Fred LaSor: Nevada’s marijuana law: Too much, too fast

Nevada voters, mostly in Clark County, said “yes” last November to two initiatives that are totally out of character for the Silver State. Questions One and Two were both conceived and funded from out of state, and they were seriously flawed from the outset.

Now we see the problems with having our politics steered by outside big money interests who don’t know Nevada: Question One (changing gun regulation to track transfers more strictly) requires infrastructure that’s not in place to implement it, so it has been postponed. And Question Two (legalizing recreational marijuana) is being rushed in a manner that will create problems for law enforcement, tax authorities, the gaming and hospitality industries, potential pot users, and regular citizens.

As the Appeal’s senior columnist — Guy W. Farmer — wrote March 12, the marijuana question is being implemented with undue haste that doesn’t mirror experience from states like Colorado, where legalized marijuana has exacerbated health problems and failed to generate the revenue that apparently made it attractive to elected officials.

Farmer pointed out Gov. Sandoval is using Nevada’s tax department to design and implement marijuana regulations needed before legal sales can occur. But the governor wants to finish this job using fewer officials than Colorado, in a shorter time, and without resolving several really large issues that stand in the way of statewide legalization.

Here’s a partial list of the problems created by open commerce and use of marijuana in Nevada today:

Marijuana use is against federal law. Attorney General Sessions has reaffirmed that position. A state can try to write a law that ignores federal law, but the feds can prosecute users and pot stores, a position the Supreme Court has reaffirmed.

Our gaming industry has said it opposes marijuana use in places where gambling occurs.

Our hospitality industry is also against legalization, or use in hotels and casinos.

It’s illegal for banks or credit card companies to handle drug money, so marijuana sales will be cash-only, creating unbelievable opportunity for crime associated with big cash enterprises.

Individual counties can’t “opt out.” Other states with legalized marijuana have permitted local “opt-outs,” affirming home rule ideals. Question Two ruled that out, yet counties (like Douglas) have announced plans to reject legal pot sales.

Estimates are now that state and local taxes totaling 33 percent will be imposed for pot sales. This will push the legal pot price above the black market, which will thus continue, creating additional headaches for law enforcement.

Big Marijuana — the people who pushed Question Two and hope to cash in on legal sales here — continue to market “gummy bears” and other candies that will attract use by children.

We can’t yet measure marijuana impairment in drivers.

Question Two was a ballot initiative created and pushed by big monied marijuana industrialists who are not native sons. It was pushed through (as was Question One) without sufficient advance planning, without debate in the Assembly, and without considering all the legal and social issues. It’s not good for Nevada’s taxpayers or our largest industries: gaming and hospitality. It’s not good for Nevada’s children. It’s proposed to be implemented in a way that will conflict with federal law, and it will not — despite the major selling point of the ballot initiative — generate much (if any) revenue for education.

I join Guy Farmer in calling on the governor and Legislature to slow the headlong rush to legalization.

It’s too much, too fast, too dangerous. The time to get it right is before implementation.

Note: Douglas County’s Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the Commissioners prohibit recreational marijuana in all zoning districts.

Fred LaSor has worked on US counter drug efforts in Washington, D.C., and Peru.


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