Nevada Ballot Initiative Could Legalize Marijuana, Establish Regulated Sales System to Derive Taxes
Nevadans in November will be able to vote on a ballot initiative that would, if approved this year and in 2004, eliminate all penalties for possession of up to three ounces of marijuana and would provide state regulation for the drug, similar to state regulations of alcohol and tobacco, the New York Times reports. Some people smoke marijuana to relieve the pain associated with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. Nevada voters in 2000 approved a measure that allows marijuana use for medical purposes and reduced penalties for possession of up to one ounce of the drug. However, according to Nevada law, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana remains a felony. If voters approve the initiative, Nevadans could legally possess up to three ounces of marijuana for any reason and the state would oversee growth, distribution and sales of cannabis to generate a tax revenue. "This is a landmark initiative that seeks more than what any state has accomplished so far," R. Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said.
Attracting Federal Attention
The initiative would be "too much for the federal government to ignore," Stroup said, noting that such a measure, if passed, would violate federal law. "It is highly unlikely the federal government would allow a state to create a legal market for the sale of drugs in which the state licenses or sets up stores to sell it," Stroup said, adding, "But what it would do is place enormous pressure on Congress to take a rational look at the nation's drug laws." The measure has an "unusually high level of support" in the state, as none of Nevada's "leading political figures" have spoken out against the measure, according to the Times. Most of the criticism comes from federal Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Asa Hutchinson and John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Nine states, including Nevada, have passed ballot initiatives allowing patients with a doctor's prescription to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. According to the Times, U.S. House lawmakers last week introduced a bipartisan bill that would allow states to approve such medical marijuana legislation, eliminating any conflict with federal law (Janofsky, New York Times, 8/2).