Federal drug czar coming to Nevada

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The federal director of National Drug Control Policy will visit Reno this week to push for voter rejection of a Nevada ballot question legalizing marijuana.

John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, has a series of meetings scheduled with state and local law enforcement, prevention and treatment advocates and public officials Thursday and Friday.

According to his aides, he will "discuss the dangers of marijuana use and the threats posed by initiatives seeking to legalize or decriminalize marijuana."

Walters already has visited Southern Nevada this year.

Aides said Walters will discuss the importance of drug treatment and the myth that marijuana is harmless. Walters has said marijuana poses a serious threat to society.

Federal drug enforcement officials are trying along with some Nevada prosecutors to drum up voter opposition to ballot Question 9. That question asks voters to legalize the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana by individuals 21 and older. It comes two years after voters approved legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in Nevada.

But prosecutors led by Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick and Clark County Deputy District Attorney Gary Booker say marijuana has been developed into a much more potent drug than it was 20 or more years ago and is now responsible not only for addiction by psychotic behavior in heavy users. They argue it would greatly increase the willingness of juveniles to use the drug and increase the societal problems resulting from heavy use by adults.

Booker and drug treatment advocates testified before the state Health Board on Friday that marijuana is the key gateway drug that gets juveniles started on the road to heroin, cocaine and other major drug addictions.

Question 9 would legalize the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana by an adult in Nevada. Supporters of the question, who raised more than 70,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, say most Nevadans and adult U.S. residents do not regard marijuana as any more dangerous than alcohol. They say it's time police stopped wasting their time chasing small time pot users and concentrate on major dealers of dangerous drugs like methamphetamine.


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