A man recently released from Nevada's prison system after serving some 26 years for a third offense of selling drugs got John L. Smith thinking back to the days when Nevada courts threw away the key for drug offenders.
The times have certainly changed, especially with the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
"Nevada has always had a very draconian approach to drug possession issues, to drug sales and trafficking," Smith said, "Looking back it is not as surprising as it might seem shocking to some folks who have just been here for a few years."
Smith remembers a time - in the not too distant past - where people convicted of possessing or selling marijuana were given very harsh sentenced in an effort to "send a message to the community."
He said law enforcement tended to be very tough, especially on people of color.
"Small drug issues in the minority community often were turned into substantial sentences in prison," he said.
He said you see now a Nevada that has changed a great deal as marijuana is not only legalized for recreational use but also celebrated for its ability to raise money through taxes.
Smith also weighs in on the visit of President Trump, who this week is doing all he can to bolster the candidates of Republican candidates here.
“There is no question that the Nevada base is challenged to support the president’s agenda as it has more or less stalled in recent months,” Smith said.
He said the president - like many politicians before him - is more comfortable on the stump and more comfortable shouting to his partisan supporters then he is doing the hard work in Washington, D.C.
“He is probably going to be relieved to get out of Washington as he comes out to Nevada and battles for votes on behalf of the whole Republican ticket but especially, of course, Laxalt and Heller”
While Nevada's governor has no real say in what happens in Washington, Smith said getting a Republican into every office down the ticket is important to the party and the opposite is true for Democrats.
Smith said as Washington becomes less of a place where things can get done parities are turning to the statehouses to get their agenda passed.
But the real focus for President Trump's rally, will to get "his true believers off the couch," Smith said.
While Republicans have embraced President Trump's agenda and his style, Smith is not sure how that will work in Southern Nevada.
“They’ve essentially hitched their wagons to Donald Trump – win or lose – and I think that will be the challenge for them as they get closer to November.”
John L. Smith, KNPR contributor
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