On November 8, Nevadan voters will head to the polls to vote on Question 2, the state's ballot measure proposing to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21 (they'll be voting on other things, too, but none are quite as important).
Passing Question 2 would allow Nevadans to possess up to one ounce of flower or one eighth of an ounce of cannabis concentrate, as well as cultivate up to six marijuana plants in a locked enclosure. The regulation of marijuana would be funded through a 15 percent excise tax on all recreational pot sales—after the costs of regulating the 'budding' industry are covered, all remaining revenue from recreational marijuana sales will be distributed to Nevadan schools.
Speaking of schools, Question 2 also stipulates that no marijuana establishments will be allowed within 1000 feet of a school or 300 feet of "community establishments." It would also put a cap on the number of marijuana retailers in a given area (Clark County, home to Las Vegas and the most populous county in Nevada, would be capped at 80 retailers).
Nevada legalized the use of medicinal marijuana in 2000, and has previously voted on legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state on two other occasions. On the first occasion, in 2002, the measure for legal recreational pot received 39 percent of the vote; in 2006, this percentage climbed to 44 percent of the vote.
Joe Brezny, the spokesperson for the Yes on Question 2 campaign, is optimistic that this will be the year that legal pot finally receives the majority vote in Nevada since the last two votes have come during midterm elections, when young voter turnout in Nevada is generally low.
But for Jimmy Stracner, the spokesperson of Protecting Nevada's Children, the state is "not ready" for full legalization. The state's governor Brian Sandoval and the casino industry lobby agrees with him, even though 96 percent of the opposition's budget comes from one person: Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino boss.
"We don't think [recreational] marijuana should be passed at all, but especially this year without knowing the consequences," Stracner told Motherboard. "Other states have better government agencies involved and the regulatory bodies have been formed. We don't have that in Nevada yet."
As the name of Stracner's organization suggests, the primary concern of those voicing opposition to Question 2 is the health of Nevada's children. Edibles are particularly worrisome to Stracner, which he claims often look indistinguishable from non-THC infused candies. He points to Colorado as a case in point, which he says has seen a 600 percent increase in hospital visits by children who have accidentally swallowed an edible since legalization.
"Children [are] eating these edibles, getting sick and devastating accidents have occurred," Stracner said. "It's not just a few kids, it's a lot."
A campaign ad sponsored by Protecting Nevada's Children
According to Brezny, however, this rhetoric is all fear mongering. As reported in a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Colorado's poison control received 163 calls related to accidental THC exposure to children between 2009 and 2015. Yet as Brezny points out, children are much more likely to be poisoned by a number of common household items like laundry detergent or crayons than by marijuana, which accounted for only 2.3 out of every 1000 poison control calls in Colorado.
"I don't want a single kid eating an edible or going to the hospital, but we're talking about one quarter of one percent [of Colorado's kids]," Brezny told Motherboard. "If they really want to 'Protect Nevada's Children, they would be running a campaign against laundry detergent. Laundry detergent can actually kill our kids, marijuana cannot."
Stracner and Protecting Nevada's Children are also that legalizing pot could hurt Nevada's tourism industry, citing a study done by Denver's tourism bureau which found that many conventions were less likely to host in the city now that pot was legal.
"It's not necessarily people getting robbed or…any direct public safety issues," said Stracner. "It's just an eyesore. [Conference attendees] see people that aren't generally walking around in suit and ties. They're seeing a lot of people that look homeless."
Brezny, who has led focus groups with convention planners, is not really worried that legalizing pot in a state where prostitution is legal and gambling is strongly encouraged will affect tourism to Las Vegas. It is Sin City, after all.
With less than three weeks until voting day, it looks like Brezny may be right. A September poll of likely Nevada voters showed that 53 percent supported Question 2, 8 percent were undecided and 39 percent were opposed to the measure.
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