did, a buzz is nothing compared to swallowing drain cleaner... Give me a break.

It's also alarming that there is no mention of how this law applies to people growing marijuana *legally* (under state law) for medicinal purposes. The idea that a parent who is abiding by their state's medical marijuana law and is growing the legally allowed amount of plants for their own private use could be sent to prison and have their child(ren) taken away from them is horrifically irresponsible, at best.

Fri, 02/23/2007 - 8:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I like the public execution idea of politicians that break any law......may as well line them up now! I also would support manditory drug testing of all politicians, starting with the president on down!!!!
Marijuana will never be legalized, even if it cured the common cold, cancer and was the answer to world peace! They need to keep it illegal so they can continue to make big profits......

Sat, 02/24/2007 - 9:43am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I don't even know that execution of politicians who break the law would work; we would just get replacement politicians of the same ilk, similar to drug dealers filling any small gaps created by the prosecution of other drug dealers.

Rather, let's drug test all candidates and incumbents; if a positive test results, remove them from candidacy or office, and take away their lifelong "retirement" benefits. My guess is that serious changes to current drug laws, as well as Social Security, would result.

Mon, 02/26/2007 - 1:53pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Can't people SEE that niether politival party is on their side? What is needed is not more fantasizing about hanging the bastards, but a completely new political entity. Not subject to the vote for the "best looking" as sooo many women are inclined, but a genuine and complete return of ALL our long lost Constitutional Rights, lost as a result of the suffragettes, beginning with the Volstead Act. This is NOT an attack on Women, it is however, an attack on the un-ratified amendment giving them the vote, and all the ill-advised legislation that ensued as a result of that illegal vote. Women cannot and will not vote for freedom over security, ever. That is WHY the elite gave them the vote. Now, rather than objective intelligent debate and a minimalist government, we get "good looking" candidates and the Smarmy state. If yer gonna vote- vote the way yer ol' man tells ya! Each and every one of our Bill of Rights have been utterly ERASED as a result of the women's vote. Check out yer history folks.And even if ya hate the message, at least have the objectivity to consider it's validity. We need a complete change in direction, and ya hafta start with the basics, this is too broke to fix. Extending the franchise to foreigners is all that's left. And believe you me...the Smarmy vote will have THAT enacted ASAP.Just look at Mexifornia.

Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:33pm Permalink

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