By Jim Hartman
Nevada voters should now brace against millions of dollars from out-of-state “Big Marijuana” interests supporting Question 2 on the November ballot, the legalization of commercial marijuana. Voters need to realize that by voting “yes” on Question 2, they will be adopting all provisions of a 13-page initiative written by large corporate marijuana interests. Nevadans need to know what it is not. This initiative isn’t a Nevada-based libertarian effort to “decriminalize” or “legalize” marijuana.
Rather, the initiative is a special interest “business plan” crafted by and for large marijuana industry donors. It qualified for the ballot as a result of marijuana industry pot promoters paying $660,000 to mercenary signature gatherers. Passage will give monopoly powers to existing medical marijuana retailers and liquor wholesalers, while criminalizing Nevada citizens growing marijuana within 25 miles of the proponents’ pot shops. “Big Marijuana” wants to buy – through an initiative – that which they could not achieve in the scrutiny and compromise required by the legislative process. In reality, this initiative is phony “legalization”.
“Big Marijuana” seeks to repeat in Nevada what worked for them in Colorado in 2012. There, they financially overwhelmed opponents by 5 to 1, spending $3.4 million (90% from outside Colorado) in passing special interest “legalization”. This enormous pro-pot advertising advantage overcame opposition from most all public officials–across the political spectrum– from Democrats like Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Hancock, to Republicans like Attorney General Suthers and Tea Party favorite, Congressman Buck. The two leading newspapers in Colorado, the “liberal” Denver Post and the “conservative” Colorado Springs Gazette opposed “legalization”, as did the Colorado Education Association and the Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce.
Commercial marijuana in Colorado is now expected to be a $1 billion business in 2016. The result has been an alarming growth in underage marijuana use, increase in drug crimes, a continuing marijuana “black market”, sales dispensaries focused in inner-city neighborhoods, as well as issues related to health, banking, pesticides and neighborhood zoning. The tax revenues raised from pot sales have barely covered the regulatory overhead and are overwhelmed by the social costs resulting from legalization. Information on the owners of Colorado marijuana businesses is not readily available. Colorado’s neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, have sued Colorado as a result of negative impacts in their states.
Nevada is already near the bottom of most U.S. rankings for schools. Studies show early marijuana use contributes to higher drop-out rates and poorer university entrance scores. Studies also show how early marijuana use is associated with lower IQ’s and other cognitive ill-effects, leading to 1 of 6 regular teenage users becoming addicted. Today’s new commercial “potpreneurs” are selling a wide range of edible products e.g. “Pot Tarts”, “Pot Gummy Bears”, “Space Cookies” and “Cannabis Sodas”. Are we comfortable legalizing high potency marijuana-infused edibles like these that appeal directly to children? Edibles now make up nearly 50% of the market in Colorado.
Nevada voters beware: “Big Marijuana” will be repeating their same discredited Colorado advertising falsehoods. Their “spinners” in Colorado peddled the tale that too much tax money, cop time and space are wasted on incarcerating marijuana users. Maybe that was true three decades ago, but today it’s a myth. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics only 0.7% of all state inmates are behind bars for simple marijuana possession.
A second “spin” in Colorado was the false claim that the marijuana “black market” would disappear with legalization. According to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, “the criminals are still selling on the black market… We have plenty of cartel activity in Colorado (and) plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all”. In fact, organized crime has come to Colorado to grow marijuana since legalization.
Finally, a false promise made in Colorado is repeated in Nevada—that marijuana tax money will go to education. As Colorado “Weed Czar” Andrew Freedman observed, the tax dollars brought in largely go to the cost of regulating the industry. It’s a “big red herring”, says Freedman.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and neighboring California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, have indicated their opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana. As Governor Brown observed: “If there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation”.
A bipartisan coalition of Nevadans needs to unite in the recognition that legalizing commercial recreational marijuana is bad for kids, bad for Nevada families, and bad for Nevada employers.
Don’t get fooled, Nevadans—Vote “No” on Question 2.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa, NV. He is President of “Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy”, a tax-exempt non-profit educational organization. He may be contacted at email@example.com.