Pondering a potful of the golden fleeced

Nevada and other states, along with local communities, are wrestling with pot questions in a legal thicket growing into a bramble bush bedeviling the federal system.

Federal law brands marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal and saying it has no medical value. Nevada law sees a medicinal value. Limited amounts may be used after a physician’s recommendation and state issuance of a card. Many states allow medicinal pot and two — Colorado and Washington state — have even passed laws allowing recreational pot use. Some of this was highlighted at Carson City’s forum on medical pot’s new distribution system recently.

As usual, the Feds are behind the curve. They were behind it when many states banned pot early in the last century, then caught up, only to get behind it again as states headed in the opposite direction. Don’t count this an endorsement of marijuana; it’s, rather, an endorsement of reality. Banning things like gambling, prostitution and pot, all consensual activities, rarely boils down to anything but a fool’s errand.

“We simply do not catch a high enough percentage of users to make the law a real threat, although we do catch enough to seriously overburden our legal system,” said Jackson Eli Reynolds, lawyer and banker, speaking back in more strident anti-drug days. More to the point, the fool’s errand looks even more foolish when you realize it’s counterproductive on another level by undermining the main impetus behind a free and open society.

William Allen White, newspaper man and cracker barrel philosopher, put it best: “Liberty is the only thing that you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others.”

Philosophy aside, practical considerations are at play. At Monday night’s forum, Sheriff Ken Furlong feigned consternation when state officials refused to share the number of medical marijuana card holders in Carson City and “rural” counties, though they supplied the number for populous Clark and Washoe counties.

They cited the state law’s confidentiality requirement, prompting Furlong to ask rhetorically what other information they won’t share while implying it’s tough to determine the system’s local impact under such conditions.

Afterward a state official told Furlong the law likely will be changed in 2015. When it is, another aspect ought to be tackled as well. The system in place allows card holders to grow limited quantities of their own pot at home, but it’s being all but scrapped and replaced with commercial distribution. Grow your own isn’t allowed if a dispensary is within 25 miles. You would hope state legislators could think more clearly than Congress.

Scrapping home grown medicinal pot is like banning Joe Sixpack’s weekend party poker game while authorizing casinos to get all the action. Where’s the freedom in that? Oh, right, I forgot about the freedom to get fleeced.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at jbarrette@nevadaappeal.com.


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