On November 5, Nevada voters will vote on legalizing the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana. Question 9, as the initiative is known, also calls for the state government to create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana cultivation, sales and distribution. Because the measure seeks to amend the state constitution, under Nevada law it must be approved by voters twice. If Question 9 passes next month, it would then appear on the 2004 ballot for second approval.
The Nevada initiative, sponsored by Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement (http://www.nrle.org) and its parent group, the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org), has already succeeding in placing the issue squarely on the national political agenda. It has generated press coverage from around the country and drawn the ire of national drug warriors. Drug czar John Walters has twice traveled to the state to deliver his prohibitionist message that regulating marijuana is "a lie, "a con" and "ludicrous."
The repeated intervention of national drug war bureaucrats may be backfiring. The state's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, hardly a hotbed of pro-pot sentiment, scorched Walters in a Monday editorial that ran under the headline, "Federal Drug Czar Meddles in an Issue Nevadans Must Decide." Noting that Walters consistently hammered at campaign organizers as "out of state" carpetbaggers spending millions of dollars on "inaccurate campaigns," the editorial tartly asked: "As opposed to Mr. Walters jetting to Nevada from the Beltway to slam the measure?" The newspaper accused Walters of "duplicity" for saying one hand that his office would not spend money or resources to defeat the initiative, then twice visiting the state to campaign against it. The editorial also accused Walters of lying about marijuana addiction before concluding that: "Nevadans are capable of acting like grown-ups and deciding whether we wish to maintain the current, Draconian set of penalties against the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. We need no help from our 'betters' in Washington, DC."
But Walters isn't the only clown in this circus. The campaign against Question 9, which has been marked by outrageous rhetoric, probably reached its nadir last week, when Clark County Assistant District Attorney Gary Booker, leader of the prohibitionist campaign, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Joe Neal, claimed that "drug cartels" were funding the initiative. When challenged, they cited Lyndon LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review, a crankish publication that also claims the Queen of England is behind the international drug trade. Many howls of derision were heard, and Booker has since been replaced as lead spokesman for the anti crowd.
As the final weeks approach, both sides are engaged in paid advertising campaigns seeking to sway voters. This race is too close to call. Polls in recent months have alternated between showing a Question 9 victory and a defeat. According to a poll conducted last week for the Marijuana Policy Project, the race is in a dead heat, with 46% in favor, 46% opposed and 8% undecided.
Question 9 on the ballot:
Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to allow the use and possession of three ounces or less of marijuana by persons aged 21 years or older, to require the Legislature to provide or maintain penalties for using, distributing, selling or possessing marijuana under certain circumstances, and to provide a system of regulation for the cultivation, taxation, sale and distribution of marijuana?Visit http://sos.state.nv.us/nvelection/2002_bq/bq9.htm for complete initiative language and related items.