- Associated Press - Sunday, January 26, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that a man must stand trial on charges of illegally running a Las Vegas medical marijuana dispensary three years ago, though a new state law will make such operations legal.

The court’s ruling, handed down Friday, overturns Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley’s 2012 dismissal of the case against Leonard Schwingdorf.

He was arrested in 2011 after an undercover police officer joined the Sin City Co-Op and made a $110 donation for pot. Schwingdorf was indicted on charges of illegal drug sales and trafficking of a controlled substance after prosecutors claimed the donation was really a payment for the drug.

Mosley, who has since retired, called the old medical marijuana law absurd and unconstitutional because it allowed no legal way for patients with state-issued cards to obtain the drug.

But justices, in their five-page decision, said they did not want to address its constitutionality unless absolutely necessary, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/19Ways2 ).

Before the issue can be addressed, the justices said, a jury must first address whether the exchange of medical marijuana for a donation was illegal. The justices added they would consider the constitutionality argument in a post-conviction appeal.

The state high court might not have to consider the issue because the Legislature last year passed a new medical marijuana law that makes it legal for patients to buy the drug at dispensaries.

Schwingdorf’s attorneys told the Review-Journal they hope prosecutors will dismiss the case because of changes to the law. But defense lawyers are prepared to take the case to a jury, they said. If convicted, Schwingdorf could face up to life in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli declined to comment on the case.

Although Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2000, patients had no legal way to get the drug until the legislation passed last year.

The 2013 Legislature approved a bill setting up a taxing and regulatory structure to allow cultivation, processing and distribution of marijuana to card-holding patients.

State officials say they intend to meet the Legislature’s April 1 deadline to adopt medical marijuana regulations but it could be months before the state begins accepting applications from providers and growers.

The state high court dismissed the case against Schwingdorf’s co-defendant, Nathan Hamilton, after his suicide in 2012. Hamilton owned the co-op.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com