Why Legal Pot Is Coming to Nevada

Apr 14, 2013

It was no great feat, but as I pre­dicted last Octo­ber, Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton have legal­ized pot, and Nevada is now in dan­ger of los­ing our right­ful place as the cap­i­tal of for­bid­den fun. On his tourism blog, Arthur From­mer wrote last year that we could “expect a tor­rent of new tourism to Seat­tle and Den­ver.” The media is all over it, with a recent story filled with enough dumb pot puns and jokes to merit an editor’s ter­mi­na­tion, includ­ing ref­er­ences to “smoke sig­nals,” grilled cheese sand­wiches and food trucks, and fears that the feds could “harsh the mel­low.” Med­ical mar­i­juana is already legal here, and Thurs­day a Nevada leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee approved the cre­ation of med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries. And last week, the Nevada Leg­is­la­ture took up a bill to legal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana.  It’s not going any­where, but I applaud the Assem­bly Judi­ciary Com­mit­tee for giv­ing it a hear­ing. Here’s why: There’s a better-than-even chance that recre­ational pot will be legal in Nevada after the 2016 elec­tion. Wait, what’s that? you ask. Let me explain. For the first time, the Pew Research Cen­ter, the highly respected non­par­ti­san polling out­fit, found that a major­ity of Amer­i­cans favor mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion. This wasn’t all that sur­pris­ing, how­ever, because a major­ity favored legal­iza­tion for the first time in a Gallup poll last year. More strik­ing than the raw num­bers is the trend, which points to ris­ing sup­port for legal­iza­tion. In fact, as an insight­ful recent piece in Talk­ing Points Memo pointed out, the trend seems to par­al­lel sup­port for gay mar­riage. The move­ment on gay mar­riage, recall, has been caused by a mas­sive demo­graphic shift whereby younger vot­ers over­whelm­ingly favor mar­riage equal­ity.  Same with mar­i­juana.  Stay calm: Before you freak out, fear­ing the young are sit­ting around get­ting high all day, keep in mind that 6.9 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion report using mar­i­juana reg­u­larly, accord­ing to the most recent data.  Yes, that’s up from 5.8 per­cent in 2007, but way down from a high of 13.2 per­cent in 1979. The real dri­ver of the surge in pop­u­lar­ity for both gay mar­riage and legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana is a rapid increase in what I’d call the “Who Cares?” Cau­cus.  These younger vot­ers – 1 in 5 of all vot­ers in Novem­ber were ages 18 to 29 – just don’t see the big deal with gay mar­riage or legal pot. Con­ser­v­a­tives have begun to throw in the towel on gay mar­riage, but on pot, some of them are actu­ally lead­ing the way, includ­ing National Review mag­a­zine, the organ of the estab­lish­ment right. So the trend is clear, and now, legal­iza­tion advo­cates are look­ing for their next round of tar­get states.  ( Just how the feds will react to this remains to be seen; mar­i­juana is still ille­gal in the eyes of Wash­ing­ton.  ) Mor­gan Fox, a spokesman for the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project, told me that the big prize is Cal­i­for­nia, home to 38 mil­lion peo­ple and a cul­tural bell­wether for the rest of the nation. But Nevada is also at the top of the list, he said.  It’s not hard to fig­ure out why – we’re lib­er­tar­ian when it come to vices and have been able to inte­grate them into our cul­ture and econ­omy while main­tain­ing a sense of nor­malcy.  ( OK, not entirely, but you get the point.  ) The vot­ers rejected legal pot in the past, but that was seven years ago. The tar­get year is 2016, when lazy Democ­rats will get off the couch to elect the first woman pres­i­dent in Amer­i­can his­tory. Again, it’s hap­pen­ing. Legal­iz­ers should tem­per their joy.  Yes, this is the right pol­icy.  It could raise tax rev­enue and keep peo­ple out of the vor­tex that is the legal sys­tem. And surely Nevada’s cre­ative minds will fig­ure out how to cap­i­tal­ize on legal pot. But, as with end of the pro­hi­bi­tion of gam­bling and alco­hol, we need to put the right poli­cies in place to deal with the rel­e­vant issues, includ­ing increased mar­i­juana con­sump­tion, crime, under­age use, dri­ving while intox­i­cated, addic­tion, etc. These are not sim­ple issues, and while end­ing pro­hi­bi­tion will relieve cer­tain prob­lems, it will cre­ate oth­ers. If we don’t get the pol­icy right, we could wind up with pro­hi­bi­tion again. So, in a way, it’s good that we aren’t tak­ing action yet.  We can watch Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton state, which are both pretty ratio­nal, decently gov­erned states.  Then we can fol­low their lead, learn­ing from their suc­cesses and fail­ures. But we need to start fig­ur­ing this out, because it’s hap­pen­ing.  And 2016 will be here quick. Source: Las Vegas Sun (NV) Copy­right: 2013 Las Vegas Sun, Inc Con­tact: letters@​lasvegassun.​com Web­site: http://​www​.lasve​g​as​sun​.com/ Author: J. Patrick Coolican

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Why Legal Pot Is Com­ing to Nevada

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