Nevada Measure Is First Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Qualify for 2016 Ballot


Jacob Sullum

Yesterday a Nevada initiative became the first marijuana legalization measure to qualify for the 2016 ballot. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had submitted more than enough valid signatures to submit its initiative to voters in November 2016, assuming that the state legislature does not act on the issue before then.

Like Colorado's Amendment 64, the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana would make it legal for adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to ounce at a time to other adults "without remuneration." The initiative charges the state Department of Taxation with licensing and regulating marijuana producers, distributors, and retailers. It imposes a 15 percent excise tax on the "fair market value" of marijuana sold by growers. 

Consuming cannabis in a marijuana store, "a public place," or a moving vehicle would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $600. The initiative defines "a public place" as "an area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted regardless of age," which suggests that age-restricted establishments (other than marijuana stores) could allow cannabis consumption on their premises. That option would distinguish Nevada from Colorado and Washington, where the rules governing consumption outside the home remain fuzzy.

So far voters in four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. A 2013 survey of Nevada voters by Public Policy Polling put support for legalization of recreational marijuana at 54 percent. Other states where voters are likely to see legalization initiatives in 2016 include Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Montana.