Fearing crossfire from state/federal conflicts, Nevada cities kick MMJ discussions down the road

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Following in the footsteps of Las Vegas, the Reno City Council decided last week to delay any vote or conversation on implementing medical marijuana until next year.

Though the Las Vegas City Council ultimately took a harsher route in placing a six-month moratorium on any type of medical marijuana business (Reno only voted to reconvene six months down the road), the two largest counties in Nevada have decided to wait until early 2014 to set local ordinances governing the legal buying and selling of medical marijuana.

At this point, I think (we need) a wait and see approach,” Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon told RGJ reporter Emerson Marcus.

News of the delays, especially in Las Vegas, attracted some criticism from medical marijuana activists, but essentially puts both cities on the same path as the state towards an April 1, 2014 deadline to figure out any additional medical marijuana guidelines, as set forth in a bill passed last legislative session.

A disagreement over the delay is why Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus voted against the Council’s decision to reconvene. Brekhus, who was the only ‘no’ vote, said she was wary of any sort of vote to limit medical marijuana due to the “muddled grounds” between federal, state and local laws.

While Brekhus said she personally sees the merits of medical marijuana, she would rather wait and see how state regulators shape medical marijuana policy, rather than forge ahead and deal with the consequences of being caught between state and federal laws.

“I think it’s really getting into a muddled area between federal and state authorities and cities are caught in the middle,” she said.

Introducing: A blog about medical marijuana in Nevada

It’s a great time to be a stoner.


All throughout the United States, individual states are for the most part moving to decriminalize and lessen punishments associated with the use and purchase of both medical and recreational marijuana. From Washington and Colorado legalizing pot in late 2012 to Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for sweeping changes to the nation’s drug sentencing laws, it’s quite clear that acceptance of marijuana is becoming more and more widespread.


And the state of Nevada is by no means left out of this issue; in fact, Nevadans fighting over marijuana has been in the headlines for more than a decade. In 2000, residents of the state voted to legalize medical marijuana, and then two years later shot down a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana by almost two-thirds of voters.


And in the last state legislative session, a bill was passed to create a regulatory structure for medical marijuana dispensaries, as the state’s approximately 4,000 medical marijuana card holders have had no legal way to buy marijuana since 2000. Senate Bill 374, a bipartisan piece of legislation based mostly on Arizona’s medical marijuana system, set a deadline of early 2014 for the first medical marijuana dispensaries to be opened.


But it’s the journey to that system that’s extremely interesting. The intersecting conflicts and fights over how medicinal marijuana will be regulated involves everyone from marijuana advocates, zoning boards, U.S. Senators and local law enforcement. And the bill’s provision to allow local governments to make many of the zoning and regulatory decisions themselves means that local elected officials, like the Reno City Council, face the question of whether or not it’s even worth following the bill especially as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Several rural counties are already pushing in that direction.


Needless to say, there’s a ton of questions sure to arise in the coming months as state regulators get a better handle on what type of medical marijuana system to implement. Some will be practical – how will the dispensaries be zoned, who will have access to them, how much will medicinal marijuana cost?


But I’d also like to get at the underlying issues for medical marijuana implementation: Who exactly holds medical marijuana cards, and what do those demographics in general look like? What kind of an impact would easing access to marijuana have on law enforcement in Reno? A state-wide proposition to legalize marijuana was defeated in 2002 – why have things changed in such a short amount of time? Who has the cash to pay the significant sums required by the state to start medical marijuana facilities? Will elected officials on Reno City Council even vote to authorize medical marijuana within city limits?


Over the next nine weeks and beyond, I hope to tackle and get a better sense on what a medical marijuana system will look like in Nevada’s future. But the story won’t stop there – there’s a significant undercurrent afoot that holds that once regulations for medical marijuana are in place, expanding to recreational marijuana won’t be nearly as difficult. State Senator Tick Segerblom told me as much over summer.


So for the next nine weeks, I’ll be posting mainly about medical marijuana. I’m calling it (for now) “The Silver Bake,” or at least until I can think of a catchier title. All of the posts will appear on this blog, and archived on a separate page.

On a personal level, I don’t really have a dog in this fight- I don’t smoke marijuana and don’t plan too, regardless of whatever kind of legalization may pass over the coming decades. I’m welcome to all kinds of criticism and comments, and please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me if you have questions or ideas of what you’d like to see covered. You can contact me here.

UNR Fraternity/Sorority GPAs released

UNR’s Greek Life program released the average Spring 2013 GPA for each fraternity and sorority on campus today, and the results are interesting:

  • Best: Delta Delta Delta had an average GPA of 3.203, which is pretty crazy considering they have more than 100 members. Overall, Panhellenic sororities averaged a 3.1 GPA, which is higher than the average for all women at a 2.99 GPA.
  • Worst: Kappa Alpha Psi, which counts 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick as a recent alum, averaged a 2.12 GPA for the Spring semester. Overall, the Kappas had the lowest GPA out of any Greek organization on the UNR campus.

