Newsbrief: Polls Show Close Race in Nevada 3/26/04

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An initiative that would legalize the adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in Nevada is leading in one poll, but trailing in another. On March 11, Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) executive director Rob Kampia announced that the group had commissioned the first statewide poll of Nevada voters, which found that MPP's initiative is ahead 49% to 47%, with 4% undecided. But another poll released this week found the initiative losing by five percentage points. That poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research for the Las Vegas Journal-Review, found that 43% of respondents would vote for the initiative, 48% would vote against, and 9% were undecided.

The competing poll numbers suggest it could be a tight race in Nevada come November, and even the Review-Journal poll findings put MPP four percentage points ahead of where they were on election day 2002, when the initiative it sponsored that year got 39% of the vote. The Review-Journal poll shows a spread similar to that of July 2002, when 42% favored legalizing possession of up to three ounces of pot and 46% opposed it. But through the late summer and fall of 2002, as opponents of the initiative rallied against the measure, support dropped steadily until by late October the Review-Journal poll showed 36% in support and 60% opposed -- understating the measure's ultimate support level but closing tracking its opposition in the actual election outcome two weeks later.

This time, MPP and its Nevada affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (http://www.regulatemarijuana.org), are hoping a retooled, toned-down initiative will ultimately win favor with voters. Two years ago, opponents hammered hard at the quantity of pot to be legalized, the issue of driving while under the influence, and the possible negative impact of adult legalization on the youth.

As MPP executive director Rob Kampia told the Chronicle last month (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/326/nevadaII.shtml), "We've changed the language on the permissibility amount, lowering it from three ounces to one ounce. We've hard-wired in penalties for vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, we've hard-wired in penalties for selling marijuana to minors, we've noted that tax revenues will be earmarked for drug and alcohol treatment."

MPP and CRCM are already running TV ads hammering away at the theme that marijuana prohibition encourages teen marijuana use in an effort to sway public opinion, but drug czar John Walters has already showed up in Las Vegas to badmouth the initiative -- he was officially in town to talk about prescription drug abuse -- and the law enforcement establishment is already mobilizing against the measure. Clark County District Attorney David Roger told the Review-Journal parts of the measure were "ridiculous" and the measure would lead to "more people smoking dope," while Washoe County DA Richard Gammick was ready with dire "it's not your father's pot" and "gateway drug" warnings.

We'll see how Nevada II fares in November...

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