Pubdate: Sun, 22 Feb 2004
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2004 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Steve Sebelius
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy ( )
Bookmark: (Nevadans for Responsible Law 
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


You could be excused for thinking that the Committee to Regulate and 
Control Marijuana was formed only to "establish a comprehensive system of 
strict regulation to reduce or eliminate teenage access to marijuana, 
driving under the influence of marijuana, and the smoking of marijuana in 
public places." After all, it sounds strict.

But read further, and you'll get to the heart of the matter: If the 
committee's proposed state constitutional amendment passes, those age 21 or 
older will be allowed to toke up, so long as they do it in private, buy the 
drug only at an authorized retailer and don't drive under the influence.

Deceptive? Not really, especially after the whoppers that were leveled 
against the ill-fated 2002 amendment that would have legalized up to 3 
ounces of marijuana. In that campaign, a deputy district attorney 
outrageously claimed drug cartels were funding the legalization effort (and 
then lied about his remark). The number of joints opponents said could be 
rolled from 3 ounces of marijuana expanded -- loaves and fishes style -- 
until we were very nearly told that 3 ounces could get every man, woman, 
child and household pet in Nevada high for a year. (Excluding fish, of course.)

This time around, the proponents have learned their lesson. The new 
constitutional amendment is tailor-made to overcome each and every 
objection that was lodged against the effort last time.

Three ounces is too much, as one feckless politician after another claimed 
when asked to -- damn the media! -- take a stand on the measure? Try 1 
ounce, then.

People will drive under the influence, as one did in the tragic traffic 
accident that killed Las Vegas Sun Vice President Sandy Thompson? This 
measure would make the DUI laws stricter, with a five-years-to-life prison 
sentence and fine of up to $20,000 for anyone convicted of vehicular 
manslaughter while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or any other 
drug. That's tough.

Drug dealers will prosper if marijuana is legalized? This measure would 
establish a one-to-10-year prison sentence and fine of up to $10,000 for 
anybody over 18 who sells marijuana to a minor. (Under the proposed 
amendment, only tobacco retailers that don't also sell booze would be 
authorized to sell marijuana, and only if they are more than 500 yards from 
a church or school.)

More kids will smoke marijuana if it's legalized? Hardly. According to the 
drug czar's own report, "more than 67 percent of Nevada high school seniors 
report using marijuana at least once in their lives." At that rate, there's 
not many kids left to take up the habit.

The problem in trying to answer the critics is twofold. First, it was not 
the amount of marijuana, or the flaws in the law regarding its use, to 
which the prohibitionists objected. It was the very notion of legalization.

No matter how many logical, reasonable arguments are made to legalize 
marijuana (and there are precious few reasons to keep it illegal) for some 
it's simply inconceivable. They would rather live with the inherent 
contradictions of the law as well as the excesses of the war on drugs 
rather than admit defeat.

And two, if the prohibitionists were willing to stretch the truth to their 
own ends last time, they're not suddenly going to play fair this time. 
There will still be lies, exaggerations and the inevitable visit of drug 
czar John Walters, campaigning at taxpayer expense. But the Committee to 
Regulate and Control Marijuana still has the right idea, no matter the 
changes made to persuade voters that prohibition doesn't work.

Maybe this time, the voters will see that.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom