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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part IV

In a decision destined for appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, a state court judge has ruled the state's medical marijuana distribution law is unconstitutional. At the same time Friday, Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley dismissed drug trafficking charges against two men who operated a storefront pot dispensary in Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that in his order, Mosley concluded the law frustrates the intent of a voter-approved state constitutional amendment by failing to clear the way for a patient to legally obtain marijuana. Prosecutors did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mosley threw out charges Sept.12 against the same two men, Sin City Co-Op owners Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, but prosecutors obtained new indictments against them two days later.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents major casino owners, has sued to block an initiative petition to raise the top tax rate on Nevada's highest earning casinos. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Carson City District Court, contends the petition is confusing and fails to inform voters of its impact. The Nevada Appeal and Las Vegas Sun report the suit asks Judge James Todd Russell to bar supporters from collecting signatures and to enjoin the secretary of state from putting the issue on the ballot.  Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller filed the petition last month to raise the gross gambling revenue tax on big casinos from 6.75 percent to 9 percent. A Miller spokeswoman says he hopes the issue won't get tied up in court, so voters can decide.

Wildlife officials say California's lone wolf has returned to Oregon. A GPS device tracking the movements of the gray wolf known as OR-7 shows he left California and crossed into Oregon around noon Thursday. When he did enter California in late December, officials said he was the first wolf to roam anywhere in state since 1924.

Authorities say a snowmobiler is missing following an avalanche in southern Utah. The snowmobiler was buried around 10:30 a.m. Saturday by an avalanche in the La Sal Mountains near Moab. Rescue teams searched Saturday. The effort was suspended at ight but was to resume Sunday morning. Grand County Sheriff Steve White says a group of four snowmobilers triggered an avalanche. Three of the four managed to escape, but were unsuccessful in their efforts to locate the missing snowmobiler.An investigation is underway to see if the snowmobilers were violating safety regulations.

A new study shows that federal defendants who do the same crime pay different time depending on their judge. A database of federal judges that launches Monday shows widely disparate sentences for similar crimes. The findings come 30 years after Congress tried to create fairer results. An analysis shows the differences don't line up with the party of the president who appointed the judges, despite any impressions that Republicans or Democrats may be tougher or softer on crime. Sentencing data from the past five years was analyzed for The Associated Press by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Sentences for the same types of crimes vary significantly between judges in the same courthouse. The party of the president who picked a judge is not a good predictor of toughness.

A county lawmaker insists she's not trying to push panhandlers off the Las Vegas Strip with a measure that she says would prevent pets from having to endure sizzling summer sidewalks in Sin City's neon corridor. The Clark County Commission is due Tuesday to consider Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani's revised ordinance to only allow animals from 5 a.m. to noon on walkways and pedestrian bridges. A similar measure in January drew howls of protest, but Giunchigliani tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal she thinks business folks came up with a good compromise.The bustling corridors funneling tourists between casinos are popular places for panhandlers who sometimes bring animals along. The proposed law wouldn't apply to service animals for the handicapped and those used by law enforcement officers on the job.

Nevada officials are putting the spotlight on the little-known agency that tests gas pumps and cash register scales to make sure consumers aren't getting gypped.  The Nevada Department of Agriculture is marking Weights and Measures Week through March 7. The agency was expected to show Gov. Brian Sandoval the complex equipment the department uses to regulate commercial transactions. The state's Bureau of Weights and Measures makes sure gas pumps are dispensing the quantity of fuel they say they're dispensing, and truck scales are accurate on whether a vehicle is overweight. Officials say the agency plays a vital role in protecting consumers.

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