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Judge to rule soon on Las Vegas medical marijuana co-op case

Attorneys say Supreme Court should clear up the vagueness of Nevada law

Drug arrests

Top, from left: Sean Kinshella, Daniel Kinshella and Christine Kinshella. Bottom, from left: Kimberly Simons, Jesse Moffett and Ryan Bondhus.

Updated Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 | 4:32 p.m.

Medical marijuana co-op case goes before judge

Defendants from the Jolly Green Meds medical marijuana dispensary appeared in Clark County District Court Friday.

Jolly Green Meds

Clark County District Judge Douglas Smith will try to fan through the cloudy haze surrounding Nevada’s medical marijuana laws and issue a decision within the next seven days that could have an effect on how medical marijuana can be acquired legally in the state.

Smith, who had some heated exchanges at times with attorneys, heard arguments this morning concerning the case of six defendants who were arrested last November in a raid of Jolly Green Meds, a medical marijuana co-op that operated at 7710 W. Sahara Ave.

It was the second time this week the state's "grow your own" medicinal marijuana law has come before a local judge. District Judge Donald Mosley snuffed out a grand jury indictment on Monday in a different case that dealt with a different co-op, Sin City Co-Op, 8221 W. Charleston Blvd., that was shut down in a raid. Mosley ruled that a grand jury wasn't shown enough evidence to explain how the operation was set up and how an undercover officer obtained marijuana at the co-op.

Some of the attorneys involved in the local cases are saying that because the state law is so vague the Nevada Supreme Court should be the place to decide whether a co-op can be set up where qualified medical patients can go to obtain marijuana legally.

“We want him to focus in on the law,” Michael Cristalli, attorney for Sean Kinshella, the president of Jolly Green Meds, said outside the courtroom this morning.

“Yeah, there are emotional issues associated with it with regard to the people who legally have their medicinal marijuana card, that should be able to not have to hit the streets, but go somewhere where they provide a safe environment to get their medicine,” Cristalli said. “Whether or not you believe in the medicine or not, the people in the state do. They passed it in 2000 by 65 percent and the Legislature has authorized it and the constitution mandates it. You’ve got to think about how one could get to that. “

Cristalli said the law doesn’t take into account the practical realities, such as how a qualified patient seeking medical marijuana can more easily obtain it rather than try to grow it themselves.

“The law is confusing and nobody really understands it,” Cristalli said. “They legalized medicinal marijuana, but they haven’t given a methodology to get it. And that’s a big problem ... There’s a hole in the law. And it needs to be corrected.”

Robert Draskovich, attorney for Kimberly Simons, one of the defendants, said attorneys are trying to get Smith to dismiss the case. They presented several motions today for him to make a ruling, including the vagueness of the law and the way the state is prosecuting the case.

“We’ve got this state that’s cutting corners and closing doors in trying to prosecute a vague law,” Draskovich told reporters. “In this case we have the state of Nevada knowingly and intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence, i.e, evidence that explains what was going on at this dispensary.”

One of them is they want him to rule that evidence presented to a grand jury didn’t include information about the way that an undercover detective got into the coop and acquired medicinal marijuana.

Draskovich said that the medical card he used to make a “donation” to the co-op to obtain presented as being legal, so those who worked in the establishment didn’t think they were doing anything illegal.

Jolly Green Meds operated for about three months until Metro Police shut it down in a raid on Nov. 23, 2010.

Its president, Sean Kinshella, 29, one of the defendants, said it was set up as an association and served about 500 clients. Kinshella says they operated the business in accordance with NRS 453A, a state law drafted with the intention of fulfilling a change in the constitution approved by voters that provides an appropriate means of supply of marijuana to qualified medical patients.

In the raid, police found about 5 pounds of marijuana and more than 22 plants at the business, which police say allegedly sold food products laced with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Those products included butter and peanut butter, police said. Officers said Jolly Green Meds also offered their customers a delivery service.

Police also said they found nearly a pound of hash oil, a potent Cannabis that's sometimes as high as 80 percent pure THC. The 351 grams recovered at the store are worth about $21,000, police said.

A grand jury indicted the six defendants on May 20 on 16 felony counts that included sale of marijuana, conspiracy to sell marijuana, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and maintaining a place for sale of a controlled substance. The defendants, who also include Daniel Kinshella, 50; Christine Kinshella, 24; Jesse Moffett, 33, and Ryan Bondhus, 27, have all entered not guilty pleas. A tentative date for their jury trial was set for 10:30 a.m. March 26, 2012.

"This is not an easy case. I have troubled over this a great deal," Judge Smith said.

Smith said he had dozens of questions that a jury would want to hear concerning the case, which includes how the shelves are stocked at the establishment and why it was set up as a co-op and not as a store.

He said it raised a question of whether opening a co-op was a way of using gamesmanship to get around the law, which does not allow for the direct sale of medicinal marijuana.

"We have this void-vacuum that the Legislature has left us in," Draskovich said. "Private citizens have tried to step in to fill that void and now they're getting prosecuted."

"I'll look at it and I'll have a decision. I'll try to do it this week," Smith said.

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