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Pot, probation and punishment
by Travus T. Hipp
Apr 17, 2010 | 1253 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As California toys with the idea of legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug, Nevada continues to treat smokers as dangerous felons, subject to harsh penalties and imprisonment. Special drug squads raid the homes of citizens harmlessly puffing a joint before dinner for simple possession of over an ounce of the devil weed, handcuffing any and all adults and sending kids off to foster care. Often they also charge the house itself with possession and confiscate the miscreant’s home. The sheriff gets credit for another drug bust without having to risk life and limb against the violent amphetamine users who pose a real threat to the community.

Nevada law enforcement spokesmen often claim that the state does not lock up simple possession cases but that is a bookkeeper trick to avoid the basic question of justice.

Coerced by the district attorney to plead to the least charge or face enhanced charges of sales and the cost of a trial, defendants are offered several apparently appealing options for supervised probation that can be ended within a year if various conditions are successfully completed. Thus, the D.A. adds to his list of victories in the greater “war on drugs” and the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation gets yet another client to be managed.

Once on probation and registered as a felon, the probationer finds that his rights are forfeited, including the right to vote, bear arms and drink alcohol, none of which are even remotely involved with his crime. Random searches of his home for drugs, beer, sharp knives or drug paraphernalia are a regular event along with a dollar-a-day supervision fee to the state. In addition, the pot felon cannot drive due to the residual traces of THC in his system for weeks after smoking. Forbidden to drive on pain of immediate jailing for probation violation, he is then required to find verifiable employment.

Medical marijuana, as permitted by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, offers no defense due to the “one ounce law,” passed by an angry Legislature following the referendum vote to provide medicinal pot. Even if you grow the prescribed seven plants allowed, possession of over an ounce will get you arrested.

At this writing, a 69-year-old woman with no criminal past other than having let her medical marijuana permit expire is being held in isolation in Carson City after her probation officer violated her for simply applying to get her permit renewed at the recommendation of her primary doctor and her court-ordered counselor. She suffers from the after-effects of four spinal surgeries 20 years past and osteoarthritis, for which she has had multiple pain prescriptions for longer than two decades. She is on oxygen therapy and seldom leaves her home due to her near invalid condition but she is a threat to the community according to her jailers, and must be punished for her crimes.

The Nevada laws on marijuana are cruel and unusual punishment for a minor social offense. There is a campaign to change the laws, but the Legislature, busy trying to make the state finances add up to something besides bankruptcy, are unlikely to do anything meaningful in reform of drug law during their short session next year, so this injustice continues, at great cost and suffering. Meanwhile, next door in the Golden State, they are preparing for a party and Nevadans are not invited.

“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.
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