Bill to legalize recreational marijuana introduced in Nevada assembly

CARSON CITY — Nevadans would be able to support public education by “toking up ” if a bill introduced Monday becomes law.

The bill would allow adults age 21 and older to legally possess up to
1 ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes .

Assembly Bill 402, introduced by Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, would move Nevada into line with Washington state and Colorado, which saw marijuana legalization efforts succeed at the ballot box in 2012.

Hogan estimated legalization could generate $500 million a year in tax revenue to fund public education in Nevada.

His bill would not require a vote of the people. But it does appear to have public support in Nevada. A recent poll of voters commissioned by the Retail Association of Nevada found 56 percent would favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use if the money raised went to fund education.

The marijuana measure was just one of dozens introduced Monday, a deadline for individual Nevada lawmakers to introduce their bills for the 2013 session.

Hogan, who does not use the drug, said he introduced the bill because of what he sees as the questionable persecution of younger people for using marijuana.

“I think it’s better than chasing young kids around the neighborhoods, endlessly, and damaging them,” he said. “We’ve been wasting terrible amounts of money on these completely unsuccessful law enforcement techniques. I think it’s time to get serious, get it fixed and move on.”

Hogan, 75, said he did try the drug a couple of times at a much younger age, and would consider using it again to potentially treat some illnesses he was recently diagnosed with.

“Marijuana is actually a kind of a miracle drug itself, for medical problems, of particularly older people, which appeals to me,” he said.

There is also the potential of tax revenue from legalizing marijuana, Hogan said.

“So I think while it’s going to be difficult, there are some powerful arguments.”

Stephen Frye, a medical doctor who is working with Hogan on the effort, said the tax structure proposed in the bill is modeled after the law in Washington state and could generate as much as $500 million a year in Nevada from residents and the nearly 40 million plus people who visit Las Vegas every year.

“It’s a big tourist issue,” he said. “And we create green jobs in Nevada growing, processing and selling it.”

Hogan’s bill provides “in skeleton form” for the taxation of the production, processing and sale of marijuana. The measure proposes to establish an excise tax on both the wholesale and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products, with the proceeds going to the state public education budget.

“There’s enough tax money in this line of products to properly and fully support education in the state of Nevada, which we have failed to do for a number of years,” Hogan said.

The bill makes it clear that decriminalization does not authorize people to operate a vehicle while impaired, does not require an employer to allow or accommodate the use of marijuana and prohibits the use of marijuana by those under age 21.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s views on the proposal are unknown. He does not take a position on individual bills because they could be changed before they reach his desk.

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. It would require a two-thirds vote to pass the Legislature, which is a challenge, Hogan acknowledged.

“We have a lot more allies than ever before in the medical community,” he said. “We think there’s a good chance that today’s the day, or this year is the year, and we’re going to give it our all.”

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