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Ballot Initiative: Internal Poll Finds Support

LdyLunatic

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Nevada -- A ballot initiative to allow Nevadans to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use has a better chance of passing than most people think, according to a newly released internal poll conducted on behalf of the proposal's backers.
In the new poll, respondents were read the actual text that will appear on their November ballots. Of the 600 likely Nevada voters interviewed statewide by a respected national polling firm, 49 percent said they would vote yes on the question and 43 percent said no.

Previously, survey after survey has shown that Nevadans are resistant to a ballot initiative that would, in its words, "control and regulate marijuana." But those results, such as a recent Reno Gazette-Journal poll that found 55 percent of likely voters opposed to the measure and just 37 percent in favor of it, were misleading because they asked the wrong question, advocates of the marijuana initiative said.

Other polls on the initiative have tended to ask whether respondents favored a move to "legalize" marijuana, a word that doesn't appear in the ballot language, said Neal Levine, campaign manager for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Nevada initiative's backers. The committee is largely supported by the Washington, D.C., based Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group.

"The word 'legalize' is a politically charged term," Levine said in explaining the difference between his poll and others. "It gives people the false notion of a free-for-all, marijuana on every corner. That's not what we're proposing.

"We're proposing a very tightly regulated system where we'd get institutional safeguards and tax revenue."

The poll was commissioned by the committee and conducted from Aug. 18 to Aug. 24 by Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, a Los Angeles-based polling firm that works nationally with Democratic candidates and state ballot initiatives. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

"There's a lot in the ballot language (of the initiative) that really appeals to many people," pollster Paul Goodwin said. "When people are read the entire measure as a package, they like it a lot better than when they're just asked whether they want to legalize marijuana."

Goodwin said his firm's extensive experience with California's ballot initiatives had taught him that "the best method is to read people the actual language, even if it's long and hard to get through."

The initiative's language states it would "permit and regulate the sale, use and possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons at least 21 years of age." It also says it would require sellers to be licensed and legal, impose taxes and restrictions on them and increase criminal penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol that causes death or substantial bodily harm.

A Review-Journal poll conducted in April used the word "legalize" but also mentioned other aspects of the proposal. Of its 625 respondents, 34 percent favored the initiative, 56 percent were opposed and 10 percent were undecided.

The initiative's backers in 2002 got a measure on the ballot that would have amended the state's constitution to permit possession of up to three ounces of recreational marijuana. That proposal failed, 61 percent to 39 percent.

In 2004, the same group tried a similar measure with a one-ounce limit but failed to collect enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. This time, they've taken a different tack, proposing a statutory rather than a constitutional change for the one-ounce limit.

If the ballot measure passes, it would become law on Nov. 28 and could not be changed by the Legislature for five years.

Opponents of the measure say they don't believe it has popular support.

"I'm pretty confident that Nevadans are smart enough to see through what this group is doing with its Washington, D.C., money," said Patrick Smith, spokesman for the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable. "They're trying to divert attention from what it's (the initiative) going to do, which is the legalization of the street use of marijuana."

Note: Question would allow possession of marijuana for recreational use.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Author: Molly Ball, Review-Journal
Published: September 22, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Las Vegas Review-Journal
 

LdyLunatic

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Smoke Screens

Nevada -- John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- our nation's so-called drug czar -- made appearances in Reno recently to attack Question 7, the initiative to tax and regulate marijuana. This is just the first round in the federal government's coordinated campaign to influence the voters of Nevada on a state issue.
Many Nevadans will remember that then-Attorney General Brian Sandoval referred to the federal government's intervention in the 2002 marijuana initiative as "excessive" and "disturbing." In an official opinion, Sandoval stated it was "unfortunate that a representative of the federal government substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a state of Nevada issue."

Nevadans should expect more anti-marijuana commercials and a number of visits by federal officials -- at taxpayer expense -- to influence the outcome of our election. Rest assured, the federal government will be fighting the marijuana initiative this year with an unlimited source of campaign funds: the wallets of every American taxpayer. This year, the drug czar has at least $100 million in taxpayer funds at his disposal to spend on television, radio and newspaper ads. In all, the government spends about $7.7 billion enforcing marijuana prohibition annually, yet the U.S. Department of Justice reports "marijuana availability is high and stable or increasing slightly." In essence, our marijuana laws do not work.

Congress, to its credit, is starting to scrutinize the failures of the drug czar. On Aug. 25, the Government Accountability Office issued a report finding that drug czar's office's anti-drug advertising campaign has not been effective at deterring youth drug use, and that Congress should consider slashing its budget until the office is able to "provide credible evidence of the effectiveness of exposure to the campaign on youth drug use." And the Des Moines Register reported on April 26 that U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, believes President George W. Bush should fire Walters for spending too much time on marijuana and not enough on the rising use of hard drugs like methamphetamine.

