Fallon newspaper endorses Nevada marijuana initiative
Nev. (AP) - A newspaper in rural northern Nevada has given a surprising endorsement to a ballot measure to decriminalize adult possession of limited amounts of marijuana through regulation and taxation.
"In a state where prostitution is legal in certain counties, bars are not required to close and children can legally possess and use tobacco, objections to marijuana legalization on a moral basis seem hypocritical," the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard said in a Tuesday editorial.
"Those who view marijuana as a blight on society have yet to offer an effective solution of how to stop its spread through society or better fund law enforcement. Continuation of the ill-funded, halfhearted campaigns of the past is little more than veiled acceptance of its current widespread and illegal use."
State Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he was surprised by newspaper's support for the Nov. 7 ballot question.
"It surprised me that a rural newspaper would do that," he said, noting northern Nevada's typical conservative political leanings.
But Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said rural Nevada often shows its independent backbone.
"I wouldn't have predicted it, but it's not one where I'm shocked," he said.
"Rural Nevada, while often thought to be conservative, is often more libertarian. They don't like government intervention," Herzik said.
"They're not endorsing the use of marijuana, but instead saying 'Why don't we treat this as we do many other vices in Nevada' - which is to accept them," Herzik said.
Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing marijuana use for medical purposes in 1998 and 2000. Two years later, they rejected efforts by national advocates to allow adult possession of up to 3 ounces for non-medical use.
The latest proposal would allow adults to possession up to 1 ounce.
The newspaper's endorsement was hailed by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, which was thwarted in a first attempt for a constitutional amendment by not gathering enough signatures to qualify for the 2004 ballot.
After that, the organization took another route, gathering enough signatures to present the issue to the 2005 Legislature. The measure automatically qualified for this year's ballot after lawmakers failed to act within 40 days.
"Rather than spending millions of taxpayer dollars arresting marijuana users, the state of Nevada should instead generate millions of dollars by taxing and regulating marijuana, and earmark part of these revenues to prevent and treat the abuse of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs," the initiative says.
The state would license wholesalers and retailers to sell the drug. Each would pay $1,000 for an initial license and $1,000 annually for the permit.
It also would increase penalties for driving under the influence and restrict where pot could be sold.
Neal Levine, campaign manager for the sponsoring committee, said if approved by voters, Nevada would be the first to tax and regulate marijuana statewide.
"What we're proposing is really sort of a mainstream, common sense policy," Levine said, adding that the endorsement supports the group's argument that prosecuting pot smokers doesn't work and is a waste of police resources.
McGinness said he opposes the idea, and thinks most rural voters will too. He said he believes marijuana is an entry drug that leads some people to other drugs with harsher consequences, like cocaine and methamphetamine.
"I know there are people out there who scoff at the idea that one leads to another," McGinness said.
The editorial dismissed the argument.
"The same could be said of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, sex or any other activity that stimulates the brain's pleasure zones," it said. "Some of the above mentioned activities are legal and regulated in Nevada. In fact, the state's most powerful industry caters to those same visceral pleasures."By Sandra Chereb