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.