Marijuana legalization isn't the answer

Good luck to the new initiative to legalize marijuana in Nevada. And by that we mean: You'll need it.

In 2002, Nevada voters turned down a similar proposal by a clear 60 percent to 40 percent vote. It didn't win support in any county.

This time around, the Marijuana Policy Project has addressed one of the most glaring flaws of the 2002 initiative, which would have legalized possession by adults of up to 3 ounces of pot. The one filed this week slashes the amount to 1 ounce, putting it much closer to the "personal use" category.

Backers of the initiative need 51,244 signatures by the middle of June, and we expect they'll make the goal. So expect to see the question on the November ballot.

Nevada would seem to be fertile ground for marijuana legalization proponents. Its reputation for turning social convention on its head - gambling, prostitution, divorce - might encourage them to think marijuana possession would find a similar level of tolerance.

Less than three years ago, however, Nevada had the toughest marijuana law in the nation. Prosecutors and judges weren't routinely handing out felony convictions, so the law was brought more into line with the reality of penalties for similar crimes and the practical matter of a prison system jammed with drug offenders.

Still, Nevadans aren't tolerant of drug abuse. It remains a serious problem - one of the biggest factors behind many other crimes - in almost every community.

Marijuana-legalization advocates argue their proposal is the best way to solve that problem, by regulating it, taxing it and earmarking revenues for drug- and alcohol-treatment programs. They'll also argue marijuana isn't necessarily a gateway to the most destructive drugs.

But Nevadans aren't willing to make that leap in logic when it comes to marijuana, even if it's much the same logic as applies to gambling and prostitution. They simply won't go from felony to legalization.

So, assuming it is on the ballot, Nevadans can send a message by defeating it by a larger margin than 2002: Legalization is not the answer.


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