Editorial: Voters should decriminalize possession and use of marijuana for adults

Just as the Volstead Act did by creating Prohibition, the laws criminalizing the use and possession of marijuana have spawned a criminal industry and ruined lives without accomplishing the objective of legally imposed universal abstinence.

While we do not advocate nor even condone the use of either alcohol or marijuana, we find it contrary to the principles of a free society to punish individuals who do partake so long as they pose no threat to others — such as driving while under the influence.

Question 2 on the statewide November ballot, if approved by the voters, would amend state statutes to make it lawful for a person 21 or older to purchase and consume an ounce or less of marijuana. It also would allow those of the age of majority to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

The measure also would allow the creation of taxed marijuana shops under the same precepts as liquor stores and tax such sales.

While proponents of the measure tend to harp on how much tax revenue might be generated by taxes on marijuana sales that would go to fund education, we prefer to highlight the individual liberty and the relief on law enforcement and the courts by not having to bother with enforcement of pot prohibition.

The argument for passage, as stated in the official explanation by the state secretary of state’s office, notes, “Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy in every sense of the word. Our government took a substance less harmful than alcohol and made it completely illegal. This resulted in the growth of a multi-billion-dollar underground market driven by drug cartels and criminals operating in our communities. We have forced law enforcement to focus on the sale and use of marijuana instead of on serious, violent, and unsolved crimes.”

It goes on to argue that shifting the production and sale of marijuana into the hands of tightly regulated Nevada businesses will result in safer and cleaner marijuana and possibly reduce the sale of pot to minors. Studies have found that teen marijuana use has fallen in recent years, even at a time when four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and 23 others, like Nevada, allow it for medicinal purposes.

The arguments against Question 2 have all the subtlety and persuasiveness of that old scare film “Reefer Madness.”

It makes no sense to continue to jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of those who deign to experiment with marijuana at some point in their lives, especially since the outcome is dictated by the near-random chance that some are arrested while others are not.

As we said, we do not advocate marijuana use any more than we advocate prostitution, which is legal in many rural Nevada counties, but rather come down on the side of decriminalization for consenting adults in a properly regulated setting.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Lawmakers hand out unconstitutional corporate gift to another billionaire

Gov. Brian Sandoval signs a bill giving public tax money to build a football stadium. (AP photo by John Locher)

Gov. Brian Sandoval signs a bill giving public tax money to build a football stadium. (AP photo by John Locher)

Meeting in special session in Carson City this past week Nevada lawmakers opened the windows and threw caution and tax money to the wind, voting to raise the room tax rate in much of Clark County by 0.88 of a percentage point in order to contribute $750 million toward construction of a 65,000-seat domed football stadium estimated to cost $1.9 billion.

The measure, Senate Bill 1, passed by the constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly – 16-5 in the Senate and 28-13 in the Assembly.

The stadium is being pushed by billionaire casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson who promises to shell out $650 million from his rather deep pockets to pay for construction. The National Football League and the Oakland Raiders are supposed to contribute $500 million toward construction. The $750 million public sop is the largest ever by any public entity for a sports facility in this country.

All profits from stadium operations accrue strictly to the private investors.

At one point during the Assembly hearings, Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks asked what happens if the stadium comes in under the $1.9 billion estimate. Would the taxpayers still be on the hook for the full $750 million?

Steve Hill of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which had touted the project, replied: “Technically that’s correct.”

Before Hill could elaborate, Hansen cut him off with a terse: “Thank you.”

So, if the project comes in closer to the original estimate of $1 billion, the taxpayers will pick up 75 percent of the cost and the billionaires keep their money.

One of those testifying against the public spending for a football stadium for the Raiders was former Las Vegas City Councilman Frank Hawkins, who noted that he played seven seasons for the Raiders, including winning a Super Bowl. Hawkins said billionaires don’t need the public tax money to fund 40 percent of their stadium. He also noted that Raiders owner Mark Davis had called to try to change his mind by agreeing to no television blackouts locally for games that are not sellouts.

SB1 creates a stadium authority to build and operate the stadium, exempts the authority from any legal requirements for competitive bidding and makes just about every financial deal cut by the authority exempt from public records laws.

The bill says “the Stadium Authority shall keep confidential any record or other document provided to the Stadium Authority by a developer partner, the National Football League team or the Stadium Events Company,” if asked to do so. The public will be kept in the dark about whether their “public” stadium is providing valuable public assets to a favored few at below market value.

The Legislature certainly has the power to create exemptions to existing laws.

What it does not have is the power to create exemptions to the state Constitution. That document has a Gift Clause, which states, “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

Self-styled economic development advocates have tried three times to amend the Constitution and remove the Gift Clause. The voters rejected those attempts all three times — in 1992, 1996 and again in 2000 by wide majorities.

The state Supreme Court has said that when the state provides something to a private entity without getting adequate compensation for the value, that is a gift and thus a violation of the Constitution.

