Nevada pot legalization, With a legalization battle happening just over the Sierras in California, attitudes toward marijuana are changing in the West. An increasing number of people, especially among college-age adults, are in favor of decriminalizing the drug’s recreational use.
If recreational cannabis use is legalized in Nevada, the result could be a new source of revenue for the state and decreased spending by authorities to prosecute and incarcerate users. Law enforcement officials in Nevada arrested more than 7,000 people on marijuana charges in 2007, according to statistics from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. At an average cost to taxpayers of $11,500 per arrest, cutting that number could save hundreds of thousands, taking an edge off future state budget deficits that threaten funding for education and other services.
More people in the United States are in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana than ever, according to a Gallup poll conducted in October. While nationally that number, 44 percent, is still less than a majority, the West is a different story.
The same poll, when broken down by region, shows support for legalization in the western United States at 53 percent, a 13 percent jump over the last time the study was conducted in 2005.
In addition, a Pew Research study released earlier this month shows 73 percent of Americans in favor of the legalization of marijuana for medical use.
Due to shifting attitudes toward the drug and a continuing budget crisis, the size of which is unprecedented in Nevada’s history, the climate is right for another try, Dave Schwartz of Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Policy (NSMP), said.
The initiative, which Schwartz said is on pace to gather the 97,002 signatures needed to put it on the ballot, goes before the Legislature in 2011. If state lawmakers don’t pass the plan, it is automatically placed on the 2012 ballot.
The Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Policy is a group supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that lobbies for drug-law reform and is pushing ballot initiatives in California, Nevada and other states.
The measure being pushed in Nevada would allow individuals who are 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use and license retail stores to sell the drug.
The plan also sets penalties for unauthorized marijuana sale and restrictions on its use in public and around minors.
“We took a look at what will work for Nevada,” Schwartz said. “These are things we thought were reasonable.”
Many students at UNR said they agreed with Schwartz.
“I don’t smoke, but I still think it’s a good idea,” Kyle Adams, a 21-year-old marketing major, said.
Samantha Kingdon, a 20-year-old nursing major, said she thinks legalization would make marijuana safer, and was a good idea.
“I guess if people are going to do it anyway, it should just pass,” she said.
A similar measure in California, which the Marijuana Policy Project also supports, focuses mainly on the possibility of taxing the drug to produce about $1.4 billion in revenue for the state. While tax revenue is a possibility in Nevada, it isn’t a focus of the NSMP’s campaign, Schwartz said.
Even if the measure in California fails to pass, Nevada may still be a likely candidate for statewide decriminalization.
“It’s not the old drug people think of from reefer madness,” Schwartz said. “The attitude has changed dramatically.”
Marijuana decriminalization has come before Nevada voters before, and in 2001 they approved a medical marijuana system that now caters to more than 1,000 people.
While some people might be scared away by the idea of legalizing a drug forbidden for so long, they could be swayed by a good campaign by NSML, Adams said.
“I think people just see the word ‘drug’ or ‘marijuana’ and get scared into voting against it,” he said.
Although attitudes may be evolving, Eric Herzik, a UNR political science professor, said it was unlikely marijuana would be legalized in Nevada.
The Nevada Legislature, already burdened with a shrinking state budget, is unlikely to pick up the issue in 2011, Herzik said.
“Nevada residents have shown a willingness to at least consider the possibility,” Herzik said. “My guess is that if an initiative qualified it is still unlikely to pass.” Tolong Share ya ^^