CARSON CITY — A pro-marijuana group filed a petition Wednesday to start the process of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Nevada.
The decision probably will be decided by voters in 2016 if the group can gather the requisite number of signatures.
The initiative petition was filed in the Las Vegas office of the secretary of state by Joe Brezny, executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association.
Supporters must collect 101,667 signatures by Nov. 11 to put a petition to change a state law on the ballot in 2016. If they do, legislators in 2015 could approve or reject the petition. If they reject it, as expected, then it would become a ballot question for voters to decide.
Brezny said he is optimistic that his group can collect the necessary signatures and that voters will approve recreational marijuana use for those age 21 or older if the measure goes to the ballot.
The measure is modeled after the recreational marijuana law approved by voters in Colorado, he said.
“Our proposal preserves the medical marijuana laws exactly as they are,” Brezny said. “Patients will be protected. But it expands the sale of cannabis to adults over age 21. There is a 1-ounce limit.”
Internal polling from 2013 showed support among Nevada voters for legalization by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent, he said. The margin continues to widen in support of legalization, Brezny said.
The proposal would enact a 15 percent tax on the wholesale side of the recreational marijuana sales. While it is too early to predict the potential tax revenue to the state, Brezny said Nevada easily could match Colorado, which is seeing more than $1 million in revenue each week.
“That’s a lot of money for our schools,” he said.
Brezny said the group will use professionals to assist volunteers in gathering signatures and that reaching the minimum number of registered voters should not be difficult.
“People are excited to help. We have a great team and funding in place.”
Brezny is working with the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project on the petition. The group previously tried legalizing small amounts of marijuana in Nevada, drawing the support of 39 percent of voters in 2002 and 44 percent in 2006.
Since then, voters in Colorado and Washington state have legalized marijuana, although it remains a controlled substance under federal law.
Nevada is authorizing the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries under a law passed by the 2013 Legislature. Nevada has had a medical marijuana program since 2001, but there was no way for patients to acquire the drug except by growing their own or buying it on the black market.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.