Judge orders man arrested at Tahoe casino to write essay about pot
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (AP) and#8212; A Nevada judge has issued a homework assignment in the form of an unusual sentence for a 25-year-old Sacramento man who sold marijuana to a police informant in a casino parking lot at Lake Tahoe.
District Judge Dave Gamble ordered Matthew Palazzolo to write a report on what the judge called the “nonsensical character” of California’s medical marijuana law.
Gamble gave Palazzolo 90 days to complete the paper discussing his self-admitted realization that marijuana was a gateway drug that led him to use more powerful narcotics.
“Here’s a young man with a bachelor’s degree and a rosy future and now is a potential felon. It’s just the height of stupidity,” Gamble said during Tuesday’s sentencing in Gardnerville south of Carson City.
Palazzolo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. He was arrested outside a casino in Stateline in February after he sold a quarter-pound of pot to an informant for $1,060.
Palazzolo, who works for a law firm in Sacramento, admitted he grew it after obtaining a medical marijuana card.
“I had a sore back,” Palazzolo said. “I used records from my chiropractor who had diagnosed I had regular back and neck pain. … I was never laid up or in bed.”
He said he developed the pain through activities like snowboarding, wakeboarding and martial arts.
“So you decided to grow your own?” Gamble asked. “If this isn’t testimony to the absolute asininity of medical marijuana laws in California and the path Nevada is choosing.”
Palazzolo’s attorney Derrick Lopez said the arrest and substance abuse treatment convinced his client he had a drug problem.
“He’s been abusing drugs for a long time,” Lopez said. “He changed roommates, got rid of all his marijuana, and asked California to void his medical marijuana card.”
“He would benefit from diversion. He has never been in trouble before except the marijuana. He is really embarrassed about this situation,” Lopez said.
Palazzolo admitted he obtained the card for recreational drug use.
“I have a drug problem, and I would not have said that a month and a half ago,” he said. “Alcohol and marijuana are gateway drugs that led to harder drug use.”
He said drug use had taken him down “a path that is a very ugly place” and he intended to stay sober.
Gamble allowed Palazzolo to enter a diversion program in California and ordered quarterly appearances before his court and random drug testing. He also told him to contact “the quasi-bureaucratic outfit in California and tell them you want them to cancel the card.”