Nevada marijuana laws could go from the harshest in the nation to the most lenient if voters there approve a measure that will first appear on the ballot this November. (Under Nevada law, constitutional amendments must be twice approved by voters in elections two years apart.) Until this year, even simple possession of small amounts of marijuana was a felony, but under the measure that will be on the ballot this fall, possession of up to three ounces will be non-criminal.
The measure also provides for marijuana to be taxed like cigarettes and sold in state-licensed shops and sets up a low-cost distribution system for medical marijuana. Driving under the influence of marijuana and smoking in public places would remain illegal.
Petition organizers had been sweating ever since they turned in their signatures two weeks ago with a signature count below what is considered a reasonable safety margin for invalidated signatures. But Nevada election officials announced on Wednesday that organizers had squeaked by with 75,000 valid signatures.
"The success of our petition drive provides solid evidence that most Nevadans think it's a waste of their tax dollars to arrest people for small amounts of marijuana," Billy Rogers of Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement told the Associated Press.
Nevada long had the nation's harshest marijuana laws, but last year the state legislature made possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor. And Nevada voters voted twice, in 1998 and 2000, to approve the use of medical marijuana. It appears that Nevada is well on the way from rearguard to vanguard on pot policy.
And one of the state's leading newspapers, the Las Vegas Review Journal, has just come on board. In a Sunday editorial, the Review-Journal wrote: "The measure would end the harassment of individuals who peacefully and privately use marijuana -- including seriously ill patients who should have some legal protection, not to mention some peace of mind, because they're covered by the medical marijuana program. As a matter of compassion and common sense, the initiative is a good first step."