Nevada’s high court has cited an Arizona Supreme Court ruling on that state’s nearly identical Gift Clause. The Arizona court said its Gift Clause “represents the reaction of public opinion to the orgies of extravagant dissipation of public funds by counties, townships, cities, and towns in aid of the construction of railways, canals, and other like undertakings during the half century preceding 1880, and it was designed primarily to prevent the use of public funds raised by general taxation in aid of enterprises apparently devoted to quasi public purposes, but actually engaged in private business.”

Professional football hardly qualifies as even a quasi public purpose unless you include “bread and circuses.”

This was the third special session in as many years. The previous two handed out billions in tax breaks and abatements to the billionaire owners of electric car companies Tesla and Faraday Future.

Perhaps some public spirited group will ask the courts to take a look at this latest generous gift and determine whether it truly is for a public purpose.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Update: Space was insufficient to provide this quote from a Nebraska court ruling:

“Every new business, manufacturing plant, or industrial plant which may be established in a municipality will be of some benefit to the municipality. A new super market, a new department store, a new meat market, a steel mill, a crate manufacturing plant, a pulp mill, or other establishments which could be named without end, may be of material benefit to the growth, progress, development and prosperity of a municipality. But these considerations do not make the acquisition of land and the erection of buildings, for such purposes, a municipal purpose. Our organic law prohibits the expenditure of public money for a private purpose. It does not matter whether the money is derived by ad valorem taxes, by gift, or otherwise. It is public money and under our organic law public money cannot be appropriated for a private purpose or used for the purpose of acquiring property for the benefit of a private concern. It does not matter what such undertakings may be called or how worthwhile they may appear to be at the passing moment. The financing of private enterprises by means of public funds is entirely foreign to a proper concept of our constitutional system. Experience has shown that such encroachments will lead inevitably to the ultimate destruction of the private enterprise system.”

This and the Arizona court ruling were cited by the the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation in its case against the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for handing out state gifts to companies such as SolarCity.


Was he lying then or is he lying now?

When a person tells two diametrically opposite stories, you know one of them is a lie. You may not know which one is a lie, but you know the person is a liar.

We already knew Hillary Clinton is a liar. The FBI said as much:

GOWDY: Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails either sent or received. Was that true?
COMEY: That’s not true.

Now, Donald Trump has proven himself to be a perverted liar or a lying pervert.

In 2005 Trump was caught on tape saying:

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. … And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

Then nine women came forward and attested to that very behavior by Trump, but at the debate Wednesday night Trump said:

“Well, first of all, those stories have been largely debunked. Those people — I don’t know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it. …

“I would say the only way — because those stories are all totally false, I have to say that. And I didn’t even apologize to my wife, who’s sitting right here, because I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know any of these — I didn’t see these women.

“These women — the woman on the plane, the — I think they want either fame or her campaign did it. And I think it’s her campaign. …



“Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.”


Reminds me of a Tommy Makem tune:




How is that first special session gift — the one for Tesla — turning out?

Tesla gigafactory (R-J photo)

Tesla gigafactory (R-J photo)

There have been three special legislative sessions in three years in Nevada specifically to dole out generous gifts to billionaires based on base assumptions that those gifts might someday prove beneficial to the economy of the state and generate more tax revenue than the handout.

You know the gifts — tax breaks and abatements and roadwork and land for a Tesla Motors battery factory near Sparks, tax breaks and infrastructure for a planned electric car plant for Faraday Future in Clark County and now $750 million in tax money to build a football stadium for casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson and the NFL Raiders.

So, how’s that first handout working out?

Montana Skeptic at Seeking Alpha reports that Nevada is getting the shaft.

As of the latest report in late August, even with generous amortization allowances, the 272 jobs created by the so called gigafactory have cost Nevada $179,000 each.

Tesla has said the $5 billion, 10 million-square-foot factory eventually will employ 6,500 workers and add $100 billion to the state economy over the next 20 years.

There were supposed to be 700 full-time jobs in 2015 instead of 272 and 1,700 this year instead of only 419 so far. For 2017 the prediction is 4,700 jobs, reaching that pie in the sky 6,500 in 2018.

Capital expenditures by Tesla also have fallen well short of projections.

The plant is supposed to be 10 million square feet in size, but now is less than 2 million.

Watchdog is muzzled

For decades the Las Vegas newspaper aggressively fought for transparency in state and local government affairs, pressing for stronger public records and open meetings laws and urging vigorous enforcement of those laws — even going to court itself when necessary on behalf of the public’s right to know how its money is being spent and its affairs are being conducted.

Casino executive Sheldon Adelson, who bought the paper less than a year ago, has muzzled the watchdog.

Coiled in Senate Bill 1, just passed in a special session of the Nevada Legislature to fund $750 million for Adelson’s bid to build a domed NFL stadium, is a rattlesnake, and the Las Vegas newspaper has taken no notice of its rattle.

