Group launches drive to tax, regulate marijuana in Nevada

Nevadans will have a chance to vote in 2012 on whether the state should tax and regulate marijuana, according to a pro-pot group.

The Marijuana Policy Project of Nevada announced today it is seeking signatures for a ballot initiative.

The measure’s language has yet to be submitted, but is expected to call for allowing marijuana for recreational, non-medicinal use, which is illegal under both state and federal law.

The group formed a political action committee called Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws and filed paperwork with the secretary of state.

“We are confident that in 2012 this will pass in Nevada,” said David Schwartz, manager of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Although Nevada voters have rejected similar measures in the past, Schwartz said support has grown over the years.

He said the group needs to gather about 100,000 signatures by one week after the November 2010 elections to qualify for 2012.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Nevada’s current laws allow “possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who have ‘written documentation’ from their physician that marijuana may alleviate his or her condition.”

Schwartz said public sentiment toward the drug has changed since 2002 and 2006, when 39 percent and 44 percent of Nevada voters supported similar initiatives.

“We think that the environment has changed, and people are becoming more aware that marijuana is not a bad substance,” he said. “Alcohol is far more harmful, more toxic and more addictive than marijuana.”

According to the Web site, the most recent Uniform Crime Reporting Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows in 2007 there were more than 7,200 arrests in Nevada for marijuana possession.

Marijuana Policy Project is a national organization pursing changes to laws in Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to its Web site.

Schwartz said the group hasn’t settled on specific language for the Nevada initiative.

Nor have organizers decided whether they will pursue a change in state statutes, which can be accomplished in one election, or an amendment to the state constitution, which requires approval by voters in two consecutive elections.

The group will make those decisions by mid-January, he said.

Schwartz wouldn’t identify donors to the cause nor say how much money they have raised so far.

Even if they were to succeed in persuading Nevadans to vote in favor of an initiative, there could be resistance from the federal government.

Marijuana is illegal nationwide. The Department of Justice, under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, has decided to back off cases against people who use the drug for medicinal purposes in states where medical marijuana is legal; but that stance doesn’t apply to recreational use.

“The policy is for prosecutions of people who are using medical marijuana consistent with state laws,” Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said. “That is the extent of the policy.”


Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-477-3861.

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