Nevada Still Waits To Inhale

There are a few things that are allowed in Nevada that aren’t acceptable everywhere: gambling, prostitution (in some counties) and, if one liberal group has its way, possibly marijuana.

Leading the charge to get an initiative to legalize marijuana on the Nov. 2 ballot is the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana. The Las Vegas group is affiliated with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-marijuana organization in Washington, D.C., whose main backer is Progressive Corp. chairman Peter Lewis. He has donated $340,000 to the MPP, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In a statement, Progressive said Lewis’ donations come entirely from his personal funds and that his support “is a purely personal choice.”

CRCM rep Jennifer Knight said legalizing pot would reduce teen usage, since it would be regulated, and generate tax revenue that could fund drug-treatment facilities. CRCM has raised $250,000 and plans to run ads in June.

The MPP funded a similar effort, Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, in 2002. The current initiative again faces opposition from Nevadans Against Legalizing Marijuana, which spent $150,000 in 2002, compared with $2 million by the MPP.

“Prohibition [has] made it easier for kids to get [marijuana], wasted billions of dollars in jail and court costs, to no good end,” said MPP rep Bruce Mirken.

The MPP has run what Mirken called “general education ads” since November. Three TV spots say 67 percent of Nevada teens have used pot, compared with 28 percent in the Netherlands, where regulation “tightly controls marijuana and keeps it away from teens.”

NALM began meeting at the end of February to plan a strategy. It does not yet have any funding. “Our strategy is a common-sense approach,” said Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, a group that is part of NALM. “We’ll continue to educate our community about the negative effects this would have on all of us.”