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Today's Vote On Question 2 In Nevada Legalises Consumption, But Bans Clubs And Limits Licenses

Here's what you need to know about Question 2, the "Nevada Marijuana Legalization."

The Basics

The Nevada initiative isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. If passed, Question 2 would create a regulatory regime much like Colorado's. People 21 or older could legally buy and possess up to one ounce of cannabis or up to 1/8 of an ounce of concentrates such as hash.

Residents would be allowed to grow up to six plants as long as they were grown in a locked enclosure like a closet or greenhouse. Public consumption would remain illegal - as in every other legal state. And the initiative would not allow cannabis social clubs (marijuana bars), which activists are fighting for in states like Colorado.

Selling marijuana would be restricted to retailers licensed by the Nevada Department of Taxation, which would place a 15 percent tax on cultivators selling their product to retailers. Customers would have to pay taxes that are consistent with local and state rates. For the first 18 months of the program, licenses would be limited to wholesale liquor distributors.

One of the biggest differences between Nevada's initiative and other legalization regimes is that Question 2 would put a cap on the number of licenses available for distribution. The initiative would set license limits based on the size of each county's population. For instance, counties with more than 700,000 residents could have up to 80 stores, while those with fewer than 55,000 could only have 2 in total. No other legal states have those limits.

So Nevada's marijuana laws would be stricter than legalization regimes in other states. But that can change over time. And it will be interesting to see if demand will quickly surpass Question 2's tight cap on supply.

The Proponents

Question 2 is sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has also backed this year's initiatives in Arizona, Maine and Massachusetts. The initiative has also gained support from numerous Democratic state representatives and senators, including Assemblyman Nelson Araujo.

"I believe that our tax dollars ought to be spent on improving our schools – not building new jail cells," Araujo wrote in a statement.

"Legalizing marijuana will not only help improve Nevada's justice system, but add a new tax revenue source to our state that will increase teacher pay, reduce class sizes, and build new schools. By ending the prohibition on marijuana, we can also help end the cycle of non-violent young offenders going to jail instead of college."

Legalization could also be a boon for the state's biggest industry. "If we do this right, this will be a major boom to tourism, which is our economy," State Senator Richard "Tick" Segerblomtold KSNV last fall.

The Opponents

Since the politicians endorsing Question 2 sway Democrat, it's not surprising that the anti-legalization crowd includes a number of Republicans in the state government. At the top of list is Governor Brian Sandoval, Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchinson and State Attorney General Adam Laxalt. 

“As Governor and a former Federal Judge, I have seen first-hand the negative effects that marijuana for recreational purposes can have on our state and our communities," Sandoval said in a statement. "Proponents of this measure claim it will help education, it will not. What it will do is create health and safety problems that Nevada cannot afford. Legalizing marijuana would have devastating consequences for our state and for Nevada families and I would ask that voters join with me and Vote No on 2 when they head to the polls this fall.”

But the biggest opponent still hasn't opened his chequebook for the opposition movement. Amanda Reiman - the Drug Policy Alliance's Marijuana Law and Policy Manager - told Civilized that Billionaire Sheldon Adelson is likely the biggest prohibitionist in the Silver State. The founder and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino and resort donated $5 million to the campaign to defeat Florida's 2014 campaign to legalize medical marijuana. But he hasn't invested in Nevada's No on 2 campaign. Instead, he has donated made another huge donation to thwart Florida's 2016 medical marijuana initiative.

But he gotten involved in other ways. The main thing Adelson's done so far in Nevada is change the position of the state's biggest newspaper. After buying the Las Vegas-Review Journal last year, the paper terminated its marijuana beat and changed its editorial position on Question 2 from pro to con.

But based on polling numbers, that sly tactic doesn't seem to be working.

The Bigger Picture

Aside from boosting the local economy, legalization could be a huge win for social justice. According to a 2010 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans in Nevada are 4.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana offences -- even though rates of consumption between whites and blacks are comparable. That stat undoubtedly factored into the Nevada ACLU's decision to endorse Question 2.

A successful campaign could also shore up support for legalization in the region. If Nevada legalizes while California and Arizona follow suit, prohibition would be repealed in the majority of western states. So the movement could begin focusing on moving toward the American midwest, which is one of the most cannabis unfriendly regions in America.

5 States are voting on recreational use of cannabis in 2016. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.


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