Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 | 2 a.m.
On Nov. 8, Nevadans will make an important decision. With Question 2 on the ballot, they will determine whether the state will regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. I know that I will be voting “yes.” But I would like Nevadans to appreciate how my support for Question 2 is consistent with my values.
One of those values is a belief in individual liberties and limited government in our private lives. From that perspective, it is very difficult to support laws that make the adult use of marijuana illegal. Given that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, there is no logic in spending taxpayer dollars to punish adults who prefer the less harmful substance.
But I do not want to make marijuana legal for adults without placing certain controls upon its production and sale. That is where another one of my values comes into play: my concern for public safety.
In fact, my interest in enhancing public safety is at the core of my support for Question 2. It is through regulating marijuana that we will make our communities safer.
Think about how marijuana has been sold in this country over the years. While there are some states that now have legal sales, either for medical marijuana patients or all adults, the vast majority of sales in the past 50 years have taken place in the illegal market. These illegal sales, not surprisingly, benefit criminal actors — whether it’s gangs in our communities or drug cartels in Mexico.
Regulation means taking the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and shifting control to Nevada businesses that must follow the laws and pay taxes. Why should we allow profits from the sale of marijuana to support gangs and cartels when we can have those same dollars support job creation and public education in Nevada?
Enacting regulations will also allow us to get a handle on teen use of marijuana. For decades, teens have acknowledged in surveys that it is easier for them to acquire marijuana than alcohol. This is because drug dealers don’t ask for identification. Regulated marijuana stores, on the other hand, will face the loss of their licenses if they sell to minors. Enforcement of similar regulations have contributed to a steady decline in teen alcohol use over the past two decades.
Through regulation, we can ensure the quality of products sold. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who are regular marijuana consumers. Unless they are a medical marijuana patient, it is likely they have no idea how the marijuana they consume was produced and whether it contains any contaminants. In a regulated market, marijuana will be properly tested and labeled.
The beauty of regulating marijuana is that it also will allow state officials like myself to set restrictions on the types of products that are sold. We have heard opponents of Question 2 claim that its passage will lead to the sale of products such as marijuana gummy bears, as has been seen in the early days of legalization in Colorado. But this ignores the fact that the Colorado state legislature recently prohibited the sale of marijuana products in those shapes.
During the 2017 legislative session, I will co-sponsor similar legislation being introduced by Republican state Sen. Patricia Farley. The goal will be to ensure that marijuana products are not designed in a manner that could be appealing to children. This legislation already has the backing of the Nevada Dispensary Association, so we expect it should have smooth sailing in the Legislature.
This is what regulating marijuana means. It is the opportunity, at all levels, to have a safer and more sensible approach to marijuana. I hope you recognize this opportunity and join me in voting “yes” on Question 2.
Tick Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat, was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2006 and Senate in 2012.