If you’re keeping track of what’s happening in the legal battles over the validity of Nevada’s marijuana laws, mark your calendar for Nov. 9. “That’s going to be the showdown at the O.K. Corral,” said John Turco, an attorney who hopes to shoot down attempts by Nevada law enforcement to bring his clients, and several others, to trial for running medical marijuana dispensaries in Las Vegas. Specifically, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley today set Nov. 9 as the date he will hear arguments from the district attorney and from Turco and his law partner, Robert Draskovitch, concerning their motions that the state’s law is vague and the grand jury charges against their clients should be thrown out.
Leonard Schwingdorf and Nathan Hamilton operated Sin City Co-op, a medical marijuana dispensary that was raided by state authorities in July as a drug-trafficking organization. The pair were among several people who have been indicted in the last year as a result of law enforcement crackdowns on co-ops that have been formed to provide marijuana for those who have medical cards that say they can possess it. The co-ops, based on similar ones in California, were set up as a way to deal with a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000, which allows those who need pot for medical purposes, such as to alleviate pain, to possess it and grow their own in small amounts. However, the law does not provide a way for them to legally obtain it otherwise.
The co-op organizers say they set up the dispensaries to accept donations to provide members with marijuana. However, prosecutors say the donation is really a sale, which is against state and federal laws. The judge set the trial for Schwingdorf and Hamilton for 1:30 p.m. May 7. Judge Mosley had planned to hear their attorneys’ motion to dismiss the case today. However, prosecutors have filed an opposition to that motion and the defendants have not had time to reply to that motion, Turco told the judge. “We wanted to make sure that we filed a quality reply because they made some assertions that we didn’t agree with,” Turco said. “We’re going to file that reply … and then we’re going to argue on Nov. 9 for all the marbles.”
Mosley is being asked to rule on the clarity of the law — which he already has indicated was vague. During an earlier hearing, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal report, Mosley said he couldn’t make sense of the state’s medical marijuana laws and that the Legislature should decide whether it is legal. “It’s very confusing,” Turco said later this afternoon outside of court. “The question is ‘Can a person of average intelligence understand this law? What’s legal and what’s not?’ And I think there are real questions about how individuals with medical marijuana cards are able to obtain the medical marijuana.”
Turco said his argument is that it’s so confusing that it’s not constitutional. “It can’t stand up,” he said. “It’s my position that my client didn’t do anything wrong. And if he did, he didn’t know what it was.” Turco said Mosley has indicated he was confused by the law. “It didn’t sound like he understood the distribution system any better than anybody,” Turco said. “It’s utterly confusing.”
Turco said he eventually expects the state’s Supreme Court to take up the matter. If Mosley rules in favor of the defendants and dismisses their case, the district attorney’s office is expected appeal the case to the higher court, he said. Besides representing Hamilton in this case, Draskovitch also represents one of six defendants in a different marijuana dispensary case, involving Jolly Green Meds, before District Judge Doug Smith. In late September, Smith rejected a similar motion that the case be dismissed, saying the state’s medical marijuana laws aren’t too vague.
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