Nevadans voted in 2016 to “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol,” but experts say when it comes to young people and law enforcement, a wide disparity remains. A bill before lawmakers aims to narrow the gap.
“Typically youth in possession of alcohol are reprimanded but not detained,” Dr. Carmen Jones, a pediatrician, testified before lawmakers Wednesday. “I believe cannabis should be treated the same way.”
Juveniles, especially those of color, are being detained for use or possession of a legal
substance — a punishment rarely, if ever, meted out to youth using or possessing alcohol or tobacco.
Of the 1,009 juveniles referred to the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice in 2019 for marijuana offenses – the second most frequent infraction behind battery — 44 percent were Hispanic, 36 percent were Black, and 17 percent were white.
Assembly Bill 158 is intended to stop the criminalization of young people for a status offense — one that is based on age.
The measure says a minor convicted of possessing or using marijuana or alcohol is not
subject to imprisonment. Instead they’ll be required to complete counseling or community
service, offering them a proverbial “second chance,” according to proponents.
“Public defenders are like Holden Caulfield, trying to catch children before they go off the cliff’s edge, and maintain their innocence,” Clark County Chief Deputy Public Defender John Piro testified in support of the measure.
“The intent is to ensure fairness and equality in the justice system as it relates to
possession of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis,” testified child advocate A’esha Goins.
“It answers the cries of those in the juvenile justice system that you may go home,” she
“In no way am I here to promote