The 2004 Nevada initiative to "regulate and control" marijuana is finally and irrevocably dead after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals declined Tuesday to revisit the decision of a three-judge panel depriving organizers of the signatures necessary to make the ballot. But the initiative's sponsors, the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) and its local affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (http://www.regulatemarijuana.org) announced the next day that they have already begun gathering signatures on an updated initiative aimed at the November 2006 ballot.
"While we disagree with the court's decision disenfranchising thousands of newly-registered voters who signed our petitions in good faith, we intend to focus on the future rather than the past," said campaign manager Larry Sandell in a press release. "Nevada voters were deprived of the chance to vote for common-sense marijuana regulation in 2004, but they will have that opportunity in 2006."
The new initiative differs from this year's effort and the failed effort in 2002, when voters rejected marijuana regulation by a margin of 61% to 39%, in that it takes the form of a statute rather than a constitutional amendment. If supporters gather enough signatures, the Nevada legislature must consider the measure during the 2005 session, and if the legislature fails to enact it, the measure goes before voters in the 2006 elections.
The updated initiative otherwise hews closely to this year's model, calling for removal of marijuana from the criminal justice system. Adults would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which would be provided through licensed, regulated merchants. The initiative also includes stiff penalties for sales to minors and driving under the influence.
"The simple fact is that regulation makes sense because it gives society control over marijuana, while our current policy of prohibition keeps marijuana completely uncontrolled," Sandell said. "This year the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released figures showing that more Nevada teens currently smoke marijuana than cigarettes. It's hard to imagine clearer proof that current policies have failed."