For more numbers/breakdowns, check out the pdf file below:

Spring 2013 Summary Final

Could a Texas legislature-style filibuster happen in Nevada?

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

Update: Sean McDonald, who runs the Amicus Nevada law blog, has a new post up regarding the material in this blog post. He disagrees with Byerman and says that Senate Rules 80 and 81 do not provide a mechanism to cut off a filibuster. It’s worth a read.

In the words of Nevada Senate Secretary David Byerman, the short answer is no.

In case you’re not following the whole thing on Twitter, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has launched into an hours-long filibuster of a bill that would restrict the ability of women to get abortions, according to the Texas Tribune. (You can view the floor proceedings here).

So what if one of the state senators from Nevada tried filibustering? According to Byerman, such could not happen due to a process in the Senate Rule 80 and 81. See below:

1. Every Senator who speaks shall, standing in his place, address “Mr. or Madam
President,” in a courteous manner, and shall confine himself to the question before the Senate.
When he has finished, he shall sit down.
2. No Senator may speak:
(a) More than twice during the consideration of any one question on the same day, except for
explanation.
(b) A second time without leave when others who have not spoken desire the floor.
3. Incidental and subsidiary questions arising during debate shall not be considered the same
question.

The previous question shall not be put unless demanded by three Senators, and it shall be in this
form: “Shall the main question be put?” When sustained by a majority of Senators present it shall
put an end to all debate and bring the Senate to a vote on the question or questions before it, and all
incidental questions arising after the motion was made shall be decided without debate. A person
who is speaking on a question shall not while he or she has the floor move to put that question.

Essentially, Nevada senators can’t filibuster because it’s quite easy to end debate on the senate floor – if someone was to attempt to filibuster, one would only need three senators to call the previous question, interrupting the speaking senator and forcing them to wait until every other waiting senator talk. There are no standard rules for cloture or similar rules that are used by the U.S. Senate or the Texas Senate.

“If someone were to stand and start talking and talking and talking, someone could call the previous question,” Byerman said.

The Nevada Assembly has essentially the same rules, but gives the author of the bill/resolution/move the power to close debate.

I’m not a legal expert by any means, but that’s how I understand it. Byerman said that as far as he knows, no Nevada Senator or Assemblyman has ever attempted to filibuster during the legislative session. Wendy Davis may be getting a ton of media attention, but any Nevada state officials looking to follow in her footsteps would probably get shot down.

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

Joe Heck is still paying off student loans

Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV 3rd District) and I have something in common; we’re both dealing with student loan debt from higher education. In a Las Vegas Review-Journal story Sunday, fiscal disclosure forms show Heck, 52, is still dealing with debt from becoming an osteopath.

Heck, a Republican in his second term, and his wife, who is a nurse, hold bank accounts of between $15,000 and $50,000, and annuities and retirement accounts containing between $199,000 and $561,000.

Heck, 52, reported he still is paying off between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loans from his education to become an osteopath. The family last year began participating in a college savings plan for their teenage son.

Heck and his wife hold a mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000 on their home in Henderson.

This actually isn’t the biggest surprise - Heck mentioned it in a video released last week laying out his positions on student loan debt.

Say what you will about Heck’s beliefs on student loans, but it’s nice to see a Congressman actually having to deal with paying them off.

ASUN planning to strip funding from UNR publications

ASUN President Ziad Rashdan

ASUN President Ziad Rashdan

Funding for several ASUN-sponsored publications, including Insight Magazine, Wolf Pack Radio and literary arts journal Brushfire  could be fiscally gutted or otherwise unfunded if the student government’s proposed budget is approved.

Though ASUN’s income is projected at about $70,000 more than last year, President Ziad Rashdan’s proposed budget would eliminate all funding for Brushfire, which was allocated about $25,000 last year. Wolf Pack Radio’s funding would drop from about $30,000 to $16,550, and Insight Magazine would see their budget drop from $33,450 to $22,175. In total, publication funding would drop from about 4 percent of ASUN’s budget to 1.8 percent if the proposal is approved.

Brushfire has taken to Facebook to protest the cuts and to ask contributors to write messages of support on its wall, while both Insight and Wolf Pack Radio have made no public comments since the budget was first released last week. ASUN has made no public statement about the proposed cuts at this time. Though not on the May 1 agenda for the ASUN Senate, the budget is usually approved before the end of the academic year.

You can check out this year’s proposed budget by clicking here.

UPDATE: Evynn Tyler, Editor of Insight Magazine, has created a petition to stop the cuts to the publications. As of April 29, it has more than 75 signees.

UPDATE 2: Tyler’s petition has received more than 250 signatures, including some from UNR professors and student media leaders in the Nevada Sagebrush. Reynolds School of Journalism Senator Myles Button posted on his facebook page that he would vote against the cuts, saying, “I will oppose these cuts because I know my constituents oppose them.”

I ran into President Rashdan at an event earlier this week, and he acknowledged my request for comment and said he’d get back to me with a statement.

