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May 5, 2015

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Lawmaker: Bill to legalize marijuana is about ‘coming to terms with reality’


Cathleen Allison / AP

Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, presents a bill to legalize marijuana at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Friday, April 5, 2013. The bill would end a 70-year ban on marijuana use in Nevada and create regulations similar to alcohol for adults 21 years and older.

Updated Friday, April 5, 2013 | 3:36 p.m.

CARSON CITY — State lawmakers heard passionate arguments Friday over a measure that ends the prohibition on recreational marijuana use in Nevada and funnels the tax revenues toward the underfunded state education system.

Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas, presented AB402 to members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee with just a week to go before the deadline for bills to clear their first committees.

Hogan said the bill is not about smoking marijuana, but rather is "about coming to terms with reality and showing some courage."

"The prohibition against marijuana has essentially failed," Hogan told committee members. "It has created a black market that hangs like a cancer alongside our unfunded education system."

The bill would place a 25 percent excise tax on each grower, manufacturer and purchaser of marijuana. Those proceeds would go toward early childhood education and literacy programs in K through 12th grade, Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas and the other primary sponsor of the bill, said.

"There's a lot of money involved. This is huge," Martin said. "The marijuana market exists and we've closed our eyes to it like we did in the old days to gambling, or alcohol, or brothels, or whatever."

In direct tax revenue alone, the state would likely receive $1.5 billion per year, Martin said. He added that tourism would increase and restaurants would see an uptick in sales.

The law would not require employers to allow workers to use marijuana while on company time or property; similarly, landlords could prohibit marijuana on their property.

The legalization of marijuana is long overdue, and the adverse effects of the drug are minuscule, according to Dr. Stephen Frye, a retired professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno. He added that marijuana has medical capabilities and that recent studies indicate marijuana may fight certain types of cancer.

"We are talking miraculous medicine. We are not talking about a dangerous drug," Frye said. "I have been to Amsterdam three times and used marijuana each time, and I can tell you it's delightful."

He went on to say that driving under the influence of marijuana is no more dangerous than driving while drinking orange juice.

Republicans on the committee questioned the legitimacy of a state law that legalizes activity that is illegal under federal law. While proponents said the Legislature writes Nevada's laws, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, said the issue is bigger than the state level.

"Just because we want to be our bosses here in our own states, the feds can still come in and wipe us out," Fiore said "That's a real issue."

But according to a Karen O'Keefe, the director of state policies for the California-based Marijuana Policy Project, the federal government has "bigger fish to fry" and is unlikely to go after marijuana users in states where the drug is legalized.

Law enforcement officials argued against the bill, saying marijuana is extremely detrimental to one's ability to drive and that it destroys family.

"I've seen firsthand the destructive impact drug abuse and drug addiction has on families and we believe the passage of this bill will advance that," said Chuck Callaway, an officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement.

Eric Spratley of the Washoe County told the committee that a driver under the influence of marijuana caused a wreck that killed a Reno police officer in 2002.

Other opponents said the high taxes included in this measure would prevent it from curtailing the criminal black market sales of marijuana because the illegal sales will be much cheaper.

The committee took no action Friday.

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  1. It is about time! I don't condone the use of Marijuana but the policy prohibiting this product is a complete failure. Anyone who wants it can get it. We spend MILLIONS in public resources with this prohibition - for what? No gains!

    Legalize it, tax it, regulate it and lets do something positive - get rid of the black market for this product!

    Sensible policy!

  2. DARE to seek out the facts! Be a patriot and smoke marijuana!

  3. I do believe Mr. Callaway is making "stuff" up to protect the thriving business that is law enforcements "war on drugs". Period.

  4. Nevada may wish to follow the evolving issues in Colorado and Washington. Here in WA we are finding several challenges particularly on the taxation issue. Marijuana of good quality is available everywhere at reasonable prices of approx $300-$400 an oz retail. Legalization removes the embedded costs of illegality [risk] but replaces those costs with taxation. If taxes are excessive then the black market will continue as the cost will be less. Once marijuana is legalized law enforcement cannot readily distinguish between a legal and an illegal product. I support legalization and establishment of a free market. Just don't think that it is the answer to the state's financial challenges.

