Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jun 2002
Source: Las Vegas City Life (NV)
Copyright: 2002 Las Vegas City Life
Author: Jimmy Boegle
Bookmark: (Ballot Initiatives)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Cited: (Marijuana Policy Project)
Note: Photo caption: Nevada could become a pot smokers' haven on Jan. 1, 
2005 if a current initiative petition is successful. Mark your calendars!


Over the past few weeks, they've been seemingly everywhere - libraries, the 
DMV, meetings, etc. - with their petitions and pens. This small army of 
clipboard-holding minions, some paid and some volunteers, has one goal: The 
legalization of marijuana in Nevada.

Not just medical marijuana - that's already legal as the result of a 
constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1998 and 
2000. This is the legalization of the use and possession of three ounces or 
less of marijuana by anybody 21 or older.

In other words, it could be 4:20 in Nevada 24/7 if this amendment gets 
enough signatures to make the ballot, and is then approved by voters this 
year and in 2004.

The folks behind this movement, a newly formed political action committee 
called Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, are being tight-lipped 
about their efforts. Gail Tuzzolo, a paid political consultant heading up 
the PAC, said the group is too focused on getting enough signatures right 
now to talk to the media.

"We're sort of doing our news blackout," Tuzzolo said. "We're not talking 
to the press. We're working on getting all the signatures in."

Bruce Mirken, the director of communications of the Marijuana Policy 
Project (the Washington, D.C.-based group behind Nevadans for Responsible 
Law Enforcement), was equally unhelpful.

"We're in the process of getting signatures," he said. "We'll have a lot to 
say when it gets on the ballot. ... We're not seeking coverage right now, 
because we're seeking signatures."

In defense of these folks, they do have their hands full. By June 16, the 
group has to turn in at least 61,336 voters to the secretary of state - 
that's 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the 2000 statewide 
election. Additionally, signatures representing 10 percent of the total of 
2000 votes from 13 of the state's 17 counties must be included. The group 
has been collecting signatures since May 9. That's a lot of John Hancocks 
in a short amount of time, and the group estimates they'll need about 
110,000 total signatures for enough of them to be valid.

But whether or not they want coverage right now, they're getting it. And 
before they finally stopped talking to us, both Tuzzolo and Mirken said 
they were close to the necessary pace to reach their goal.

So, what does this all mean? Let's break it down.

The initiative, if successful, would amend the Nevada Constitution to say 
the following:

- -- That the use or possession of three ounces or less of weed by anybody 21 
or older would not be a "cause for arrest, civil or criminal penalty, or 
seizure or forfeiture of assets." In other words, pot would be legal in the 
eyes of the state constitution.

- -- The state would have to develop "a system of regulation, designed to 
curb the unlawful production of marijuana, for the cultivation, taxation, 
sale, and distribution of marijuana ..."

- -- Advertising of pot would be illegal.

- -- Weed would be taxed similar to tobacco and cigarettes.

- -- It could not be used in cars or public places, and you could not be 
"driving dangerously" or operating heavy machinery while under the influence.

Of course, marijuana would still be illegal under federal law, opening a 
very interesting can of worms.

Before they got tight-lipped, Tuzzolo and others painted the petition 
primarily as something to help out medical marijuana users by instituting a 
system for distribution, and by making it so sick patients wouldn't need a 
doctor's permission to get the marijuana (many doctors have been weary to 
sign off on marijuana use, fearing the feds).

The petition drive comes two years after voters approved medical marijuana, 
and just months after the 2001 Legislature chilled out what was one of the 
nation's toughest marijuana laws. Before, marijuana possession was a 
felony; now, in small amounts, it is simply a misdemeanor.

All of this is very interesting, and it will become moot if the petitioners 
fail to get enough signatures. But should they succeed, here are some 
things to look out for:

- -- The buzz is that anti-Question 2 (The anti-gay "Protection of Marriage" 
Initiative, which will be on the ballot for a second and final time this 
year) forces may be looking at this as an equalizer. It's well-known that 
Question 2 exists, in part, because its right-wing supporters knew it would 
bring right-wing voters to the polls. Well, some proponents of the 
marijuana initiative hope that if it makes the ballot, it will have the 
same effect on left-wing voters. One flaw with this logic: In 2000, the 
medical marijuana initiative, which passed overwhelmingly, did not 
accomplish this. Nonetheless, for some, hope springs eternal.

- -- Why Nevada? The Marijuana Policy Project has been willing to pay $1 per 
signature and pay big bucks for a consultant to get this measure on the 
ballot. Sure, Nevada's relatively small size makes it easier to do this 
here than in, say, California. And it would set a nice precedent; if this 
ballot initiative passes muster, Nevada would become the first state to 
effectively give the finger to the feds in terms of marijuana laws. But 
beyond that, why choose Nevada for this groundbreaking move? (When asked 
this question point-blank, Mirken said he was not the one to talk to about 
this, and that he'd try to get someone else to talk to CityLife; nobody 
called back.)

- -- What are the consequences? Considering that George W. Bush and John 
Ashcroft are in office, what would they do to Nevada if this makes it through?

It's all fun to speculate about, assuming the petition drive is successful. 
And that's a moderately big "if" at this point.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Ariel