Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 14:49:21 -0700
From: ("LVNORML")
Subject: Ramifications of marijuana initiative promise high adventure

Wednesday, August 28, 2002 Copyright =A9 Las Vegas Review-Journal

COLUMN: John L. Smith Ramifications of marijuana initiative promise high adventure

At last, a downtown redevelopment project guaranteed to go up in smoke.

Finally, a major cash crop for Winnemucca.

And did I mention a new location for the state capital?

It's a long way from becoming part of the state's constitution, but would decriminalizing adult use of marijuana in Nevada actually generate millions in tax revenues and provide a boost to our roadkill-flat economy?

Proponents of Question 9 on the November ballot sure think so. Of course, they're not ready to float any firm figures yet. Those will be provided in the Nevadans For Responsible Law Enforcement's official study, which is due out in late September. But, obviously, the pro-pot coalition isn't shy about discussing the potential fiscal euphoria associated with marijuana decriminalization.

"We've argued for a long time that it makes more sense to tax and regulate marijuana than to arrest up to 750,000 a year (nationwide) for possession of marijuana," NRLE campaign manager Billy Rogers says. "We're committed to ensuring that the harm associated with marijuana is reduced. We believe the greatest harm associated with marijuana is the threat of jail."

But what about the tax revenue benefits? It's been a successful argument for legalized gambling since 1931.

One recent thumbnail projection estimated 150,000 regular marijuana users in Nevada with potential tax revenues generated at $200 million a year. Critics say that $200 million figure is as high as Question 9's advocates. But whatever the number, the bottom line translates into a sizable contribution to our state's flagging coffers.

The plan's opponents also contend that decriminalizing marijuana not only will be bad for the state's already dog-eared image, but will endanger the health and safety of the state's young people and residents of poor neighborhoods.

Rogers does his best to counter such arguments. Interestingly, Question 9 proponents say their surveys indicate a majority of voters under 60 endorsing the prospect of decriminalized adult use. That sentiment appears to cross party, political and social lines.

"If voters understand exactly what's in this initiative, we're going to win this election," Rogers says.

Those who dream of decriminalizing marijuana see a far more positive potential for pot, including the eventual acceptance of hemp cafes and the possibility of the state growing and selling the stuff.

If placed downtown on Fremont Street, such cafes would be a sure-fire draw for tourists and locals. Talk about giving people a reason to return to downtown. It might be the first redevelopment project to bring a smile to the faces of thousands of visitors.

Then there's the possibility of the state of Nevada getting into the pot growing business. Given the state government's traditional inefficiencies and bureaucratic shortcomings, the price of a single pack might run into the thousands.

Obviously, there are a lot of questions left unanswered about Question 9. After substantial confusion and no small amount of political maneuvering, law enforcement groups have criticized it even though they acknowledge that busts of small-time pot users waste thousands of personnel hours each year and result in relatively few convictions.

Nor is the proliferation of pot smoke imminent. If approved in November, Question 9 must come back before the voters in 2004 before moving on to the Legislature and eventually into the constitution.

That allows for time to market decriminalization nd to answer a few questions:

For starters, someone surely will want to change the state motto from "Battle Born" to "Battle Born, But Generally Mellow ... and Given to Late-Night Cravings."

Will neophyte tourists rush to central Nevada's Big Smoky Valley?

Will the ghost town of Potts find a sudden revival?

Will small-town Nevada get into the act by producing brands with catchy names such as "Acapulco Goldfield" and "Beowawe Wowie?"

Of course, there's one Nevada town that wouldn't require a name change. Undoubtedly, it would be a favorite for the site of the new state capital.

Weed Heights.

John L. Smith's column appears Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. E-mail him at or call 383-0295.

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