Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jul 2016
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2016 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Steve Sebelius


So Gov. Brian Sandoval, the former attorney general and federal 
judge, has come out squarely against the legalization of recreational 
marijuana in Nevada.

The governor told the Las Vegas Sun that, while he's personally never 
used the drug, he's concerned about the impact legalization would 
have on young people.

For the record, the November initiative known as Question 2 would 
allow only people age 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana 
for personal use.

Like the governor, I've never used marijuana, so my thoughts on the 
subject are purely academic. And my primary concerns about Question 2 
are less about the drug itself, and more about the mechanics of legalization.

For example, this is not legalization in the purest sense: Only those 
who currently have licenses to distribute medical marijuana, or those 
who run liquor distributorships, will be allowed to grow, test, 
distribute and sell recreational marijuana. The state Taxation 
Department will strictly oversee and regulate the marijuana market in 
Nevada from cultivation to sale, an approach that won't completely 
eliminate the black market for the drug.

Also, Nevada's marijuana DUI standard is ridiculously low, and 
drivers can be convicted of having a "prohibited substance" in their 
blood even if it's shown they were not impaired behind the wheel as a 
result. (In fact, that's precisely what occurred in the 2000 Jessica 
Williams case, the most famous marijuana-related crash in state history.)

Attempts to fix that problem following the legalization of medical 
marijuana in 2013 came to naught in the Nevada Legislature.

Not only that, but workplace issues for users and employers remain. 
The voters may say smoking marijuana is fine, but employers still 
have drug-free workplace rules. How far can employers go in terms of 
drug testing? And what rights do employees have to privacy or to 
avail themselves of a substance that, by then, may be perfectly legal?

If voters approve Question 2, the Legislature and the courts must 
deal with these issues.

There's also the fact that marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled 
substance, inexplicably considered by the federal government to have 
no medical value. While the current presidential administration may 
be content to ignore states that have legalized medical and 
recreational marijuana, that may not always be the case.

There are plenty of other arguments against legalization, although 
many are exaggerated, overstated or simply untrue. But let's 
acknowledge that if marijuana is legalized, more people will try it. 
In addition, young people might have easier access to the drug, 
although the law prohibits minors from using marijuana under all 
circumstances. Some people who try marijuana may end up trying other, 
still-illegal drugs. And smoking's negative health consequences will 
accrue to those who choose to use marijuana.

But whether some harm may come to some people because of their use of 
a legal product isn't the seminal question in this debate. We know 
that alcohol causes even more significant harms than marijuana, and 
that stuff flows like water in this town. We know that cigarette use 
causes cancer and other health problems, yet casino floors are smoker 
friendly even though the do-gooders have managed to ban smoking 
almost everywhere else in the state. Nevada is literally built on the 
exploitation of vice and drunkenness.

No, the seminal question - the question voters must answer when they 
decide Question 2 in November - is this: In a free society, should an 
adult be able to use a substance, even one that's potentially harmful 
and intoxicating, if he or she chooses to do so?
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