Jim Hartman: What’s the matter with Nevada?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has Question 4 on its November ballot which mirrors Nevada’s Question 2 — the commercialization of legalized marijuana in the two states. Both initiatives were drafted and are promoted by the Marijuana Policy Project (Washington, D.C.) and are each locally sponsored by a “Committee to Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol.”

Surprisingly, the “push back” to “legalization” for the commercial marijuana industry has been much more emphatic in “liberal” Massachusetts than in Nevada. In May, Republican Governor Charlie Baker made common cause with three leading Democrats — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Maura Healey. Together, they formed an opposition organization — “The Committee for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts.”

Currently, 120 bipartisan state legislators( 84 Ds and 36 Rs) have signed up in opposition to Question 4 in the Bay State — while only 10 legislators have endorsed it. Moreover, opposition to Question 4 has been registered from important and diverse groups throughout the state: the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Conference of Boston’s Teaching Hospitals, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Construction Industries of Massachusetts, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Mental Illness, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association and all 21 District Attorneys.

As a result, Massachusetts public opinion on Question 4 has shifted dramatically. An initial poll in the state had “legalization” leading with 57 percent support. Two recent Massachusetts polls show it now losing ­— by 10 percent most currently.

In contrast, support for Question 2 in Nevada has been limited to a small number of state legislators, marijuana champion Senator Tick Segerblom and nine others. But opposition to Question 2 has been muted. Governor Brian Sandoval has voiced opposition and Senator Harry Reid said he was “very, very dubious and concerned” about recreational legalization. While formal opposition is growing, there are still many Nevada officeholders and organizations yet to take a position.

Voters need to read the 13-page initiative on the ballot as Question 2. It’s a “business plan” written by the marijuana industry to exclusively benefit itself. Its provisions include a self-serving industry overreach providing no local government “opt-outs” for any of Nevada’s 17 counties, unlike provisions found in Colorado’s legalization law and in Nevada’s medical marijuana law. Section 14 of the initiative actually criminalizes personal cultivation within 25 miles of a retail marijuana establishment. It’s “phony legalization” drafted by the commercial marijuana industry.

“Liberal” Massachusetts knows what’s at issue and the state has come together united in opposition to the commercial marijuana legalization initiative. If Massachusetts can do it, what’s the matter with more “conservative” Nevada?

Jim Hartman is a Genoa, NV attorney and president of Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy.


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