Petition drive launched to legalize marijuana

CARSON CITY — Confident that the third time will be a charm, a group called Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws today announced another petition drive that could lead to voters deciding to legalize marijuana.

Noting that 39 percent of the state’s voters in 2002 supported legalizing marijuana and 44 percent backed it in 2006, campaign manager David Schwartz said he was confident the majority will support the petition if it secures a spot on the 2012 election ballot.

The group is a subsidiary of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which provided much of the funding for the past ballot initiatives.

This time, it wants to allow adults 21 and older to use and transport up to 1 ounce of marijuana. They would not be permitted to use the drug in public places.

No state has legalized marijuana, although voters in Denver in 2006 voted to legalize the use of small amounts of the drug by adults. Marijuana remains illegal in Denver, however, because of a Colorado state law.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto would not comment on the petition and on any action her office might take if voters legalize marijuana.

The drug remains illegal under federal law, and federal officials have threatened to sanction states that permit its use.

Thirteen states, including Nevada, allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes to registered users. Earlier this year, the U.S. attorney general’s office announced it would not prosecute legitimate medical marijuana users.

In a news conference in front of the state Capitol, Schwartz said studies show marijuana is a far less harmful substance than alcohol.

“A legal marijuana market would provide adults with a safer recreational alternative to alcohol,” he said.

Schwartz’ petition calls for setting up 120 retail stores in Nevada where marijuana would be sold to adults. Fifty people would be licensed to grow marijuana. A $50 per ounce state tax would be placed on buyers.

To get the measure on the ballot, the group must collect 97,002 valid signatures on its petitions by Nov. 10. Then the proposal would be given to the Legislature, which would have to make some decision on the plan within the first 40 days of the 2011 session.

If legislators do not implement the petition provision, the issue would be placed before voters on the November 2012 ballot.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.


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