It seemed inevitable. In the opening days of Nevada's fledgling medical marijuana industry, a pro-marijuana advocacy group has filed an initiative to get the legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot. While the petitioners' goal of 101, 667 signatures by November 11 (roughly 3% of the state's population) is still a long way off, this time around activist's are hopeful that the outcome will be different.
This petition will be the third such attempt to make cannabis legal for recreational use in the state. In years passed, the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project has put ultimately unsuccessful attempts into play. In 2002, the organization rallied 39% approval for the legalization of small amounts of marijuana; in 2006, that number jumped to 44%. The executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association and the driving force behind the new petition, Joe Brezny, hopes this time will be different.
The state of Nevada has a longer history with cannabis than most suspect. Nevada originally allowed the medical use of marijuana all the way back in 2000. Until last year, though, if a medical patient wanted weed, they had to grow it for themselves. A ballot initiative last year changed that, allowing shops to open up and officially putting the state of Nevada in the medical marijuana business.
Brezny, who has a long history working with the Republican party, most recently as Mitt Romney's Nevada state director in the 2008 election, think the issues of legalization goes beyond party lines. "Coming from that side of the aisle, it's very clear now that cannabis legalization is no longer a left-right issue," he said, adding that the goal of legalization is to tax and regulate an underground industry and "keep it away from kids."
In order to prepare for the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, Nevada Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat, visited a San Francisco cannabis club last week. It was here that she was vocal about her support of the new initiative, saying that if the issue were to come to a vote, she would definitely support it.
Even if the measure does get the required number of signatures to merit official recognition, it would still take some lobbying in the Nevada state capitol to put the issue on the ballot. And even if that measure was put on the ballot, it wouldn't see the light of day until 2016. Of course, that's all part of Joe Brezny's plan. You see, 2016 - a presidential election year - is slated to draw a much larger percentage of young voters than any election between here and there. And young people are pro-weed. At least that's what Brezny is hoping, at any rate.
Whether he knows it or not, though, Brezny's past might be the biggest factor in determining his petition's success. A poll recently released from Quinnipiac University looked at the response to Colorado's recent legalization of recreational cannabis. It found that more than 50% of the state's inhabitants were pro-legalization. The largest group of dissenters, however, were elderly Republicans. Is it possible that Brezny's insight into the inner workings of the GOP might help him get a leg up as Nevada considers recreational marijuana? Only time will tell.