Bush official speaks against Question 7
October 23, 2006
In a battle of the outside interests, an official from the federal government came to Dayton Monday and warned the audience that Washington, D.C., interests were behind the Question 7 ballot initiative that would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for State and Local Affairs, said the power behind the initiative was using Nevada as a “guinea pig” to see if it can legalize all drugs.
He spoke at a panel discussion at the Dayton Community Center on Question 7 sponsored by Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties, which opposes the measure.
“This initiative is funded 98 percent from Washington, D.C.,” he said, naming John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix; Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance Co.; and billionaire investor George Soros and the money men behind the ballot measure.
“They picked us because our Western rural heritage is we don’t like people like me coming in and telling you how to vote or what to do. They’re not in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware or Vermont. They think they can con you.”
But Patrick Killen, of Las Vegas, who is the Question 7 communications director, said it was not an out-of-state effort.
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“The reason this is on the ballot is because 86,000 Nevadans signed petitions to put it on the ballot,” he said.
Killen and about 10 others protested outside the Dayton Community Center where the panel discussion took place.
“The reason we’re here tonight is we believe Washington, D.C., needs to fix its own problems before telling Nevadans how to vote on a local issue,” Killen said. “We support Question 7 because we believe that Nevada marijuana laws have failed and it’s time for a sensible alternative. Question 7 would tax and regulate marijuana in Nevada, taking it away from violent gangs and drug dealers.”
But Burns and other panel members, Las Vegas police officer Todd Raybuck and John Shields, head of the New Frontier Treatment Center in Fallon, said passage would make drug use more acceptable and encourage use among children.
“When I was in high school and college, it was a ‘rite of passage’ drug,” Burns said. “Now it’s a rite of passage drug for 10- to 12-year-olds.”
Burns said that the drug use among youth is decreasing, and passage of Question 7 would make it seem like a normal thing to do.
“Why after we have worked so hard to lessen drug use in America would we want to make drugs more available?” he asked.
All of the panelists focused on the effect passage could have on children, and called it a “gateway drug” and insisted it was addictive.
“We do see a lot of folks addicted to marijuana,” Shields said. “I don’t think it would be in anyone’s best interest to legalize it.”
Raybuck, a 14-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said today’s marijuana is 50 percent to 70 percent more potent than it was in the 1960s and ’70s and has a chilling effect on youth.
“The more powerful pot rewires the adolescent brain similar to heroin or cocaine,” he said.
Raybuck told a story of two brothers. One brother, who never used drugs, stayed in school, had a career, family and a nice home. The other brother started smoking marijuana and kept smoking for 30 years. He went on to use methamphetamine and cocaine.
“He never held a job more than six months,” Raybuck said. “He has two sons he never sees.”
Raybuck said the brother is now doing a long stretch in prison for crimes he committed while on drugs.
“I can tell you about this brother, because he’s my brother,” Raybuck said.
Both Burns and Raybuck stated that even if Question 7 passes, federal law, which supersedes state law, still outlaws possession and use of marijuana.
But several of the 20-25 citizens who attended the panel discussion defended the initiative, though they did not give their names.
One woman stated that she lived in constant pain and would rather use marijuana than Vicodin or other prescribed drugs that leave her “like a zombie.”
Another man criticized the amount of financial resources used in fighting drugs.
“I don’t want kids smoking dope, drinking beer, or smoking cigarettes, but the war on drugs has been a failure,” he said alleging that $42 billion was spent on law enforcement to fight drug use.
But Capt. Allan Veil of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, who was standing in for Sheriff Sid Smith, said the department does not focus on busting pot users for marijuana smoking alone.
“We focus very little resources on marijuana use only,” he said. “We focus on marijuana use along with that of other drugs and the crimes committed by marijuana users.”
Veil said when he began as a deputy, possession of even a small amount of marijuana was a felony and served as a deterrent to use.
Now, he said, some parents keep it in the home.
“Kids are getting it from Mom and Dad, who are either their giving it to the kids or the kids are stealing from Mom and Dad’s stash,” he said.
“Drug use has declined because people have worked hard to reduce it,” Burns said. “We’re not going to accept this as inevitable and accommodate it.”