Pubdate: Sun, 13 Mar 2005
Source: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (NV)
Copyright: 2005, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza
Author: Geoff Dornan, Bonanza News Service
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis)

Law enforcement oppose pot legalization

The initiative petition that would legalize use and possession of
marijuana in Nevada will be put on the next election ballot.

More than 80,000 people signed the petitions asking lawmakers to
legalize possession of up to an ounce of pot and authorizing the state
to license retailers who would sell it.

Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project said the initiative would
also double current penalties for selling to minors and penalties for
driving under the influence of marijuana. He urged The Nevada
Assembly's Judiciary Committee to support the petition, saying current
marijuana laws are part of a 35-year war on drugs that is a total failure.

But law enforcement turned out in force to oppose the proposal saying
marijuana is the "gateway drug" that leads to crack cocaine, heroin
and methamphetamine addiction.

In the end, as they did Wednesday with two smoking initiatives, the
committee decided to take no action on the proposal leaving the
decision to voters two years from now.

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said after the meeting alcohol is
even more frequently the "gateway drug" for young people headed down
the wrong path. But Pierini said comparing alcohol to pot is not a
good reason to argue for legalization of marijuana.

"Alcohol is a large problem that costs the country billions, but do we
need to add another social problem by legalizing marijuana? Have we
learned anything from the past," he said.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, who is deputy chief of police in
Henderson, repeated what he said the day this Legislature opened:
"Marijuana will not be legalized on my watch."

He said serious crimes are often spurred on by drug abuse - but the
two examples he cited involved methamphetamine and heroin, not
marijuana. He said many people he has talked with as a police officer
told him their first drug experience was marijuana.

Clark County Sheriff Bill Young told the committee claims that police
are putting thousands of people in prison for marijuana possession
aren't true. Simple possession, he said, gets the drug confiscated and
the user ticketed, not jailed.

And Carson Sheriff Kenny Furlong said changing the law would simply
send the wrong message to young people in the state.

But Kampia said prosecuting marijuana crimes has cost billions in
police and court costs. He also argued that it's keeping police from
focusing more on serious crimes.

Kampia said, having licensed stores sell marijuana would take the
criminal element out of the business just as repealing prohibition
took the gangsters out of the booze business.

"What I'm hearing is that these people (law enforcement) really don't
like people who sell drugs," he told the committee. "If you don't like
them, put them out of business."

No one on the committee indicated any support for legalizing home
possession and use of marijuana. Instead of voting on the initiative,
they agreed to simply let it die, which automatically puts it on the
2006 ballot.
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