It’s like a great white whale for drug-reform advocates: making pot legal in Nevada. Even Nevada's medical marijuana initiative -- a move that in California caused “dispensaries” to sprout like mushrooms in the dark -- failed to create much of a legal industry here since it passed in 2000.
Now, while it still might never see daylight, a Las Vegas legislator is seeking a bill to overturn prohibitions on the possession of marijuana in Nevada.
Assemblyman Joe Hogan says he has a bill draft request into the Legislative Counsel Bureau, which he hopes will get him a bill to introduce within the next couple of weeks. Legislators have until March 18 to introduce bills, although bills can still be introduced by party leaders and committees after that deadline.
Hogan comes prepared with a number of talking points. The state and local governments spend millions enforcing cannabis prohibitions, while the same governments fail to collect tax revenues from the growth or sale of the plant.
“We’d like to save the cost and expense of law enforcement,” Hogan said. He notes that Washington and Colorado have decriminalized marijuana -- at least on the state level -- via popular votes last year.
Hogan also cited a Hawaii bill to legalize pot, but that bill went up in smoke in the Hawaii statehouse earlier in February.
Hogan said he hopes to have a bill draft back from the Legislative Counsel Bureau before the end of February, but he acknowledged that legislative leadership may not be eager to partake.
“They’re not real anxious to take steps to open up these possibilities,” Hogan said.
Decriminalization or legalization has a big booster in Southern Nevada -- Dr. Stephen Frye, a Las Vegas psychiatrist. Frye said that he has made the rounds of 15 or 18 legislators, and found, if not outright support, a willingness to consider the issue. “Not one of them refused to see me,” he said.
Frye, who has pushed for marijuana law reform in Nevada for a decade, said two legislators -- Hogan and Assemblyman Andrew Martin of Las Vegas -- had agreed to submit bills to decriminalize or legalize the drug.
A representative in Martin’s office said the Assemblyman does not have a bill draft request on the issue.
Frye argues that legalization could help promote large, hemp-centric festivals in the Silver State, and cited the annual Burning Man festival in Northern Nevada.
“I went once,” he said of Burning Man. “Now, that’s marijuana tourism!”
Frye practices medicine in Las Vegas but who does not prescribe marijuana to his patients because, he said, the paperwork and cost were prohibitive. He said pot can be used to treat 50 different maladies, including depression, autism and chronic pain.
“As a physician, my goal is saving lives and improving lives. ... By the way, marijuana is harmless,” Frye said, a claim that is disputed by some scientists, medical professionals and law-enforcement officials.