Nevadans will vote on legalization of recreational marijuana next year.
Several states, including Colorado, have already legalized recreational use of marijuana, creating industries that are producing millions of dollars in tax revenues.
But, legalized pot, on the state level, continues to cause lawmakers and regulators to draft new laws and regulations to deal with problems that weren’t considered pre-pot legalization.
In Colorado, for example, where recreational marijuana has been legal for a year, a bill being considered in the House would create a state “reference library” to try to standardize marijuana tests.
Colorado requires marijuana to be tested for potency and contaminants but doesn’t have a way to make sure that state-licensed testing labs are coming up with the same results.
So what should Nevada due to prepare for legal pot? Analysts believe the initiative has a very good chance of passing when Nevada voters go to the polls in November 2016.
“Well, the polling that has been done on legalizing recreational marijuana suggests as much as 54 percent of Nevadans support such a law,” John Hudak, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., told KNPR’s State of Nevada.
Hudak said the support is there, and that Presidential Elections “tend to bring out younger, more liberal voters who tend to be more in favor of marijuana legalization.” He said it’s not a sure thing, but “it looks likely.”
Hudak also dismissed concerns legal recreational marijuana would damage the state’s $10 billion gaming industry.
“Certainly, some tourists are turned away by a place that has legal marijuana,” Hudak said. “I think there is competition among ski resorts in Colorado, some who are embracing legal marijuana and some who are marketing themselves as family friendly. There is definitely a market reaction.”
But Hudak told KNPR that he doesn’t think people travel to Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada in an effort to be holy.
“They go there to sin,” Hudak said, “It’s called Sin City and I don’t think the legalization of marijuana is going to bother people that much or corrupt the state in much of a way from the perspective of many consumers.”
However, if voters allow for recreational pot, it is really just the beginning. As officials in both Washington and Colorado found out, there is a lot more to regulating recreational marijuana than just allowing adults to buy it.
Quality controls, how a shop handles money, where a pot shop can be built and the supply chain for the drug are just a few of the issues that have come up after legalization.
Mason Tvert, communications director with the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver, told KNPR that in Colorado it was a constitutional ballot measure that voters approved.
Tvert said it was done that way to give lawmakers a chance to determine what the best way to regulate the industry is. He said it’s difficult to approve regulations before a measure is approved because laws and regulations change over time, even when it comes to alcohol.
“For far too long we have not been taking actual steps to control marijuana,” Tvert said. “We’ve been ignoring marijuana hoping it goes away. So states like Colorado, Washington … are actually moving forward and learning a lot.”
Hudak agreed, but reiterated that Nevada has a real opportunity involving this issue that it absolutely must not shy away from, including looking at how to best organize and administrative and regulatory system.
John Hudak, governance studies fellow, Brookings Institute; Mason Tvert, communications director, Marijuana Policy Project
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