Petition to legalize marijuana filed |

Petition to legalize marijuana filed

The group Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws has formally filed a petition that would legalize, regulate and tax the cultivation and use of marijuana by adults in Nevada.

The petition filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office would put the proposed statute before the 2011 Nevada Legislature. The Nevada Constitution gives lawmakers faced with a statutory initiative 40 days to act. If they fail to approve the statute, it is automatically put on the following General Election ballot – in this case November 2012. To do so, the group needs to get 97,002 signatures of Nevada voters by Nov. 9.

Campaign Manager Dave Schwartz said the issue is being brought back to voters this year because people are looking at restrictive marijuana laws differently than 2006 when they failed to get a majority from the electorate.

“The political climate has changed,” he said. “We’re seeing that nationwide.”

He said the average person is beginning to understand that marijuana is safer than alcohol. In addition, he said law enforcement is wasting huge amounts of money trying to track down and prosecute small marijuana users and sellers.

Schwartz also said it would help reduce the revenue and influence now going to Mexican drug cartels who he said get 70 percent of their money from marijuana sales.

The proposed statute would create a system allowing the cities and counties to license up to 120 retail sales outlets for marijuana statewide. It would also allow the state to license and regulate up to 50 marijuana cultivators.

In addition to hefty licensing fees ranging from $2,500 for a retail license and $5,000 for a grower’s license, he said the wholesalers would pay a $50 per ounce excise tax to the state and retailers would charge sales taxes on the pot they sell.

Key features of the proposal, he said, include a system of packaging allowing law enforcement to track any bad products back to the grower.

Anyone 21 or over would be legally allowed to buy and use marijuana from one of the licensed retail outlets along with paraphernalia. Stores would be prohibited from keeping  records that could be used to identify customers and local governments would be barred from enacting laws to block the legal stores.

Stores and cultivators would be kept at least 500 feet from schools, child care establishments and religious centers. Gas stations, convenience stores, night clubs, casinos and dance halls would be prohibited from becoming pot sellers as would bars and liquor stores.

In addition, no advertising would be allowed.

Adults would be allowed legally to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

Schwartz said the statute would make it harder for minors to buy pot since store owners would be held accountable for checking the age of customers and steer profits away from gangs while generating tax revenue for the state.

“Most importantly, a legal marijuana market would provide adults with a safer recreational alternative to alcohol,” he said.

The petition drive is being funded by the Marijuana Policy Project which Schwartz said has some 30,000 donors nationwide.