Pubdate: Fri, 30 May 2014
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2014 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Page: 10B


Recreational Pot Petition Good Policy

Nevada voters have an opportunity to reset America's costly drug war. 
This week, petitioners began collecting signatures for an initiative 
to legalize recreational use of marijuana within the state. If the 
petitioners collect 101,667 valid signatures from registered Nevada 
voters by Nov. 11, the measure would go before the 2015 Legislature 
for consideration. And if lawmakers ignore or reject it, the petition 
would appear on the November 2016 ballot.

We're guessing the petition, put forward by the Nevada Canabis 
Industry Association with help from the Washington, D.C.-based 
Marijuana Policy Project, won't have a problem collecting signatures 
from less than 10 percent of Nevada's electorate. Polling 
consistently shows a majority of voters now support decriminalizing 
the drug. All the way back in 2006,when voters were far less open to 
the idea of legalizing the purchase, possession and use of small 
amounts of marijuana, 44 percent of Nevada voters backed a ballot 
question to do just that.

It's an important step forward in fixing a failed policy. Taxpayers 
finally seem to understand that spending vast sums of money at the 
local, state and federal levels on police, prosecutors, public 
defenders, judges and jails to lock up nonviolent offenders and 
enable the enrichment of gangs and thugs has done nothing to diminish 
demand for marijuana. The banned substance remains everywhere - at 
schools and streetcorners, in public housing and affluent suburbs.

Bringing all this commerce into the sunshine, and turning all the 
people who grow, process and sell marijuana into taxpayers, is a far 
more practical course. Colorado and Washington state voters were the 
first to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for recreational 
purposes, and Colorado governments already are collecting more than 
$1 million per week in tax revenues from all marijuana sales.

Unfortunately, too many people support legalizing marijuana for 
financial reasons. They see taxed, regulated pot as a rescue for 
government budgets. Marijuana is like any other product on the 
market. If the price is too high, people won't buy. Nevada's petition 
mirrors Colorado's law, which imposes a 15 percent excise tax on 
wholesale recreational marijuana sales. Retail customers would pay 
sales tax as well. Taxes that high will allow the black market to 
survive and keep street dealers in business - and police and the 
courts busy with drug crimes.

But Nevada voters shouldn't let perfect be the enemy of good. 
Eventually, enough dispensaries will open to meet consumer demand, 
and competition will keep prices down. Nevada's first medical 
marijuana dispensaries should open within several months and help lead the way.

If you are presented with the petition, and you're a registered voter, sign it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom