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November 24, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

It’s time for Nevada to legalize marijuana

More people are in favor of legalization, and like voters in Washington and Colorado may do this election, the state should end the prohibition

Image

Courtesy Metro Police

Metro Police raided a sophisticated marijuana grow operation inside a house located on the 800 block of Vegas Valley Drive Monday night, seizing more than 200 plants with a street value of $700,000.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Carpenter Canyon Marijuana Raid

Law enforcement officers haul away plants during a raid of a marijuana grow operation in the Carpenter Canyon area of the Spring Mountains on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Let’s talk pot.

Perhaps the most consequential decision faced by voters in three Western states, other than control of the White House, are voter initiatives that would legalize marijuana.

Polls suggest voters in Colorado and Washington may approve initiatives to do so while Oregonians are more reluctant.

This would be a welcome retreat in the most foolish front of the Drug War, and one that would likely mark the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition.

“If any of them pass, it will be the first time since the widespread prohibition of marijuana that any state pulled back,” says Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates reform. “It will be a really big deal.”

If these states legalize marijuana, Nevada, which has tried and failed to legalize in the past, should consider doing the same. I’ll return to that later.

Marijuana prohibition is becoming less popular by the day. A Gallup poll last year found that 50 percent of Americans favor legalization, a first. Just as astounding is the trend, as support has doubled in about 15 years.

Demographics help explain this, as there were 45 million Americans between 18 and 29 as of 2009, with more coming. These people are more socially liberal than their parents. What they realize is that it’s just not a big deal.

Click to enlarge photo

Marijuana filled a room at 2440 Turtle Street in Pahrump in August 2011. The alleged operator of the grow house was 28-year-old Amos Cavallo.

There’s also growing skepticism about the effectiveness of marijuana prohibition, and it’s coming from conservatives. William F. Buckley, the late godfather of conservatism, was long a voice against prohibition, but lately it’s become a chorus of conservatives. This shouldn’t be surprising. Although marijuana is often associated with the lefty counterculture of the much reviled 1960s, the drug war requires big government resources to achieve its dubious ends. It is expensive and inevitably leads to the abuse of government power.

Conservative columnist George Will recently gave a full airing to the idea of legalizing not just marijuana but “hard drugs,” as well: “(I)t is not unreasonable to consider modifying a policy that gives hundreds of billions of dollars a year to violent organized crime.”

Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review and longtime critic of marijuana prohibition, wrote recently, “Exhaustion is finally setting in with the enormous human and fiscal costs of attempting to eradicate the ineradicable.”

What costs? According to the Drug Policy Alliance, more than 850,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana-related crime, including 750,000 for possession only. This contributes to our having the highest incarceration rate in the world. We spend $51 billion per year on the drug war.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron concludes that legalizing marijuana would save federal, state and local law enforcement about $8.7 billion.

(Am I the only one baffled by story after story about Metro police making another pot bust while Sheriff Doug Gillespie complains about budget constraints?)

Miron also estimates that if taxes on marijuana were commensurate with current alcohol taxes, the levies would raise another $8.7 billion.

Click to enlarge photo

Metro Police released this picture from a raid on a marijuana grow house discovered in the 8300 block of Fox Brook Street.

Obviously, legalization would come with public health risks. But consider alcohol, which kills 40,000, not even counting alcohol-related homicides and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco, meanwhile, is responsible for 1 in 5 American deaths, or nearly 500,000 people per year when you factor in victims of second-hand smoke.

How many people die from smoking pot, eating munchies and watching Colbert? Basically zero.

Despite all this evidence, the politicians remain way behind the public. Enforcement is such a failure that most people who want to smoke pot do so without thinking twice, but they aren’t about to come out of the shadows and join a movement to pressure the politicians. (Plus, ha ha, they might be too lazy.)

Meanwhile, Democratic elected officials, who should be pushing this issue, are cowards, feebly whimpering in the face of anticipated attacks that they are the pot party. They all fear the inevitable TV ads about “Congressman So-and-So has gone to pot.”

So that leaves state initiatives.

The problem with this route is that it will create a messy conflict with the federal government, as we’ve already seen with medical marijuana. For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume the feds don’t put up a major fight. In that case, it will be a huge deal if Washington and Colorado approve state-licensed marijuana stores. It will be a source of unending fascination by the national press. Although Washington and Colorado would still prohibit marijuana use in public places, marijuana tourism can’t be far behind. Catch that? Tourism.

Think of the possibilities.

Some Colorado business leaders are opposing the measure because they don’t want Colorado to become known as the pot state. (To which I might reply: Too late.)

This is certainly a risk for Nevada. Our “What happens here” image has created its own branding challenge as we also try to be known as something other than a pleasure capital.

The train, however, is leaving the station. In a decade, I’m guessing marijuana will be legal in a dozen states or more. It would be a strange break with our libertarian tradition if we weren’t one of those states.

If our quickie-divorced, prostitute-procuring, degenerate gamblers want to chill their frazzled nerves with a marijuana cigarette, who are we to tell them they can’t?

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  1. Great article. And by the way, per capita, we have about 6 times as many people in prison as China.

  2. The best way to eliminate marijuana in the USA is to tax it. And heavily.

    CarmineD

  3. Don't Legalize Marijuana!

    Because:

    It is a 'drug', even if it is non-addictive and doesn't present profound health issues like alcohol and tobacco.

    Cancer patients don't really need the medicinal qualities that alleviate treatment side effects.

    thousands of otherwise innocent users deserve to have their employment prospects ruined through marijuana felony convictions.

    marijuana felons overcrowd our prisons and ensure job continuity for thousands of prison guards. Besides we don't need the space for violent criminals.

    marijuana distribution provides immense amounts of money to criminal enterprises and drug cartels. Support your local cartel.

    marijuana is a 'gateway drug' with a vast underground distribution network. How else would users find out about and get their hands on addictive and dangerous drugs like cocaine, crack, meth, etc.

    government doesn't need any more tax revenue like the billions it would get if marijuana was a legal drug available for sale under the same or similar rules and restrictions as alcohol.

    Police departments need the diversions they get from busting marijuana users. Don't make them focus their time on other crimes which are more harmful to individuals or society.

    We're too free and we need more governmental intrusion into our personal lives.

  4. It's long past time to end the "war on drugs." Forget about the fact that its been a total failure and has cost us dearly in money, time & effort that could have been used to fight real "crime." The more important reason is: What business is it of the government in a "free" society as to what we ingest as long as it does not physically harm another? There is a case for going after those incapacitated by alcohol or drugs who threaten others on the roadways or elsewhere. But, to stop morons from smoking pot or shooting up heroin? As long as they are not performing criminal acts to get the money to buy their choice of poison, let them ruin themselves, I say. Another thing, why is it legal to execute the innocent unborn, but illegal to smoke a joint? Where are our priorities?

  5. I am going to agree with Mr. Fink here. You want to use drugs and you are not hurting others than have at it. Don't waste our tax money and resources on it.

    Here is the question though. As you are shooting up, you OD and end up in a gutter but still alive. Who pays for your medical care and taking care of you because you have shot up to much and can no longer function?

  6. " No more slaps on the wrist."

    I'm tiring of cranky old white men.

  7. Like most of the pro pot crowd Coolican glosses over the complications caused by pot being a federally controlled substance. I watched for years in CA as this same argument has gone on there.

    I would vote in favor of legalizing pot for medical reasons with a legal prescription from a practicing doctor with hospital privileges or other mechanism to prevent the abuses we have seen from the throngs of phony pot docs that have sprung up in CA and other places.

    Would I vote to legalize pot for general use by adults? Maybe. Depends on the legislation, how it's worded and how the tax revenues are controlled. Done properly it might be useful. Done badly, it would create more problems than solutions and once passed would be almost impossible to rescind or correct. The danger of justifying legalization on the basis of tax revenues is that politicians always want to get their hands on more scrip for buying votes, new million dollar special interest groups would spring up over night and law enforcement would have a nightmare until it all gets straightened out which could take a decade or more and millions of tax payer dollars through dozens of court challenges.

    And of course, as we have seen in neighboring states, when the feds bust down the doors in armored vests carrying letal weapons to raid the dispensaries and related activities they couldn't care less about state law or lawyers.

  8. Nevada did run a pro-legalizarion candidate in the primary Dr. Stephen Frye whom is an international expert on the drug war and marijuana. It would have been nice had his campaign recieved attention before the primary on this issue. I do commend the Democratic party for allowing this candidate to run through his primary as a litmus test as to the will of Nevada voters about legalization. Here was his website http://fryefornevada.com/ if the voters want this bad enough they will need to organize and mobilize to make it happen. I for one have seen too many people suffer from cancer, HIV, MS, at the end of their lives with the additional burden on them that they are breaking the law getting the marijuana that gives them relief. Nevada needs to step up and bring sanity to its medical marijuana program to actually help patients. This is wht you should be asking everyone running for local office today what will they do to help the patients on medical marijuana today who still can't get what they need and have to still break the law by going through a dealer.

  9. I will support ending the war on drugs if we also end the war on poverty.

  10. "If these states legalize marijuana, Nevada, which has tried and failed to legalize in the past, should consider doing the same."

    Coolican -- I'm surprised you're coming off as another ignorant journalist. The good people of this state legalized medical marijuana by changing our Constitution in 1998. Anyone can see that @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Const/NVConst...

    I've raised this point over and over in articles like this, yet none of you have bothered to ask our legislators why 14 years later we still don't have those laws in place -- despite their oaths of office to support, protect and defend that Constitution.

    "The best way to eliminate marijuana in the USA is to tax it. And heavily."

    CarmineD -- why? It's literally a weed and grows just fine wild.

    "It's long past time to end the "war on drugs."

    lvfacts101 -- good post, but I'd take it up to the next level by querying those against decriminalization why growing hemp is still illegal. That more than anything spotlights the utter stupidity of these laws. In a few minutes I'll be sitting down to my usual morning breakfast, hot 10-grain cereal with raw, shelled hemp seeds. Since hemp in any form is also highly illegal, this incredibly nutritious food must be imported from Canada.

    "Tobacco, hemp, flax and cotton, are staple commodities." -- from Thomas Jefferson "The Works," vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782), "A Notice Of The Mines And Other Subterraneous Riches; Its Trees, Plants, Fruits, &C."

  11. If the US really wanted to wage a war on escalating national debt they would legalize pot, and gay marriage across the country. Making far more economical growth in areas that are underutilized for making and putting money in to our economy and tax system.

  12. The medical marijuana cards in all the states is a joke. For a hundred bucks certain doctors will give you one for a hang nail. Just look at California. There's probably more medical marijuana cards out there than driver's licenses. Only a joke there. As for taxing it and making it legal, it will continue to be grown illegally if it is taxed. My main concern would be the driving public. We already have problems with booze, marijuana would just add to it. The problem with the drug war is that people get off with a slap on the wrist. The punishment needs to be severe and painful.

  13. Mrs. Kramer,

    What makes Dr. Stephen Frye a international expert on the drug war and marijuana?

    Nothing on his web site would back up that statement.

  14. Big Pharma will always fight this idea tooth and nail. Just think what it will do to the legal drug market.

    But I agree, it is long past time to legalize pot.

  15. Works for me. Those who would drive intoxicated are doing that now. We might need a little realistic scientific help with how long after one is considered sober.

  16. Who is against growing hemp for use in clothing? Dow Chemical and other big Corporations who produce synthetic material at the expense of denying American farmers another potential cash crop and American consumers with choices of earth friendly natural materials used by peoples for hundreds of years but illegal here in America because our congress representatives are self-serving greedy money hungry trough feeders.

    The for profit U.S.A. Prison industry relies on slave labor of poor unfortunates many of those whose only crime against the state was enjoying smoking pot in the privacy of their homes, a right guaranteed & protected by the 4th amendment to our U.S. Constitution > The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches...

