You can’t say you didn’t see that coming.
For years the editorial stance of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has been notably libertarian leaning — strongly supportive of fiscal conservativism but taking a live-and-let-live stances on social issues, including the futile war on drugs that has criminalized victimless recreational drug use.
On Dec. 20, shortly after the staff of the newspaper learned its new owner was the family of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, an editorial appeared offering predictions on how things might change in future editorials. “The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial page can become his family’s personal soap box, if that’s what they want,” the editorial stated.
This is what it forecast on the drug war:
Drug policy: The Review-Journal was one of the first editorial boards in the country to condemn the failed federal war on drugs and advocate decriminalization of narcotics, starting with marijuana. The newspaper endorsed the state constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana and backs the approval of a 2016 Nevada ballot question to allow legal recreational marijuana. Mr. Adelson, who lost a son to a drug overdose, opposes the legalization of marijuana for any use. Last year, he and his wife, Miriam, a physician and expert in drug addiction, provided the vast majority of funding for the campaign to defeat a ballot question that would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Their campaign prevailed.
Potential change in position: Complete reversal.
Today the lede editorial in the paper is a point-for-point refutation of Question 2 on this fall’s Nevada election ballot that would decriminalize for people 21 and older possession of an ounce of marijuana for recreational use, and impose a 15 percent tax on its sale with revenues earmarked for education.
The editorial says marijuana is more hazardous than proponents claim. “Marijuana contains nearly 500 dangerous chemicals when inhaled or ingested, including about five times more tars and other cancer-causing agents than tobacco smoke. Cancer, respiratory diseases, mental illness, birth defects, reproductive problems and irreversible brain damage are all linked to marijuana use,” it says.
It calls pot a gateway drug, says it has not raised as much revenue as predicted in other states, has increased emergency room visits by tourists and claims only 0.7 percent of Nevada inmates are jailed for only simple pot possession — ignoring the fact prosecutors tend to pile on charges
Just a couple of weeks before that Dec. 20 forecast editorial, the paper editorialized in favor of decriminalization of weed by removing marijuana from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
That editorial concluded:
Beyond getting the Department of Justice out of the growing legal marijuana industry, reclassifying marijuana will keep more nonviolent offenders out of jail and prison, as well as generate more tax revenue for states and local governments.
It’s an important — and long overdue — start to changing the costly trajectory of the failed war on drugs.
In May 2014, an R-J editorial called on readers to sign a petition to put pot legalization on the ballot.
A November 2014 editorial concluded, “Legalizing marijuana would allow Nevada to help lead the country away from one of its most expensive mistakes.”
Marijuana.com reported in January, “According to journalists present at a Monday meeting with publisher Jason Taylor and interim editor Glenn Cook, Adelson and his wife Miriam are asking editorial board members to visit a drug treatment center and reconsider the publication’s support for ending prohibition ahead of a November vote on legalizing marijuana in Nevada.” This was buoyed by copies of Tweets sent by several reporters present at the meeting.
He might have started by “asking,” but orders work better.