June 11, 2020

Nevada Governor Proposes Blanket Pardon of Minor Weed Possession Convictions

June 11, 2020

Governor Steve Sisolak (D) put forward a plan to pardon tens of thousands of Nevada residents who were previously convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Gov. Sisolak made the clemency announcement on June 11 and placed the clemency resolution on the Board of Pardons Commissioners agenda for the week of June 15.

Sisolak pointed to statewide approval in 2016 of a ballot initiative that legalized the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for adults.

“The people of Nevada have decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a crime,” Gov. Sisolak said in a statement reported by a local ABC outlet.

“If approved, this resolution will clear the slate for thousands of people who bear the stigma of a conviction for actions that have now been decriminalized.”

Clemency in Nevada

The proposed resolution would unconditionally pardon individuals previously convicted of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, not for purpose of sale.

“The Governor has made criminal justice reform a priority of his administration, and he is always exploring new ways to expand those efforts,” his spokesman, Ryan McInerney, said in a statement.

“Since all clemency and pardon requests must go through the Pardons Board, the question the Governor posed today was merely a starting point of discussion of what could potentially be a larger, well-vetted proposal – if there was interest to do so,” McInerney said.

Since recreational marijuana became legal, Nevada lawmakers have taken steps to ease consequences for people who were affected when marijuana was not legal.

To that end, lawmakers passed AB192 in 2019, which established a process for someone convicted of an offense that had since been decriminalized to have their criminal records sealed.

Pardon for Cannabis Possession in Nevada

The current process introduced by Governor Sisolak requires that someone with a misdemeanor cannabis possession charge must apply to the court for record-sealing, and if the prosecutor opposes the request, the matter goes to a hearing.

While a pardon does not overturn a judgment of conviction, it restores important civil rights that may have been revoked as a result of a conviction, such as the right to vote, to hold office, the right to serve on a jury and the right to work in a certain profession.

Has Cannabis Legalization Affected Drug Use in Nevada?

A student at the College of Education defended her master’s thesis on the shift in attitudes about cannabis usage before and after legalization. The research, conducted by Marta Czastkiewicz who polled over 400 students attending the University of Nevada, Reno.

Cannabis legalization was not found to increase the use of other drugs in the sampled college students.

“Around 70% said that legalization had no impact on their use of other drugs,” Czastkiewicz said. “Sometimes, they talk about cannabis as a gateway drug. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, once cannabis is legal, they’re going to use everything.’ But that’s not the case.”


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