Question 2: How Could Recreational Marijuana Affect Nevada’s Economy?

Fox 11 reports:

This November, Nevada voters will have a choice whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the Silver State; however, there are still a lot of questions surrounding Question 2 on the ballot.

Recreational cannabis is already legal in four states- Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon- as well as the District of Columbia. By the end of 2016, Nevada could join that list. The Silver State is among about a half dozen other states with legislation currently in the works to try to legalize pot.

“[Question 2] will regulate marijuana like alcohol- in a manner similar to alcohol.” Joe Brezny is a spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. He said, “it seems like most of Nevada has figured out that marijuana prohibition has failed and they want to hear what our plans are for this new approach.”

2015 Pew Research Center study showed 53 percent of all Americans want to legalize pot. Brezny said an estimated 60 percent of Nevadans are in favor of legalization; but using marijuana in Nevada won’t be as simple as voting ‘yes’ on Question 2 during the November election.

Brezny said, “you can’t just open up a marijuana shop on the corner. It’s a very intensive application regulatory process. So it’s something where the local government and the state government get to think very carefully about where we get to put these, who we’d like to own them, what hours they can be open, and who they can sell to.”

Despite the strict regulations written into the ballot measure, some say Nevada is simply not ready for recreational cannabis.

“We’re putting really the cart before the horse in a rush to legalization.” Former Assemblyman Pat Hickey represents Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy. He’s also the Nevada Coordinator for the organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

If Question 2 passes, the Nevada Department of Taxation will oversee marijuana regulation; something Hickey said state officials aren’t ready for. “Many Nevadans are concerned that the Department of Taxation is going to grow and grow and become a miniature IRS. It’s also going to have to become a Food and Drug Administration.”

Proponents of legal marijuana, on the other hand, believe cannabis could create millions in tax revenue if Nevada’s profits look anything like Colorado’s in the coming years. In 2015, Colorado collected more than $85.2 million in tax revenue from marijuana alone.

In Nevada, Question 2 would place a 15 percent excise wholesale tax on pot. Brezny said all of that revenue would go to our school system.

He said legalizing marijuana would not only make money for the state, it would also save money spent on marijuana enforcement efforts and prosecution expenses for marijuana-related offenses. Brezny said the U.S. currently spends about $78 billion in marijuana prohibition efforts.

Other supporters of the ballot measure believe it would bring more visitors to the Silver State. Dr. Stephen Frye said, “it is going to increase tourism which is going to benefit all aspects of our state.”

Frye is a retired physician. He wrote the book, Twenty-Five Reasons to Legalize Drugs – We Really Lost This War! and has been fighting for the legalization of marijuana in the state legislature for more than a decade. Frye calls marijuana an “incredible medicine” and believes it’s safer than alcohol, tobacco, and even some prescription drugs.

He said, “people like to go where they can smoke pot. They enjoy recreational pot… just like people that like to drink come to Vegas because they can drink very inexpensively.” Frye believes more people will visit Nevada to use legal cannabis, but opponents say legalizing marijuana could have the opposite effect.

Pat Hickey said, “while you attract certain, maybe millennial tourists and others, we might also be driving away certain families who don’t want their children exposed to a climate where it’s permissible and legal.”

Much of Nevada’s revenue already comes from the tourism industry, but if Question 2 passes, casinos will still be left out of the pot business because marijuana remains federally illegal.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said, “people who have a gaming license in Nevada are forbidden from violating not just Nevada law, but all other laws, including the laws of other states and federal law.” Casinos cannot currently participate in the medical marijuana industry for that same reason.

Although you probably won’t see cannabis in casinos anytime soon, it’s safe to say legal marijuana is closer to becoming a reality in Nevada than ever before.

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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