Cannabis is legal in Nevada.
That is, unless you ever have occasion to drive a car.
The effects of cannabis use might be felt for a couple of hours, maybe five or six hours tops. But the truth is that for days after use, if you are in a car accident, then you can lose your house, you can be imprisoned, and you can have your children taken away — even if the accident is no fault of your own.
If that sounds ridiculous, consider the story of Jeff Krajnak, a veteran of military duty in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After serving his country and returning home to the U.S., Krajnak developed a serious case of PTSD.
He found himself waking up in the middle of the night pulling the trigger on a phantom M16 rifle on phantom enemies of America.
The “solution” from the Veterans Administration was to place him and thousands of other veterans on a cocktail of 11 powerful prescription medications including oxycodone, which left Krajnak feeling “like a zombie,” as he put it.
The opioid-fueled mixture did little to diminish the PTSD, but it left Krajnak feeling aimless, depressed and with constant bouts of suicidal ideation.
His veteran friends said to move to Las Vegas because medical cannabis was legal at the time in Nevada, even before recreational legalization.
Krajnak followed their advice, began responsibly using cannabis, left the VA drugs behind, and in short order was sleeping through the night. His suicidal thoughts were gone. He felt balanced in life again.
He was careful. He only consumed cannabis in the evening after his two kids were asleep.
He was productive, working at a longtime job, and felt he was getting back on track in life.
On April 29, 2017, Krajnak was involved in a crash on Boulder Highway at U.S. 95 in which another driver was fatally injured. It had been 20 hours since Krajnak last used cannabis — when he smoked the previous night before bed.
The state’s most highly regarded accident investigator, William Redfairn, would conclude that Krajnak was not at fault in the crash, confirming what witnesses on the scene told Nevada Highway Patrol officers.
But it doesn’t get straightened out. It only gets worse.
Shortly after noon on May 31, 2017, a police SWAT team came banging on the door of his home.
“It was 10:30 a.m., they came to the door with a full SWAT team with tactical gear and auto weapons,” Krajnak said. “They grabbed me and slammed me against the wall.”
The entire episode was captured on the family’s video home security system.
“I told them, ‘I have video cameras,’ and they backed off a little bit.”
If there is one saving grace, Krajnak says, it was that his twins were at school.
“They handcuffed me, drove to jail.”
Krajnak stayed in jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. He stayed for six months. He and his family scraped together $8,500 for an attorney.
But even though Krajnak was not at fault in the crash, he faced 16 years behind bars as well as the threat of the loss of his children — all for an accident that took place many hours after any effects of cannabis had passed.
The judge in the case, District Judge Caroline Ellsworth, normally a hanging judge regarding impaired driving or any type of drug use, saw the terrible inequity of sending him to jail. Ultimately Krajnak was released on probation.
Deprived of the ability to use cannabis under the terms of his probation, however, he had no choice but to go back on the cocktail of drugs prescribed the VA.
His life was in tatters.
And although he walked out the courthouse door a free man, he was still on probation and had faced tens of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution — all for an accident everyone agreed he did not cause.
Fast forward to today, and Jeff Krajnak is finally a free man, his probation period having come to an end. He is a productive citizen and the threat to his family is over.
But the threat to people who legally use cannabis in Nevada is not.
Krajnak’s story is a result of a complete lack of fortitude on the part of the Nevada Legislature, which knows of the problem yet will probably be among last to change the so-called “per se” law and make it right for the people of Nevada.
Essentially, we’re back to the 1930s and “Reefer Madness” — apparently no one wants to make it OK for you to use the “demon weed,” even after legalization in the state. Observers say it was the Republicans who were unwilling to look out for Nevadans on the issue.
So just remember: If you use cannabis in any form, for two or three days afterward, there easily could be enough of the metabolite (which has no impact on driving ability) in your blood to destroy your life and your family, put you in prison, and cripple you financially.
So remember that. And remember Jeff Krajnak.
Mark Fierro began his career as a reporter/anchor at KLAS-TV, the CBS television station in Las Vegas. He worked at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He served as communications consultant on IPO road shows on Wall Street. He provided litigation support for the Michael Jackson death trial. He is president of Fierro Communications, Inc., which conducts mock juries and focus groups in addition to public relations and marketing. Fierro is the author of several books including “Road Rage: The Senseless Murder of Tammy Meyers.” He has made numerous appearances on national TV news programs.
Jeff Haney serves as Executive Vice President of Operations for Fierro Communications, where he works closely with Mark Fierro in developing and directing all media, marketing, research, consulting and public relations strategies for Fierro Communications’ clients including those in business, government, the legal field and cutting-edge high technology.
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