The legalization of marijuana is becoming a topic that is sweeping the nation. Washington and Colorado recently legalized marijuana use and several other states have or are looking into the issue as well. In Nevada, a bill introduced by Democrat Joe Hogan would allow residents 21 and older to own up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and up to six marijuana plants as well as taxing marijuana sales.
The group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( LEAP ) is hoping Nevada joins Washington and Colorado in the legalization of marijuana, though the group’s reasons may surprise you.
LEAP is comprised of former law enforcement officers, attorneys and judges who all took part in the “war on drugs,” which President Richard Nixon began in the 70s. But LEAP argues that the war on drugs not only hasn’t been effective, it’s actually helped fuel the illegal drug trade in the United States.
“The war on drugs causes what it was designed to prevent,” former prosecutor James Gierach said. “It works in reverse and what seems like a good idea is a bad idea. It keeps the price of drugs high, but simple laws of economics tell us as we increase the price of drugs, the more someone is willing to supply it so there’s more drugs instead of less of it.”
Gierach said the war on drugs is actually doing more harm than good because of some basic reasons. The first reason is because prohibition ensures that large numbers of unregulated drugs will be available for people The second reason is because Giearch said the drug cartels themselves are in support of prohibition. Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the world, Giearch said. And according to LEAP, by choosing to ban all use of the drug, it drives up the demand for the cartels.
“In 2011, a drug threat assessment was issued,” Gierach said. “The DEA said cartels are producing 25,100 tons of marijuana a year. Sixty percent of the money that goes to cartels in Mexico is from marijuana.”
But LEAP’s reasoning for supporting the regulation and taxation on marijuana rather than its prohibition goes further. Whether it’s gun violence, gang violence and crimes, having to build more prisons, a blanket prohibition on drugs makes those issues worse.
“You name the crisis, the war on drugs makes it worse,” Gierach said. “It corrupts the police, the kids, we fund terrorism and put guns in the hands of kids=C2=85The law enforcement agencies are working for the cartels and gangs to ensure they are the only outlets for these substances.”
Gierach said that by prohibiting the use of substances, it has led to the creation of synthetic drugs, which can be dangerous to the user’s health.
“The substitutes are much more dangerous, resulting in death, disease and paralysis,” Gierach said.
LEAP also believes that freeing up money that is spent on by often lengthy investigations into drug charges and cases could be used else where to other types of cases.
What action Nevada takes on legalizing marijuana remains to be seen. In the past, people have been in favor of the war on drugs because of different entities getting to keep part of the drug bust money. But it also needs to be stopped, Gierach said.
“Al Capone was in favor of prohibition,” Gierach said. “The cartels are. The street gangs are. Prohibition is the foundation for the business and helps it become the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth.”
LEAP is optimistic that the national consciousness about marijuana use is changing and he hopes to see all states adopt regulation laws on marijuana use=C2=85and sooner rather than later.
“The pendulum is swinging in regulation control land taxation of drugs,” Gierach said. “Nationally and locally on a state basis, we can’t pay the price tags that come with prohibition.”
Marijuana has hit White Pine County with two grows found last year with an estimated worth of more than $30 million. But whether AB 402 will make any movement this session remains to be seen. Opponents to legalizing marijuana say that it can lead to addiction and that it could send the wrong message to children that it’s OK to do drugs.
State Senator Pete Goicoeceha is one who opposes legalizing marijuana and said that he will not be supporting AB 402.
“I’m very concerned about it, especially the tax they’re imposing,” Goicoechea said. “It will allow you to have one ounce in your possession and it will be decriminalized. It opens it wide open for more illegal narcotics. You’ve got to pay a thousand dollar a gram tax on it, we’ll start seeing black market marijuana. It’ll throw the gates open. I will oppose the bill. I think it’s a gateway drug. I know it’s for people 21 and older, but it’s illegal for kids to smoke and they find their way. It’s just a matter of time.”
Goicoechea also expressed concerns passing a bill that goes against current federal laws.
It’s clear the debate surrounding legalizing marijuana is far from finished. Whether Nevada joins Washington and Colorado is an issue that is likely to see strong opinions on both sides.