LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s top election official gave the go-ahead Monday to two initiatives for the 2016 ballot: One to allow recreational marijuana use; the other to tighten background checks for anyone buying guns from private sellers and gun show exhibitors.
Secretary of State Ross Miller certified that proponents of the separate measures submitted enough signatures Nov. 12 to force the 2015 Legislature to consider each issue, or automatically put the question on the general election ballot.
The groups needed 102,000 signatures statewide, or a little more than 25,000 from each of the state’s four congressional districts. Miller aide Catherine Lu said the number of signatures was well beyond those numbers.
Nevadans for Background Checks reported delivering nearly 247,000 signatures, and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had said it filed almost 200,000 signatures.
Miller’s move served as an answer to a gun-rights political action committee, Nevadans for State Gun Rights, that filed a letter last week demanding Miller throw out the petition. The group said it found irregularities in petition filings in Storey County.
Since then, Don Turner, head of effort, said investigators identified “substantial compliance problems” in signatures filed in Lander County. Turner said a review of Washoe County signatures was just beginning. The state has 17 counties.
“There’s plenty of time to challenge the certification,” Turner said Monday. “We’re probably going to end up in court.”
The campaign will pit proponents backed by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control organization founded and funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, against opponents including Turner, who also heads the Nevada Firearms Coalition. That’s a nonpolitical group affiliated with the powerful National Rifle Association.
Turner said the NRA has no connection with Nevadans for State Gun Rights.
No opposition immediately emerged to the marijuana initiative.
Proponents, led by Democratic state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom of Las Vegas and Joe Brezny, a former Republican party official who now heads the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association, hailed Miller’s decision.
“The voters in Nevada clearly want a new approach to regulating marijuana,” Brezny said in a statement. “They see that taxing and regulating marijuana … makes more sense than the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
Nevada cities and counties have for months been adopting regulations for the legal distribution of medical marijuana, after the Legislature cleared the way for pot dispensaries.
The new measure would go further. It would make private possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal for people over age 21. It would put Nevada with Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia in allowing recreational pot use.