Marijuana Policy Project wants expense report from drug czar

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The group pushing a ballot question to legalize small amounts of marijuana has asked the Nevada Supreme Court to force the federal drug czar reveal his expenses in campaigning against the issue.

Marijuana Policy Project members claim John Walters, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, campaigned against the initiative two years ago and is doing so again. According to the petition, because Walters is intervening in a state election issue, he should be required to follow Nevada election laws which require those supporting or opposing ballot questions to file campaign expense reports.

The group made the same argument when Walters traveled to Las Vegas in October 2002 specifically to urge voters to reject legalizing any amount of marijuana. The attorney general's office issued an opinion at that time agreeing Walters "substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a state of Nevada issue."

"The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election," according to that opinion.

But the opinion nonetheless agreed with Justice Department lawyers representing Walters who said he was immune from having to comply with Nevada election reporting laws.

The new petition asks the Nevada court to compel Secretary of State Dean Heller to enforce Nevada election reporting laws. It says Walters has already appeared in Las Vegas to oppose the new petition being circulated by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana which would again ask voters to back legalization of small amounts of marijuana in November 2004.

A spokeswoman for the group said they expect to collect more than the minimum 51,233 signatures to put the question on Nevada's November ballot before the June 15 deadline. The petition in 2002 sought to legalize up to 3 ounces of marijuana for adults and was defeated at the polls. The new petition would amend the state constitution to allow adults to possess and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana and has again drawn opposition from Walters and his office.

"Once again Mr. Walters is intervening in this purely state issue," according to the petition, which cited his appearance in Las Vegas March 11 where he campaigned against the initiative and criticized its supporters.

In the petition, marijuana proponents argue reporting the cost "is no greater burden than would be imposed on the agency if it had to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request raising the same issue." It argues the federal government undoubtedly already has the cost of Walters' trips and activities in its accounting records.

Contact Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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