By Robert A. Vella
I was living in Nevada during the 1990s and early 2000s when the push for marijuana legalization seemed imminent. The idea had broad appeal, and encountered little resistance, among most demographic groups. The people, in general, either wanted it or didn’t think it was important enough of an issue to fight. If put to a vote, such a statewide initiative or referendum would’ve passed rather easily – a case of democracy in action.
But, that’s not what happened. In the spring of 2002, opinion polls consistently showed voters supporting Question 9 by as much as 10 percent. In the late summer and fall, the liquor industry – aided by the dominant hotel/casino industry and some law enforcement organizations – began flooding the airwaves with anti-marijuana advertisements. It was the same old anti-pot propaganda using scare tactics and misinformation, and it worked. The initiative was soundly defeated in the November election.
Still, another initiative – Question 2 – was approved by Nevada voters last year. What had changed in those intervening 14 years? Had peoples’ attitude towards marijuana changed that much? No, that wasn’t the case at all. What had changed was that the 2016 ballot question contained a little known sellout to the liquor industry giving it exclusive rights to distribute pot in the state:
The measure mandated that for the first 18 months of licensing, the Department of Taxation would only accept license applications for marijuana stores, production facilities, and cultivation facilities from registered medical marijuana establishments. During the same time period, only registered wholesale liquor dealers would be permitted to apply for marijuana distributor licenses. [emphasis by The Secular Jurist]
Some today might undoubtedly see this provision as either insignificant or as a necessary compromise to get marijuana legalized in a state. I see it as the corrupting influence of money in America’s political system as well as a dangerous affront to democracy… and, worse.