  5. Chunky says:

    While he does not necessarily condone the use of recreational drugs, he respects the rights of individuals to seek their own pleasures as long as they are safe and not endangering others. What someone does in their own home is not the government's business.

    Chunky agrees with Assemblyman Hogan and commenter "unlv702" and others that the "war on drugs" has been a failure and a waste of taxpayer dollars. We will never turn this tide unless we do tax and regulate it as we have alcohol and tobacco.

    On a Federal scale, none of this will happen until the Feds figure out how to tax it and the pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco companies figure out how to corner the market and control it. It really is all about the money.

    As for Nevada creating it's own "system" and bureaucracy to manage it, Chunky has reservations about that as well. It sounds fine and good that the revenue will go to schools but how much will be left after the government machine pays for it's own function?

    It is ironic however that the marijuana crowd wants us to support their rights on a common sense level, yet they don't want to support our 2A rights with regards to firearms on a common sense level.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  6. Really should legalize and tax it.

  7. We tried Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s ans early 1930s and it failed miserably. It only succeeded in promoting widespread criminal enterprises and making those criminals folk heroes for supplying what the public wanted.

    Hello! We're experiencing exactly the same thing with marijuana prohibition. We can either use our money to support a beneficial domestic enterprise like education or Mexican drug cartels.

  8. Economic competition from weed in NV. Casino owners won't like that. Anything that takes a dollar away from casinos is taboo. Weed money could woo politicians away from their casino money addiction. Casinos owners would be upset. Bad marijuana, BAD!!!

  9. There is probably more marijuana consumed in Las Vegas than any city of comparable size and the world. The state might as well make a few bucks off of it. It should of been legalized years ago. The feds will do absolutely nothing. They don't have the manpower or the inclination.

  10. It is long past time to decriminalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. If we take to our history and sociology books, we will understand the historical perspective of its ancient and wide spread use, to the narrowing, and criminalizing use. Some of our nation's founders were hemp growers. It seems forever, that intoxicants have been around and used in recreational and medicinal forms.

    As with anything, use with commonsense. Different strokes for different folks as they say. As far as law enforcement being worried about having "work" there is nothing to worry about, given current attitudes and discipline policies...just look to the current and recent past elementary school students coming to public schools with behavioral problems, they will soon enough find troubles with the law as they turn 18 and become adults. Homelessness, abuse, hunger, lack of status, all are fertile soil for innocent human beings to grow into disformed, dysfunctional human beings that turn into adults eventually. You cannot blame it on marijuana (alone, anyhow). So law enforcement and the prison system will continue its path, unhindered by the legalization of marijuana, no worries.

    As an older American, I understand what Commenter Doubledown_deadender opinned, with "The primary reason the tide has turned on not because of the stoners...skate boarders or college kids on 4/20 ... No! The tide turned because the 40-50-60 year demographic found out they can ditch 80% of their toxic medicine cabinets and replace all their meds with one organic alternative. There is no way the DEA can fight the AARP !"

    This statement alone rings truth about how many older folks are finding medical relief, and some cases, halting or abating a medical disease. The BIGGEST opponent of marijuana is the BIG PHARMACY industry, who virtually controls our nation's DEA and FDA! The real battle will be waged with them as very well funded, well lawyered, well lobbyists advesaries. Be ready for it. We will see a new, modern war called, "States rights versus Federal rights". Stay tuned.

    Joe is back! Reading his comments bring spring back into my steps! Keep it coming, Joe! :)

    Thank you Nevada Lawmakers, for being open-minded and thinking outside the box for viable solutions addressing our state's antiquainted problems. You are a breath of fresh air!

    Blessings and Peace,

  11. I am surprised Michele Fiore isn't more behind this measure, openly.

  12. Perhaps Sheriff Gillespie would not be so short handed, as he claims, if the police were less busy chasing after small time pot smokers.

  13. A 25% tax I could understand, but the proposals call for a 25% tax at each step, a VAT if you will. That's 25% from producer to distributor, 25% from distributor to retailer and 25% from retailer to customer plus, potentially, sales tax as well. What that does is put cost right back in the black market range, far above medicinal prices, and simply encourages the black market to lower prices, maintaining market share while undercutting efforts to tax. Legislators are smoking their own fine blend if they think that they can raise $1.5 billion from taxing herb.