Fred LaSor: Some questions are needing answers
October 5, 2017
A question no one wants to answer is why Nevada is in a hurry to legalize "recreational" marijuana. When voters (mostly in Clark County) passed the recreational cannabis bill last November, it came with a one-year implementation date. The executive director of the Nevada Tax Commission, an unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat, changed that to six months without a hearing, vote, or commission decision. That lack of due process is troubling.
Somehow the Nevada Tax Commission can change the timing voters approved regarding marijuana legalization and there's no outcry. Voters approved a bill bringing about legalization after a year. The Commission decided "let's make it six months." Umm, no.
Who is happy with early implementation? Those anticipating greater increased revenue, of course, and certainly politicians seeking campaign contributions from the drug cartel.
Medical marijuana dealers who were licensed prior to recreational pot said they could not stay afloat on medicinal sales only, so asked for (and received) exclusive right to recreational sales. In other words, purveyors of medical marijuana made a poor business decision then got bailed out with an expanded client base. What's more, when they were bailed out they (along with existing cultivators and manufacturers) received monopoly rights to sell recreational marijuana for 18 months. I wonder why we don't bail out failing restaurants, of which there are far more.
At least one state senator has pushed the speedup. He dreams of Nevada becoming the "Amsterdam of the west." He's not talking windmills, chocolate, and wooden shoes. He's thinking rather of people visiting for a few days, plunking down a bunch of money, and spending the weekend in a dope-infused fog. When they head home, the theory is, we have more tax money "for our schools."
But now dope pushers (for that is what they are) have run afoul of a wrinkle in state and federal law. About the only place a purchaser can consume his weed is in a private residence, which makes it impossible for someone to drive to Nevada from Utah or Idaho, for example, buy legal cannabis, and actually consume it. How's that for a Catch 22? You can buy it, but you can't smoke it. Not in a casino, not in a hotel room, not even on the sidewalk. Perhaps you can in a car, but is that really what we want our laws to encourage? Getting high on the highway? No thanks.
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So guess what? Legislators and tax commissioners who brought us recreational reefers have another pipe dream: drug parlors, where folks can get high. Like the opium dens that existed in San Francisco up until 75 years ago, and that gave us the expression "pipe dream," we'll have "parlors" where dopers can smoke a joint and drift off into oblivion. We can rename the silver state "the smoke state." "Battle born" now becomes "Sierra stoned." Will this be Sandoval's legacy? He should hope not.
Another unanswered question is why the public cannot know who owns the pot businesses that have opened. When they were "medical" establishments, records were shielded in deference to medical privacy laws. Now that cannabis is being sold for recreational purposes there is no longer any reason to hide ownership records. Ownership of casinos is a matter of public record; the same should apply to cannabis stores.
The clear message is that legalization of marijuana cannot be rushed. It is not like Woodstock, where one puts flowers in their hair and lights up a joint. It takes careful planning instead of the headlong rush we're undertaking. While it is too late to put this genie back in the bottle, let's slow down any further pipe dreams.
A tip of the hat to Jim Hartman for advice on this column.