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Marijuana Activist Criticizes Vote

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Nevada -- The leader of a group advocating the legalization of marijuana said Tuesday he will file a complaint with the Nevada attorney general's office that alleges the Clark County Commission broke a state law.
Neal Levine, campaign manager for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, said a state law prohibits the County Commission from taking a formal position opposing his organization's Question 7.

Commissioners, on a 7-0 vote, approved a resolution Tuesday that expresses their opposition to the question that will let voters decide in the November election whether adults legally can possess and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana in their homes.

Levine said the law prohibits public officials from incurring expenses or making expenditures to support or oppose any ballot questions.

During the same meeting, the commission also came out in formal opposition to Question 2, a proposal that would put restraints on government acquiring private land through eminent domain proceedings. Two weeks ago, the county Planning Commission also voted its disapproval of Question 2.

"Three wrongs don't make it right," Levine said. "You can't do it on the public dime."

During the meeting, commission lawyer Mary-Anne Miller ruled that the commission would not be spending resources if it merely discussed the marijuana question and expressed its opposition. Commissioner Bruce Woodbury had requested the commission take a position against the marijuana question.

"For her to say the County Commission was not using government time and resources is ridiculous," Levine said. "They were in session. They were getting paid."

He said a state Supreme Court decision allows expenditures by governments on ballot questions only for televised debates where both sides are present.

According to the Nevada Revised Statutes, the law was designed by the Legislature to prohibit government bodies from taking positions on questions that already have been placed on the ballot.

Levine said he did not even discuss the merits of Question 7, but went into the County Commission hearing to assert members could not legally take a position.

Levine added that Question 7 backers are not suggesting anyone actually use marijuana.

He said the question is a recognition that current marijuana laws are not working because millions of people nationally continue to the use the drug despite it being illegal. Possession of an ounce or less of the drug in Nevada is a misdemeanor subject to a $600 fine.

With approval of the ballot question, marijuana would be taken out of the criminal sector and be placed under state control, Levine said.

The Legislature would decide who would produce legal marijuana and allow its purchase in state-approved locations. Sales of the drug could be taxed.

"We are saying laws now don't work, and we are financing the activities of bad guys," Levine said. "Let's regulate and tax it."

Levine's organization largely is financed by the Marijuana Policy Project of Washington, D.C.

Four years ago Nevada voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question sought by the Marijuana Policy Project that would have allowed adults to use up to 3 ounces of marijuana.

Besides allowing the use of 1 ounce by adults, Question 7 sets tougher penalties for furnishing marijuana to minors and for driving under the influence of the drug.

A Review-Journal poll in April found just 34 percent of respondents favor the question, compared with 56 percent opposed and the rest undecided. Levine said his own polls show a 50-50 split on the question.

Review-Journal writer Mike Kalil contributed to this report.

Note: Says commissioners violated the law in opposing measure.

Newshawk: Mayan
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Author: Ed Vogel, Review-Journal Capital Bureau
Published: September 20, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Las Vegas Review-Journal
 

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