Pat Hickey: Green is the new color of greed in Nevada
“When everyone is looking for gold, it’s good to be in the pick and shovel business.” — Mark Twain.
The entrepreneur-turned-humorist ought to know. Even though Samuel Clemens failed miserably at both mining and logging ventures in Nevada, he gave getting rich his best shot. Twain well understood the appetite Americans have for money — and how far those who want a slice of the supply chain pie are willing to go in order to get it.
It’s the same ambitious impulse a recent Seattle Business article identified when it said, “Marijuana entrepreneurs are lining up to cash in.” The green a new generation of suit-and-tie pot professionals are lining up to gather is not a pungent-smelling weed rolled into a joint — it’s the color of all the money these “potprenuers” hope to gain from the marijuana dispensary “joints” in which their private equity funds are now invested.
As Seattle Business reported, Microsoft manager turned ganja convert Jamen Shively recently partnered with former Mexican President Vincente Fox, boasting their new premium brand of designer party pot will “mint more millions than Microsoft.”
Forgive me if I think it would be better for Silicon Valley software giants to invest their fortunes in advanced technology businesses in the Silver State, as Rob Roy, Elon Musk, and Faraday Futures have done. Establishing pot shops shouldn’t be “high” on anybody’s list when it comes to creating the “New Nevada.” Conservatives should be concerned with what is best for the health and well being of Nevada families. Progressives should be concerned about the same and also — as they so frequently shout at Wall Street — about “socially responsible investing.”
Tell us, President Fox, how growing and selling marijuana has been good for Mexico’s economy and social infrastructure?
And to my good friend in the state Senate Tick Segerblom, who supports the Nevada ballot initiative to legalize recreational pot in Nevada: tell me how making the Las Vegas Strip into the “Amsterdam of the West” is going to help Nevada’s majority-minority student populations overcome their serious achievement gaps and excel academically so they can have a better future?
The legalization of recreational marijuana in both Colorado and Washington has resulted in significant increases in the percentage of the population ages 12 and up who used marijuana in the past year (18.9 percent in Colorado and 17.5 percent in Washington).
According to 2013 Nevada Kids Count data, 19 percent of Nevada kids and young people ages 12 to 25 — that’s nearly one in five — already smoke marijuana one or more times a month, with African-American and Hispanic populations accounting for significantly higher percentages among Nevada’s youth.
Not long ago, President Obama correctly said, “Students who smoke marijuana have twice the odds of being a high school dropout. And have trouble finding jobs, get involved in gangs and crime, and end up on welfare.”
Research shows the president is right. Teenage marijuana users think more slowly, process less information, and thus do more poorly on high school tests and college entrance exams. College-age students who regularly smoke pot perform poorly in the classroom and beyond.
Studies by psychiatrist Dr. Ed Gogek in his book Marijuana Debunked show losing IQ points from habitual marijuana use means someone born with the ability to do well in community college is instead likely to be struggling. “Someone who should have been promoted at work is passed over, or someone who was once capable of doctoral work instead has an average white collar job,” he writes.
A research project by the University of Maryland School of Public Health followed university freshmen for a period of 10 years. It found substance abuse, “especially marijuana use, was linked to college students skipping more classes, spending less time studying, earning lower grades, dropping out (more frequently) and being more likely to be unemployed after college.”
Nevada’s leaders are trying to diversify and strengthen its economy and workforce by raising the bar on both academic services and student performance. The 2015 Legislature made a substantial investment in numerous aspects of K-12 education along with some aggressive reforms.
Legalizing a mind-altering substance that results in greater access to illegal underage use is not going to help in those efforts. Regular marijuana use is undeniably detrimental to the fragile developing brain of adolescents and young adults — and to their chances for the most successful, productive life possible.
Legalizing recreational marijuana will be bad for Nevada kids, bad for Nevada families, and bad for Nevada employers. If voters pass the measure, it will be an especially sad day for Nevada parents and grandparents. For too long we have watched too many of the children and grandchildren of this state falter and fail. Legalizing pot will make the problem even worse.
Pat Hickey is the Director of Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy, the Nevada Coordinator for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and is currently on the Nevada Board of Education.