Nevada Marijuana Amendment Draws Flack, Praise 7/19/02

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

more...

recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!!!

If the Nevada effort to eliminate penalties for possession of up to three ounces of marijuana was ever a stealth campaign, those days are over. In the ten days since state election officials certified the measure for the November ballot, the foes of drug reform, both locally and nationally, have begun to stir. Since the measure was certified, DEA head Asa Hutchinson, Nevada prosecutors and a Carson City newspaper have publicly denounced the measure, which would move the state from having the nation's toughest marijuana laws last year to the nation's most lenient in 2004. (Under Nevada law, constitutional amendments must pass voter muster twice -- in this case, this November and again in November 2004.)

Hutchinson, visiting the state as part of his seemingly unending "Meth Tour 2002," the months-long, 30-state road-show designed to hype the amphetamine threat, couldn't resist the opportunity to insert himself into Nevada politics. Attempting to play to concerns about tourism, the state's largest industry, he told a cheering audience at the Elks Convention in Reno on July 11 that passage of the initiative would bring the wrong element to the state. "That would leave Nevada with one of the most liberal policies on drugs," said Hutchinson. "What kind of tourism will Nevada attract?" he asked. (An interesting question, given that Nevada is known for gambling on a grand scale and legal prostitution. One wouldn't want any marijuana smokers putting a buzzkill on all that good clean tourist fun.)

Hutchinson also hinted rather coyly at potential federal involvement in efforts to defeat the amendment. He told reporters that while the DEA would not campaign against the amendment, the agency would help by "providing information" to anti-amendment forces if asked. Some people mistakenly believe marijuana is harmless, Hutchinson said.

The next day, the Nevada District Attorney's Association joined the naysayers. At a meeting in Carson City, the prosecutors voted to oppose the constitutional amendment. Churchill County DA Arthur Mallory, president of the association, told the Las Vegas Sun prosecutors believe marijuana is a "gateway drug" that would lead youthful experimenters on to the hard stuff.

The prosecutors also resorted to an argument increasingly used against marijuana law reform measures: Such measures would conflict with federal law. "We would be tilting at windmills," said Mallory.

The local newspaper must have been listening. In an editorial the same day, the Nevada Appeal, based in Carson City, came out against the measure. Complaining that they were dizzied by "the speed with which pro-marijuana forces are trying to liberalize Nevada's drug laws," the editors called the initiative "a bad idea." Noting that they had opposed medical marijuana "because we feared it was the first step toward legalization" and they had opposed reducing simple possession from a felony to a misdemeanor because some users "can be a threat to the people around them," the editors now oppose this latest reform. "In addition to our basic belief that marijuana should remain a controlled substance, the proposal would allow for the possession of up to three ounces -- a substantial amount. Add to that the fact that marijuana possession remains a federal offense, and there are plenty of reasons for voters to turn down legalization of marijuana."

Not all the noise has been on the con-side, however. On July 7, the state's largest paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, endorsed the initiative. And on Saturday, July 13, a Nevada state legislator, Chris Giunchigliani, who sponsored a successful bill last year to make simple possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony, argued in favor of the initiative in a debate on Fox News. The Review-Journal said the "measure offers Nevadans an opportunity to bring sanity to the state's overly burdensome drug enforcement policy. Appropriate penalties would remain for marijuana possession by minors, public use of the substance, and drivers who operate motor vehicles while impaired. But the measure would end the needless harassment of individuals who peacefully and privately use marijuana -- including seriously ill patients who should have some legal protection, not to mention peace of mind, because they're covered by the medical marijuana program."

While the opposition may have been caught napping during the initiative's signature-gathering campaign, now that the measure is on the ballot the forces of reaction are mobilizing. Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, the lead group behind the amendment, and their backers at the Marijuana Policy Project will have their work cut out for them in the next few months.

Read the Las Vegas Review-Journal endorsement editorial at: http://www.lvrj.com/lvrj_home/2002/Jul-07-Sun-2002/opinion/19106421.html

Visit Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement at: http://www.nrle.org

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #246, 7/19/02 Editorial: Times Change | Dutch Government Plans to Restrict Coffeeshops, End Ecstasy Harm Reduction | Nevada Marijuana Amendment Draws Flack, Praise | Canadian Justice Minister Floats Decrim Trial Balloon, Takes Flack from All Sides | Barcelona Conference Hears Link Between AIDS and Injection Drug Use -- Clinton Regrets Not Lifting Ban, Bush to Keep It | New York Marijuana Reform Party in Petition Drive to Win Ballot Status | "We're Your Good Neighbors. We Smoke Pot" -- Jeff and Tracy One Year Later | Alert: DEA Moves to Schedule 2C-T-7 | Newsbrief: Cow Dung Sniffers Have Malaysian Authorities Confounded | Newsbrief: Baltimore Homicides Continue, More Juveniles Dying Than Before | Newsbrief: Noelle Bush Imprisoned | Media Scan: Time Magazine on The Philippines, Drug Testing Protest Video Highlights | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]