Election 2016: To legalize marijuana in Nevada … or to not legalize?
Special to the Tribune
• Judge E. Alan Tiras, Incline Village/Crystal Bay Justice of the Peace since 2006.
• Jason Guinasso, Incline Village/Crystal Bay lawyer, pastor, president of “Protecting Nevada’s Children.”
• River Coyote, 13-year Incline Village resident and director for Tahoe Truckee Future Without Drug Dependence.
• Will Adler, Executive Director of the Nevada Medical Marijuana Association.
• Eva Segerblom, an attorney with the Maddox Segerblom Canepa firm who specializes in marijuana cases.
• Christine Brady, Washoe County Public Defender.
• Jackson Heath, Sierra Nevada College senior.
• Megan Herbst, Sierra Nevada College senior who has covered marijuana-related local politics for the student newspaper the Eagle’s Eye.
Learn more: Washoe County sample ballots have been mailed out to voters, and they include more information about candidates and individual initiatives. Check your mailbox or go online at washoecounty.us for a copy.
An eight-member panel of students and experts spent two hours last Tuesday night exploring the individual views of those in favor of and against Nevada’s Measure 2 — which proposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use for those 21 and older.
Dr. Andrew Whyman hosted the forum at Sierra Nevada College, opening up the discussion with topics surrounding marijuana about stigma, social justice, criminal justice, how it impacts youth, regulation, legislation and more.
As for panel members, despite their titles, some said they came on their own accord, and thus their views do not represent the views of their organizations.
Guinasso started the discussion by asking the audience to repeat the Latin term, “Cui bono,” meaning, “For whose benefit?” Guinasso’s belief is people who wrote the measure have too much corporate interest, and the law would negatively impact Nevada’s youth.
“Seventy-five percent of people in the Washoe County rehab centers are in there for marijuana abuse,” he says.
Guinasso added that by removing the criminalization of marijuana, it opens up the supply to market forces, which in turn increases demand for marijuana.
In regards to bringing money into the state, Guinasso said, “This isn’t about raising revenue, it’s about a $3 billion industry wanting to come to the state of Nevada and make money.”
He is also concerned that if marijuana is legalized, people won’t be able to pass drug tests to get good paying jobs to be able to help boost Nevada’s economy.
“Question 2 was written by the industry — for the industry,” Guinasso says.
‘HOW IS THIS THE BIGGEST VICE?’
Adler responded by explaining the four parts to the medical marijuana system — the cultivators, laboratory people, dispensers, and regulation watchdogs. Adler says that when you currently buy medical marijuana in Nevada, it has to be pure, high-grade, gold-standard material.
“You cannot go into a dispensary without being buzzed in through three doors,” he says.
To address marijuana edibles getting into the wrong hands, Adler says, “If someone sells a product unlawfully, they lose their license and the thousands of dollars that went into getting that license.”
Adler said the economic impact of Measure 2 is a 15-percent excise tax going directly into the state’s education fund, as well as other revenue into the general fund.
“Recreational marijuana will make a $1.1 billion impact from gross tourism income,” he added.
“With legalized gambling, prostitution and casinos serving free alcohol 24 hours a day, how is this the biggest vice?” he asks. “This is a plant — the purest, cleanest form of medicine. And you could not find a more regulated industry in the nation.”
Adler continued: “There have been zero overdose deaths (from marijuana use). If you drink two jars of concentrated marijuana, you will not die — I guarantee that. Growing up in Carson City, I got offered marijuana the first time in the sixth grade; marijuana has already saturated our schools. Let’s not do more of the same.”
‘IT’S A NET LOSS TO SOCIETY’
Coyote — who works with recovering addicts in her day job — has observed that out of alcohol, Big Pharma and other drug use, the one that has caused the most damage to people’s lives is marijuana.
She said that 20 percent of the users consume 80 percent of the product, which means that the business is not supported by casual users. If passed, competition in the industry will push the price down which means consumption will rise.
“As a society, we’re better off when we’re not intoxicated,” Coyote says. “No doubt we’ll make money, but it’s a net loss to society.”
Coyote feels like edibles are the real game changer because with marijuana in candy, children have a much higher likeliness of getting their hands on it.
Brady says the main reason she supports Measure 2 is to decriminalize it. As a public defender, she sees too many people going to jail for marijuana.
Licensed in both California and Nevada, Brady says that she currently has a client who has been in jail for two weeks on a marijuana possession charge and the judge will not hear her case for at least another week.
“It costs taxpayers $81 per day to incarcerate her,” says Brady. “This is costing our community a lot of money for something that is stigmatized and even demonized.”
Brady says that marijuana is considered federally as a Schedule One drug, on par with methamphetamine and heroin, while alcohol is labeled a Schedule Two drug with much-lesser consequences.
She also sees that low-income minorities are incarcerated at a much higher rate when “people with money are getting off easier.” Brady says that as a public defender, she has job security with marijuana being criminalized, but she would like to see it legalized.
“And because it’s not regulated, it’s interesting to see what marijuana is laced with when the test results come back,” Brady says. She believes that with legalization, parents still have the responsibility to take care of their children and keep it out of their reach.
‘MARIJUANA IS NOT BENIGN’
Segerblom is in favor of Measure 2 because the state needs the money.
“Washoe County needs $300 million for schools, and they’re not going to raise it in sales tax,” she says (although if voters adopt Washoe County Question 1 — the School Sales Tax initiative — this November, then that would have to be re-evaluated).
Segerblom said that childproof packaging secures the edibles, and if Measure 2 is adopted, Nevada would gain a huge tourism boost.
As the local judge, Tiras stated that in the criminal justice system, if you get caught speeding, you can technically go to jail for six months and get a $1,000 fine.
But that doesn’t ever happen unless other factors are involved, like previous warrants and infractions on a person’s record.
“I’m not aware of any other judges in the area who put people in jail just for marijuana,” he says.
Brady contested by saying she has clients who have been incarcerated strictly on marijuana.
After panelists expressed their individual opinions on the measure, they questioned each other on issues within the recreational marijuana law.
“Marijuana is not benign, and it bothers me when people tout that no one’s died because of it. We’re not statistics, we’re people,” Coyote says.
She shared stories of people who have ingested marijuana, had psychotic episodes and took their own lives as a result of it.
When Adler said it sounded like less of a marijuana control issue and more of a gun control issue, a few people in the audience snickered.
Following the forum, Reno resident William McIntyre, who’s among the millennial population, said, “Marijuana has been a part of America’s culture for a long time. It seemed one-sided from the older generation … the people against it seemed to come from a place of superstition and fear.”
Before the recent SNC event, McIntyre said he was on the fence about how he was going to vote on the measure, but then stated, “I feel legalizing it will make it less of a big deal.”
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer with a background in marketing and journalism. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.