It's time to enact a new state marijuana policy

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Nevada voters will once again take up a marijuana ballot initiative this fall, an issue muddied in rhetoric from both sides. The Regulation of Marijuana Initiative will appear on ballots in November. It would allow those 21 years old and older to legally possess, use, and transfer 1 ounce or less of marijuana. Penalties are also stiffened for those who drive under the influence of marijuana or sell it to minors. Use in public would be prohibited.

For a $1,000 annual license fee, state-licensed retailers would be able to sell marijuana. An excise tax of $45 per ounce would be collected by the state from wholesalers. Sales tax would be the same as other products. Half of the profits from related licensing fees and taxes would be used for substance-abuse treatment and education.

It's time to pass this multi-pronged approach to marijuana regulation and end years of speculation and fruitless debates.

What the initiative offers is a chance for voters to change a decades-long war on marijuana that has failed to curb its prevalence among Nevadans of all ages. Long compared to the country's failed prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s, current marijuana laws foster an illegal market. Nevadans who use marijuana legally for medicinal purposes are forced to grow their own, or obtain it through illicit sources.

Detractors of the initiative argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to use of more dangerous substances. But the same could be said of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, sex or any other activity that stimulates the brain's pleasure zones.

Some of the above-mentioned activities are legal and regulated in Nevada. In fact, the state's most powerful industry caters to those same visceral pleasures.

In a state where prostitution is legal in certain counties, bars are not required to close, and children can legally possess and use tobacco, objections to marijuana legalization on a moral basis seem hypocritical. Education and parental involvement affect a person's decisions more profoundly than state policy.

The initiative would give law enforcement and the judicial system more resources to aggressively pursue a far more destructive and insidious substance: methamphetamine. State-licensed marijuana retailers will reduce marijuana's value in the criminal market.

Those who view marijuana as a blight on society have yet to offer an effective solution of how to stop its spread through society or better fund law enforcement. Continuation of the ill-funded, half-hearted campaigns of the past is little more than veiled acceptance of its current widespread and illegal use.

If governments won't embrace efforts to successfully eliminate marijuana use and distribution, then regulate it, tax it, and transfer the money from drug dealers' pockets to worthwhile endeavors. Vote yes for the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative Nov. 7.

- From the Lahontan Valley News


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