    The gamed Drug Court system of Nevada is basically a jobs program for Democrats trapping Nevada's youth into 18 months of not being able to find work or maintain a job because of unrealistic counseling times 2x a week; wiz quiz tests 2x weekly,going to court at least 2x a month. Added to courts costs expense are traveling costs for fuel and road time especially for those living in rural central Nevada where Tonopah-Nye and near-by Esmeralda County do not offer or have a program" forcing Drug Court participant's to spend large amounts of money and time traveling. There-by guaranteeing prison time for anyone that fails to support the Drug Court jobs program. Who does this help, kids smoking pot or bureaucratic employment? I will say that the program does offer meth addicts a chance to clean up.

  17. Marijuana for adults should be no problem. In that respect, it is not a dangerous gateway drug. Parents are responsible to see that their kids do not have access to it, just like alcohol. It is a product that could generate tax dollars, instead of wasting tax dollars as current law enforcement enforcing existing laws does. I am tired of the charade suggesting that wiping out marijuana is accomplishing something.

  18. O.K. First I call bull$hit on the article saying that a little more than 200 plants were valued at $700,000.00 That comes to get this $3,500.00 per plant and I don't see that plant producing enough buds to recoup that cost.
    Second I could be convinced to go along with it provided all monies saved and taxes collected could go into the Obamacare fund.
    Third It is not a drug because a drug has been manufactured ie changing the chemistry by man where as MJ is nothing more than a herb.
    Fourth I do not think more people would suddenly start smoking this it would only allow those that currently use it to do so more openly.
    Fifth The last bag I bought and smoked was four fingers wide in a sandwich bag it cost me $15.00 back in 1981 I quit because it was too expensive.
    Sixth I will move my business there and employ the pot smokers so I can control them to increase my wealth.

  19. I'm surprised that we haven't seen comments from BChap, his time as a corrections officer might provide some enlightenment. I concur with several correspondents here: too much money and too many jobs involved in keeping ot illegal.

  20. The worst thing that's going to happen smoking pot and driving is stopping at a STOP sign and waiting for it to turn green.
    Legalize it now!

  21. Ending the (so called) war on drugs has been a 3rd rail of American politics since the days of Ronald (who proved that anyone can be president) and carried on by Geo Jr. (who proved that it can be dangerous to have one).

    It is going to take a while for the politicians to climb out of their bunkers (you don't expect a politician to have something common like a fox hole do you?). And the Tea Bagger part of the party of No is just waiting to jump on anyone brave enough to go down on the public record as being in favor of ending something that has cost, blood and gold beyond measure.

    I am sure that the Tea Baggers will claim that legalizing pot will lead to the collapse of western civilization, it is hard to understand how such a claim can be made since in places like the Netherlands pot has been De-criminalized for so long with no effect other than all the people wearing wooden shoes.

    I would think it a total no brainer in a state that is so heavily dependent on tourism.

    IE Legal Pot = More Tourists = More revenue for both the city and the state.

    I think it especially makes sense in the state that leads the nation in unemployment. In states with authorized dispensaries, that require the dispensary to grow their own for resale each new dispensary means at least 20 new jobs.

    And in a state that is having so many problems balancing it's budget you would think the the additional revenue from taxing legal pot would be of interest, not to mention the additional savings from de-cluttering the police, court and prison systems.

    I think it is telling that much of the support to maintain war on drugs comes from the prison guard union.

    Disclaimer/Conflict of Interest

    For transparency I need to say that I have a conflict of interest in this question.

    I am a stage IV (recurrent) lung cancer patient. Pot is one of the few things I can count on to maintain my appetite, in fact it is one of the few things I can count on to make the bad days a little better.

    The current medical marijuana laws in Nevada are just about worthless.

    First you have to get the card, which with the fee's and background check costs over 600 bucks, and has to be renewed annually. Unable to work I have a very limited income and simply cannot afford to get one.

    If I had a card, without a network of dispensaries such as they have in other states, it would do me little good. I doubt that I could afford set up an indoor growing system, and outdoor growing would simply result in an endless parade of bad guys coming over the fence to rip me off.

    Jump the que, lets make Nevada the 3rd state to legalize recreational pot.