Pot Plank: Will Dems' Shift on MMJ Pave The Way?
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Pot Plank: Will Dems' Shift on MMJ Pave The Way?
Posted by CN Staff on July 22, 2010 at 13:13:05 PT
By Jason Whited
Source: Las Vegas City Life 
Nevada -- For the first time in Nevada history, a major political party has endorsed the creation of a safe, legal medical marijuana industry -- a move that could ease the suffering of thousands of patients and finally legitimize the state's black market network of pot dispensaries.In their official party platform, released just days after their late-June convention, delegates with the Nevada Democratic Party for the first time included clear, powerful language endorsing Nevada's emerging medical marijuana industry "as a contributing part of a compassionate, alternative health care in Nevada."
"Many Democratic activists, as part of their commitment to accessible and compassionate health care, support current Nevada state law and believe patients should have access to a full spectrum of medically approved and supervised treatments," said Phoebe Sweet, party spokeswoman.The state Democratic party's newfound cannabis love encourages longtime activists like Mike McAuliffe, who runs a patient referral service in town and who was a driving force behind the inclusion of a medical marijuana plank. McAuliffe said he's hopeful Democrats in the Legislature will use their newly minted pot plank as a springboard for codifying a safe, legal means of access to the plant for registered patients -- a move lawmakers conspicuously avoided when they stood up the state program in 2001."Nine-year-old legislative missteps are less relevant than correcting the deficiencies in this constitutional mandate, especially when it affects the quality of life for some of our neighbors," McAuliffe said. "Rather than recriminate, we should understand that this is a health care matter rather than a criminal matter, and we should establish a board to study current distribution models and advise the Legislature on a workable Nevada solution."The Democrats' new stand also thrills many of the state's 2,808 medical marijuana patients -- a number that's grown exponentially in just the past couple of years.Although their state-issued cards allow patients to use the plant to treat a variety of illnesses without fear of arrest, lawmakers never provided a state-sanctioned means by which the sick could obtain it."It's like [lawmakers] expected marijuana to magically appear for us. [Legislators] never provided a way for us to get it legally," said Dan, a local medical marijuana patient after buying a small bag of high-potency pot recently at one of the city's illicit dispensaries. (He didn't want his last name printed because such purchases are illegal.)Although Nevada has allowed for the use of medical marijuana since 2001, state statutes don't permit anyone to buy, sell or trade the plant, its seeds or its flowers in exchange for money or anything of value -- what the law calls "consideration." Since 2001, patients have had to deal with either drug dealers or, more recently, buy cannabis from the network of pot dispensaries now rapidly blooming across the state.The new Democratic position on an officially sanctioned means of obtaining medical marijuana means state lawmakers could provide just that in the 2011 session, assuming the party maintains control of both houses of the Legislature and Democratic lawmakers pay heed to the platform document, which isn't always the case."This might be a session where we can see what ways are available to address this lack of access," said state Assemblyman Joe Hogan, a Las Vegas Democrat. "My wife reminds me that when she was sick with breast cancer, she would have liked to have the opportunity to see if medical marijuana would have relieved the discomfort she had for many months. People absolutely should have the right to reasonable access to that treatment."If Hogan and others have their way, reasonable access to medical marijuana might be exactly what Nevada patients get next year.According to state insiders, both lawmakers and officials with the Nevada State Health Division, the government entity that oversees the state's medical marijuana program, have begun asking staffers at the Legislative Counsel Bureau to research how other states have handled legal pot distribution.Because staff work of this degree on any issue is often the precursor to lawmakers proposing and, later, codifying a legislative fix, some say the chances are good lawmakers will finally allow patients to buy their weed openly, from state-sanctioned growers or dispensaries.That is, if the Party of No is unable to block such a bill in the 2011 legislative session."My optimistic side says it does open a new field that would make it more inviting, or less intimidating, to venture into finishing up the job with respect to supply and safe production and distribution," Hogan said. "But, still, I think everybody is running a little scared during this campaign because our opposition is in such an attack mode. While we get along pretty well with the Republicans, this is a new breed, and they're pretty savage, and they're aligned with folks who are the least progressive on this issue."Still, statewide pot activists like Dave Schwartz, Nevada manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that has spent millions in the state on two marijuana ballot initiatives in 2002 and 2006 (when 44 percent of Nevada voters cast ballots in favor of regulating it), is likewise hopeful.Schwartz, whose organization is pushing a new ballot initiative that would tax and regulate marijuana for all consumers over 21, says it's only a matter of time before patients here can buy their medical cannabis legally."Growing your own might work well for some, but the majority of patients don't have a caregiver or can't take care of their own plants. So, the availability of dispensaries is absolutely huge for patients who are suffering and need access to medication," he said.Source: Las Vegas City Life (NV)Author: Jason WhitedPublished: Thursday, July 22, 2010Copyright: 2010 Las Vegas CityLifeContact: letters lvcitylife.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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