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Another push to legalize marijuana underway in Nevada

It’s another push to make marijuana legal in Nevada. In 2001 voters made it okay for medical purposes only. Two prior attempts to get full legalization in Nevada failed. But now supporters say this bad economy may encourage voter to think twice about legalizing and taxing the drug.

“We think the environment has changed and people are becoming more aware that marijuana is not a bad substance,” said Dave Schwartz with the Marijuana Policy Project of Nevada (MPP).

“What we are planning on doing is having a system set up for regulated and taxed marijuana sales in the state of Nevada.”

On Wednesday morning Schwartz announced that his group has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State requesting that once again the marijuana issue be put before voters.

“We are very confident in 2012 that this will pass in Nevada and we will actually have a taxed and regulated system.”

The MPP will need to obtain 100,000 signatures by next November in order to put the issue on the 2012 ballot. The group, which attempted the same thing not once, but twice before in 2002 and 2006, believes that the third time will be the charm because voter support has continually grown.

“In 2002 it received 39 percent of the vote and in 2006 it received 44 percent of the vote,” said Schwartz.

“I think attitudes have changed dramatically,” UNLV political professor Kenneth Fernandez agrees with Schwartz’s assessment. “There has been a continuing trend from 1969 to 2009 over the last 40 years of growing support for legalizing marijuana.”

Fernandez believes many Nevadans feel marijuana is not the harmful drug it was once thought to be.

“If you look at the current policy of medical marijuana, that’s sort of acclimated people to say that’s not a major threat.”

Both Fernandez and Schwartz believe that voters may also be more willing to legalize the drug if there is potential to gain tax revenue for a state in deep financial trouble.

“Nevadans need to see what we could possibly bring in,” Schwartz said. “We are doing economic studies in the near future to see what the total revenue brought in would come to in our state.”

“I think that’s gonna be one issue that voters are gonna take into consideration,” echoes Fernandez.

Current Nevada law allows medically licensed citizens to grow and use marijuana but does not allow for dispensaries or open use.

By Dan Ball

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