Our current marijuana laws have given violent gangs and criminals an exclusive business franchise in Nevada. In contrast, we support taking marijuana out of the hands of criminals and placing it into a tightly controlled and regulated market. Our initiative creates a statewide system -- complete with sensible safeguards -- for the legal cultivation, distribution, sale and taxation of a maximum of one ounce of marijuana to adults over the age of 21.

Earlier this year, Walters admitted Mexican drug cartels are currently making $8.5 billion off of marijuana sales. Instead of funding the violent activities of street gangs and drug dealers, our initiative will levy a tax on marijuana -- generating millions of dollars for our state.

As Nevadans, we have an important choice to make this year. We can continue to support our broken marijuana laws, or we can take marijuana out of the hands of criminals and create a system of taxation and regulation. We urge the people of Nevada to vote yes on Question 7 on Nov. 7.

Neal Levine is campaign manager for the committee to regulate and control marijuana.

Source: Las Vegas City Life (NV)
Author: Neal Levine
Published: Thursday, September 21, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Las Vegas City Life
 

LdyLunatic

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Reefer Redux

Nevada -- Although Nevada is known for normalizing alternative lifestyles, it has not been a kind place historically for pot smokers.
In 2002 voters defeated an initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. In November they'll experience an electoral flashback when they decide on a similar ballot measure that would provide adults with legal access to the mind-altering drug.

The Regulation of Marijuana Initiative would make it legal for adults to purchase, for private use, one ounce of marijuana - the equivalent of a pack and a half of cigarettes - from special 21-and-over mini-marts.

If passed by a majority of voters, it would regulate and tax the manufacture and sale of marijuana, with the revenue to be divided evenly between drug treatment and education programs and the state's general fund. The initiative also increases penalties for providing marijuana to minors and driving under the influence of the drug.

The effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use is being financed by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization striving to legalize pot nationwide. In Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project is working through the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana.

Neal Levine, the committee's campaign manager, said pot should be legalized because current laws banning the drug don't work.

Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in America, with an estimated 83 million Americans having tried the drug at least once, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Statistics show that almost half of 12th graders have tried marijuana, and about 20 percent are regular users.

"We're not saying that marijuana is a good thing and people should do it," Levine said. "But since people do it, it creates an enormous criminal climate that finances bad people."

Because there's apparently no way to stop marijuana use, and because so many people use the drug, it makes sense to remove it from the criminal market and put it in a tightly regulated, controlled market, Levine said.

Selling marijuana still would be against federal law, but Nevada has a right to opt out of the prohibition, Levine said. While initiative opponents argue that could spawn a federal crackdown, supporters of the ballot measure dismiss that possibility.

Levine said the Marijuana Policy Project chose Nevada to make inroads in legalizing marijuana because the state has a long history of being pragmatic and showing a libertarian streak. Nevadans have taken a live-and-let-live approach regarding brothels, for example, and gambling is the mainstay of the state's economy.

"The people here are inherently more individually minded, willing to hear both sides of an issue and make pragmatic decisions," Levine said.

But Nevada's Western brand of libertarian values have not historically extended to smoking pot, said State Archivist Guy Rocha. In the 19th and 20th centuries, when Nevada was the frontier, though marijuana was part of the cultural landscape, drug users were considered deviants, Rocha said.

The frontier attitude, Rocha said, was: "You can drink, and you can gamble, and you can *****, but you better not be smoking dope."

Between 1979 and 2001, Nevada and Arizona had the nation's toughest penalties for marijuana possession. In Nevada, it was a felony for the first offense for possession, for any amount of marijuana. The penalty was one to six years in prison and a $2,000 fine for offenders 21 and older.

Nevada is "an unfriendly place for pot smokers, long-standing," Rocha said.

Patrick Smith, the spokesman for a coalition that includes anti-drug, law enforcement and business groups called the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable, called the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative "devastating" to what the organizations are trying to do.

"In no instance is legalizing more drugs a solution," Smith said.

Legalization proponents point to the burden that marijuana arrests place on the prison system, but pot users are not necessarily a large portion of the inmate population, Smith said. Under current Nevada law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $600 fine. According to the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable, only 200 of more than 17,000 offenders under supervision of the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation are charged with a marijuana offense. But marijuana use contributes to domestic violence, burglary, theft and other crimes, Smith said.

"We've got so many social issues we need to talk about right now," Smith said, "and bringing more drugs into the home is not the solution."

THUMBS UP:

Legal marijuana could be regulated and taxed. And the revenue would be split between drug treatment and education programs and the state's general fund.

THUMBS DOWN:

Legalizing pot would send the wrong message, especially to young people. Foes argue that the drug contributes to domestic violence, burglary and theft.

Note: Recreational pot initiative similar to failed 2002 measure.

Source: Las Vegas Sun (NV)
Author: Marshall Allen, Las Vegas Sun
Published: September 22, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Las Vegas Sun, Inc.
 

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