In the state of Nevada, the legalization of marijuana has already started to have an impact as Las Vegas prosecutors have decided not to pursue any of the pending marijuana charges for possession of less than an ounce. The decision makes sense – it takes a while to get people through the court system, so why should you spend the time, money and effort to push these people through, only to have to drop the charges when the laws change on January 1st? At this point, they have decided that their efforts would be better spent working on more important cases, where real crimes were committed.
The district attorney for Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) has said that provided all of their defendants “stay out of trouble” they will be dropping all pending charges as of the first of the year. This is great news for 175 people who have been arrested for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis over the last year who likely still have charges pending. Of course, it will make only a small difference for those who are facing multiple charges at once. However, for those who were facing only charges of possession, which could have resulted in a $600 fine or jail time depending on whether or not they were a repeat offender, this makes a world of difference.
This is a major step forward – however it doesn’t mean that Las Vegas has already declared cannabis to be legal ahead of the law going into effect. In fact, police intend to continue to enforce the current marijuana laws through the end of the year – meaning you can and will likely still be arrested if you get caught with cannabis while you’re out and about over the holiday season. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just how things appear to be going. However, even if you are arrested, they will be dropping your charges at the beginning of the year – so it’s more of an inconvenience that will end up being expensive to the state both in funds and in the time lost.
Once the New Year rolls in, we can expect that law enforcement will immediately cease making arrests as the law will legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis flower and up to an eighth of concentrates and allow home growing of 6 plants per person (with a household maximum of 12 plants). On the other hand, public consumption will still be illegal, though instead of an arrest you will end up with a hefty $600 fine to pay off. Regulations for the taxation, cultivation and sale of retail cannabis products will be drafted by the start of 2018 at the very latest – meaning in early 2018 the first of the industry will be getting approval for licenses and soon after, residents will be able to purchase cannabis products legally.
Until then, it’s good to see that the state of Nevada is off to a good start with implementing Question 4.