The bill reads in part:

Sec. 30. 1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3 and NRS 239.0115, the Stadium Authority shall keep confidential any record or other document provided to the Stadium Authority by a developer partner, the National Football League team or the Stadium Events Company, which is in the possession of the Stadium Authority, if the person providing the information:

(a) Submits a request in writing that the record or other document be kept confidential by the Stadium Authority; and

(b) Demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Stadium Authority that the record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information.

2. If the Stadium Authority determines that a record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information, the Chair of the Board of Directors shall attach to the file containing the record or document:

(a) A certificate signed by him or her stating that a request for confidentiality was made by the requesting entity and the date of the request;

(b) A copy of the written request submitted by the requesting entity;

(c) The documentation to support the request submitted by the requesting entity; and

(d) A copy of the decision of the Stadium Authority determining that the record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information.

3. Records and documents that are confidential pursuant to this section:

(a) Are proprietary or confidential information of the requesting entity;

(b) Are not a public record; and

(c) Must not be disclosed to any person who is not an officer or employee of the Stadium Authority unless the requesting entity consents to the disclosure.

So, not only do all the profits accrued by the “public” stadium go solely to the private investors, but the taxpayers will never know just how much that is — or much of anything else for that matter.

Instead of addressing state’s problems lawmakers give us diversion

Football is, appropriately enough, a gladiatorial sport.

Nevada public school graduates scored worst in the nation on ACT tests, which measure college preparedness.

The state Supreme Court ruled the education savings accounts law, which would help students escape failing public schools, funding method was unconstitutional, but it was not urgent enough to consider in a special session of the Legislature.

Wild horses overpopulate the range and are running ranchers out of business.

Federal public land restrictions are hampering mining, ranching, oil and gas exploration and other economic uses.

Ten counties face monopolies and higher premiums and deductibles when it comes to access to ObamaCare.

Nevada needs to improve its transportation infrastructure and is asking voters in each county to allow fuel taxes to be indexed to inflation.

Nevada faces more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions.

The next biennium budget faces a $400 million shortfall in revenue even though lawmakers in 2015 raised taxes $1.5 billion, the highest increase ever.

So what do the governor and the state lawmakers do during this past week’s special session? They agree to spend $750 million in tax money to help build a football stadium for a billionaire casino owner and a billionaire NFL team owner.

On top of that the Nevada Department of Transportation says $900 million in road projects will be needed to be accelerated to accommodate the stadium traffic, which means $900 million in roadwork elsewhere will be delayed.

Instead of addressing the public service needs, they give us bread and circuses — without the bread.

Editorial: Voters should reject gun background check initiative


One of the most harebrained, fetid proposals ever to waft out of the cesspool of New York City has landed with a sickening splat on Nevada’s November ballot and it just might become law — jeopardizing our freedoms and constitutional rights without accomplishing so much as a scintilla of its intended purpose.

Question 1 would require “universal” background checks on all gun purchases. It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.

A summary of the measure reads in part: “This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service.”

Failure to comply is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

A recent statewide survey conducted on behalf of the Las Vegas newspaper found that 58 percent favor passage of Question 1 compared to only 32 percent opposed.

So far, a majority of Nevada sheriffs have come out against the background check initiative, as well as the governor and the attorney general. The consensus is that the measure will do nothing to stop criminals from getting their hands on guns — well, they are criminals after all — but the complexity of the law will doubtless ensnare innocent gun owners and waste the time of gun owners and those in law enforcement, as well as the taxpayers’ money.

The National Rifle Association, which obviously opposes Question 1, points out that the assumption that background checks will keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a total hallucination. Criminals get firearms on the black market, street purchases and theft. A Department of Justice analysis found 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes got their guns in one of those ways or from friends or family. Less than 1 percent got firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.

The law is so strict that a gun seller whose purchase fails to go through for some reason will have to pay for and undergo a background check to get his own weapon back from the licensed federal firearm dealer.

Opponents note that if passed Question 1 would not allow a person to lend a weapon for hunting or target shooting until both parties appear before a licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee and relinquish the weapon until the background check is completed.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement: “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my fellow Nevadans are safe. I have carefully reviewed the Question 1 initiative and have concluded that it would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and would instead cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.”

A spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying: “The governor does not support Question 1. He has concerns that this measure would dilute the legitimate rights of law-abiding Nevadans and that it does not actually address the complex issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.”

Typical of the views of most sheriffs was a comment to the press by Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts: “Only the citizens who follow the law are going to be the ones who follow it, and the ones that are the criminals aren’t going to follow it anyway. … This comes back again to unfunded mandates that they’re passing on to the local law enforcement that we just don’t have the manpower or the money to do this.”

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said: “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”

This newspaper urges Nevada voters to soundly reject Question 1.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.