Ballot issues debated in Carson City
While supporters of the recreational marijuana initiative say it’s time to get rid of the prohibition on adults deciding they prefer pot over alcohol, opponents argued Tuesday Question 2 on the upcoming ballot has increased both use and abuse of the drug in Colorado and marijuana edibles, in particular, are dangerous for children.
Holly Welborn of the American Civil Liberties Union told a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters marijuana “is less addictive, less toxic and less likely to result in violent behavior” than alcohol. As for the danger of edibles, she said Colorado responded to that by passing legislation barring edibles from looking like gummy bears and other candy products that would be attractive to children.
She said Colorado has also benefited form the taxes generated by legal pot — to the tune of about $135 million so far.
Jim Hartman, spearheading the opposition to the ballot question, said this isn’t the pot people in his age group used in the ‘60s. ‘70s and ‘80s, that it’s “10 times as potent.”
As for the taxes it would generate, he described the projected $20 million for K-12 education in Nevada as “deminimus.”
But both of them agreed the federal prohibitions on federally registered banks handling marijuana profits is a problem because that puts about 70 percent of banking institutions off limits to marijuana businesses even if they are legal in a state.
Welborn argued the time is now to legalize recreational use of a drug many people are using and getting busted for even though it isn’t nearly as dangerous as other drugs or alcohol.
“The time is now,” she said.
But Hartman said the legal marijuana laws in Colorado, Oregon and Washington are too new to judge their impact yet.
“Why not wait a year or two and see how this all shakes out,” he said.
On Question 1, which would mandate background checks for nearly all gun sales or transfers, Jennifer Crowe, representing supporters, said gun buyers have had to get background checks since 1998 and the ballot question simply extends that requirement to most private sales and sales by non-licensed gun dealers at gun shows. She said that loophole has for years allowed criminals easy access to weapons on line and at gun shows. Since the federal law was passed, she said it has stopped more than two million felons and people with dangerous mental health conditions from buying guns they aren’t legally entitled to have.
Dan Reid of the National Rifle Association pointed out 16 of Nevada’s 17 sheriffs including Carson City’s Ken Furlong have come out against the question. He said some of the provisions in the law are confusing including when someone can loan a gun to a friend while hunting or even store weapons with someone without having to get a background check. He also said it could take up to a week to get a background check for a private sale.
But Crowe disagreed saying the seller and buyer could simply go to a licensed gun dealer and get that background check done in 15 minutes for a small fee.
She said it would put guns shows and private sales on the same footing as sales by gun dealers.
Reid said the initiative would affect all sales and potentially make otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals. He said it was being pushed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Crowe responded the anti funding was coming almost entirely from the NRA.
Lucas Foletta argued for voter support on Question 3 that would open up and deregulate the electric energy markets in Nevada. He said it “establishes the legal right for all individuals and entities in Nevada to buy from open and well regulated providers.”
At present, he said, all electric power comes from NvEnergy who has a monopoly in the state. He said any of those sellers would have to still follow renewable energy standards.
Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO opposed the measure saying it was designed as a gift to major resorts and other big electric users and is backed by Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, MGM Resorts and Switch, companies who want to leave the system.
He said their departure would leave NVEnergy’s remaining customers to pick up the costs that would increase because those big users were no longer helping pay the tab.
Foletta argued no one is trying to leave NVEnergy small customers to pay those “stranded costs.”
Finally, the meeting at the Brewery Arts Center took up Question 4, which would eliminate the sales tax on durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, scooters, oxygen equipment, ventilators and other such items needed by people with chronic medical conditions and disabilities. Doug Bennett, a registered respiratory therapist said those items are “something they have to have to live.” He said the state didn’t tax those purchases in the past but a Supreme Court decision changed that. He said this would lift the tax again.
A spokesman for the League said they were unable to find anyone to oppose that ballot question so they had one of their members read the ballot question language in opposition that points out any exemption to the sales tax simply forces lawmakers and the governor to make up the lost revenue elsewhere. It also argued the question is poorly and vaguely worded, not specifying what would be exempt but Bennett said the Department of Taxation has a clear idea of what equipment would fit in that category.
To watch a reply of the forum go to nevadaappeal.com.