Cannabis or marijuana possession and sale for recreational use in Nevada could be legalized in November next year as the legislature is expected to let voters decide whether to regulate it like alcohol. Nevada already has decriminalized possession of the substance for people 21 and older and it is legalized for medical use in the state, but possession of marijuana is still a misdemeanor and the sale of it is still a felony. The first offense of possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana warrants a $600 fine, and subsequent offenses go up to $5,000 or even jail terms.
“Voters will have the opportunity to end marijuana prohibition next year and replace it with a policy that actually makes sense,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Regulating marijuana like alcohol will make Nevada safer by replacing the underground marijuana market with a tightly controlled system of licensed businesses.”
The legalization of marijuana in the state would allow law enforcement officials to focus on tackling more serious crimes, said Tvert, as well as create revenue for public programs. “The initiative will create a significant new source of funding for Nevada schools,” Tvert said. “Marijuana sales that are currently taking place in the underground market are generating revenue for cartels. In a regulated market, marijuana sales will generate revenue for students.”
The initiative would make private possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Public marijuana use and driving under the influence of marijuana is still prohibited. The Nevada Department of Taxation will be responsible for the regulation and licensing of facilities that grow, manufacture, test, sell and distribute marijuana and its derived products. Local governments also will get to decide where these facilities can be located. A 15 percent excise tax will be applied to wholesale marijuana sales and the revenue from the taxes will be channeled in the Distributive School Account, which funds K-12 education in Nevada. Retail sales will be subject to general state and local sales taxes.
Nevada lawmakers were tasked to consider putting legalizing marijuana up for vote when supporters submitted nearly twice the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The lawmakers have until Saturday to enact the initiative, but chose to adjourn Friday without voting on it, according to the press release.
As of February, four states – Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska – have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The District of Columbia and 23 other states have either have legalized medical marijuana or have decriminalized the possession of marijuana. Advocates' groups have said that legalizing marijuana could provide a healthy source of revenue that could be funneled back into the state, and the industry has been seen as one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, as day spas and gourmet kitchens featuring marijuana sprout up around the country.