The ASUN Committee on Budget and Finance will meet on Friday to put together a bill approving the budget. Meeting details can be found here.

Nevada Legislature 2013 Calendar

Assuming the world doesn’t end on Friday, here’s a Google calendar with all committee meeting times and deadlines in one place. I’ll continually update it as the year goes on, but this is the first taste of the crazy 120 days awaiting us in the spring.

UNR student charged with stabbing at White Pine Hall

The University of Nevada, Reno has released several statements regarding a stabbing that took place last night in the lobby of White Pine residence hall. According to the reports, 18-year-old University student Christopher Williams allegedly stabbed a female residence hall employee last night at around 2:30 a.m. The employee is currently in stable condition at an area hospital, and Williams was arrested & charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and is currently being held in Washoe County Jail.

Both the University’s Media Relations department and Campus Police have released statements. You can find them below:

Media Relations:

RENO, Nev. – At 2:30 a.m. Saturday, University Police responded to a report of a stabbing at White Pine Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Upon arrival, officers found a University residence-hall employee who had been stabbed in the lobby of the building. The victim was transported to an area hospital where she underwent surgery for her wound and remains in stable condition.

Officers arrested 18-year-old University student Christopher Stephen Williams at the scene. He has been charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon and is in the Washoe County jail. The incident remains under investigation by University Police.

UNR Campus Police:

This is to update you about an incident that occurred on campus Saturday morning October 13, 2012.

 

At 2:30 a.m., University Police officers were dispatched to White Pine Hall on the report of a stabbing that occurred in the lobby.  Upon arrival officers found a residence hall employee who had been stabbed in the abdomen. The victim was transported to an area hospital where she underwent surgery for her wound and remains in stable condition. The suspect, a student, was arrested at the scene and has been lodged at the Washoe County Jail on charges of Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

 

It would appear that the employee should be commended for her actions – despite being severely injured she had the presence of mind to alert others in the residence hall and give police necessary information for an arrest prior to seeking assistance for her own wounds. President Marc Johnson joins me in conveying admiration and heartfelt appreciation for this employee’s bravery and actions.

 

As a faculty member, staff member or student, it is important that you be apprised of these matters. These incidents are isolated but provide an opportunity for the University to reaffirm its commitment to continually work to enhance campus safety measures. A complete overview of our campus safety program can be found on the UNR Police Services webpage (www.unr.edu/police), however I would like to highlight three key aspects of this program:

 

-          The University’s Emergency Messaging System informs subscribers of emergency situations or campus closures by text and/or email messages. All faculty, staff and students should sign up for the Emergency Messaging System at http://www.unr.edu/general-information/emergency/alerts

-          A number of free training opportunities are available, including self-defense and personal-safety training. Information can be found atwww.unr.edu/police

-          The University’s annual security and fire safety report is available online at http://www.unr.edu/Documents/administration-finance/Police/2011-Annual-Report.pdf 

 

A significant incident often raises the question of crime overall. This experience is unusual. Typically, campus crimes are non-violent crimes, such as thefts or alcohol-related crime. The University is subject to the Cleary Act, the federal law that requires that any major or violent crime on University property be widely communicated to the campus community. We fully comply with this act. In many ways the University is a city within a city, and no one corner of any city is entirely without crime and it is important to report crimes, suspicious people and situations promptly by contacting  University Police Services to 334-COPS (2677), the Police duty phone at 745-6195, or 911 in an emergency.

UNR releases more details on Michelle Obama visit

The University of Nevada, Reno released more details regarding First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the university on Wednesday. Copied below is an email sent out to the undergraduate student listserv:

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Quad will be the site for a public event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, October 3. Access to the morning-long event on Wednesday will begin at 8:15 a.m. and tickets will be required.

Additional event information, including information about the on-campus ticket distribution beginning Monday morning, is posted on the University’s online calendar at www.unr.edu<http://www.unr.edu>.

As always, please keep pedestrian and traffic safety in mind and watch for directional signage that will be posted primarily on Virginia Street for this event. It is anticipated that no changes will be made to the regular student parking plans. The public will be directed to park on the upper two levels of the West Stadium Parking Complex and in the parking lots north of campus. Changes are anticipated for parking areas in the vicinity of the Quad and Morrill Hall, and these changes will be communicated to faculty and staff next week.

This information is being provided as a courtesy, in recognition of the significance of this public event.

-              Division of Student Services

UNR Fraternity suspended

The University of Nevada, Reno chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha has been suspended by the university, according to Greek Life Coordinator Dennis Campbell. In an email, Campbell said, “The chapter is currently suspended pending a University investigation.”

The university’s Inter-Fraternity Council has taken no disciplinary action against the organization as of Monday.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of the local Phi Delta Theta chapter, and as such I do not feel comfortable reporting or writing an in-depth story about any aspect of UNR Greek Life. I’m only writing this post because I believe that it’s important for students and members of the community to know the truth. This post serves only to get the necessary information out for this story, and I would be more than happy to get the input or response from a member of Lambda Chi and post it on this blog. Please email me here if you want to comment.