Pubdate: Fri, 12 Apr 2013
Source: Las Vegas Sun (NV)
Copyright: 2013 Las Vegas Sun, Inc
Author: J. Patrick Coolican


It was no great feat, but as I predicted last October, Colorado and 
Washington have legalized pot, and Nevada is now in danger of losing 
our rightful place as the capital of forbidden fun.

On his tourism blog, Arthur Frommer wrote last year that we could 
"expect a torrent of new tourism to Seattle and Denver."

The media is all over it, with a recent story filled with enough dumb 
pot puns and jokes to merit an editor's termination, including 
references to "smoke signals," grilled cheese sandwiches and food 
trucks, and fears that the feds could "harsh the mellow."

Medical marijuana is already legal here, and Thursday a Nevada 
legislative committee approved the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

And last week, the Nevada Legislature took up a bill to legalize 
recreational marijuana. It's not going anywhere, but I applaud the 
Assembly Judiciary Committee for giving it a hearing.

Here's why: There's a better-than-even chance that recreational pot 
will be legal in Nevada after the 2016 election.

Wait, what's that? you ask.

Let me explain.

For the first time, the Pew Research Center, the highly respected 
nonpartisan polling outfit, found that a majority of Americans favor 
marijuana legalization.

This wasn't all that surprising, however, because a majority favored 
legalization for the first time in a Gallup poll last year.

More striking than the raw numbers is the trend, which points to 
rising support for legalization.

In fact, as an insightful recent piece in Talking Points Memo pointed 
out, the trend seems to parallel support for gay marriage.

The movement on gay marriage, recall, has been caused by a massive 
demographic shift whereby younger voters overwhelmingly favor 
marriage equality. Same with marijuana. Stay calm: Before you freak 
out, fearing the young are sitting around getting high all day, keep 
in mind that 6.9 percent of the population report using marijuana 
regularly, according to the most recent data. Yes, that's up from 5.8 
percent in 2007, but way down from a high of 13.2 percent in 1979.

The real driver of the surge in popularity for both gay marriage and 
legalization of marijuana is a rapid increase in what I'd call the 
"Who Cares?" Caucus. These younger voters - 1 in 5 of all voters in 
November were ages 18 to 29 - just don't see the big deal with gay 
marriage or legal pot.

Conservatives have begun to throw in the towel on gay marriage, but 
on pot, some of them are actually leading the way, including National 
Review magazine, the organ of the establishment right.

So the trend is clear, and now, legalization advocates are looking 
for their next round of target states. (Just how the feds will react 
to this remains to be seen; marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of 

Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, told me 
that the big prize is California, home to 38 million people and a 
cultural bellwether for the rest of the nation.

But Nevada is also at the top of the list, he said. It's not hard to 
figure out why - we're libertarian when it come to vices and have 
been able to integrate them into our culture and economy while 
maintaining a sense of normalcy. (OK, not entirely, but you get the point.)

The voters rejected legal pot in the past, but that was seven years ago.

The target year is 2016, when lazy Democrats will get off the couch 
to elect the first woman president in American history.

Again, it's happening.

Legalizers should temper their joy. Yes, this is the right policy. It 
could raise tax revenue and keep people out of the vortex that is the 
legal system.

And surely Nevada's creative minds will figure out how to capitalize 
on legal pot.

But, as with end of the prohibition of gambling and alcohol, we need 
to put the right policies in place to deal with the relevant issues, 
including increased marijuana consumption, crime, underage use, 
driving while intoxicated, addiction, etc.

These are not simple issues, and while ending prohibition will 
relieve certain problems, it will create others.

If we don't get the policy right, we could wind up with prohibition again.

So, in a way, it's good that we aren't taking action yet. We can 
watch Colorado and Washington state, which are both pretty rational, 
decently governed states. Then we can follow their lead, learning 
from their successes and failures.

But we need to start figuring this out, because it's happening. And 
2016 will be here quick.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom