Yesterday Nevada voters, who approved medical marijuana by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 in 2000, finally decided to legalize marijuana for recreational use as well. With 46 percent of precincts reporting, the state's legalization initiative, Question 2, is favored by 54 percent of voters, and ABC News projects that it will win.
Question 2 allows adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to an ounce at a time to other adults "without remuneration." Those provisions take effect on January 1.
The initiative charges the state Department of Taxation with licensing and regulating marijuana producers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and imposes a 15 percent excise tax on the "fair market value" of marijuana sold by growers. The department is required to issue regulations for the newly legal marijuana businesses and begin accepting license applications by the beginning of 2018.
For the first 18 months the department will accept applications for cultivation, manufacturing, and retailing licenses only from existing medical marijuana suppliers. During that same period only licensed wholesalers of alcoholic beverages will be allowed to apply for marijuana distribution licenses.
Consuming cannabis in a marijuana store, "a public place," or a moving vehicle will 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 leaves the door open to age-restricted establishments (other than marijuana stores) that could allow cannabis consumption on their premises. Question 2 also says "the legislature may amend provisions of this act to provide for the conditions in which a locality may permit consumption of marijuana in a retail marijuana store."
Question 2 was opposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Attorney General Adam Laxalt, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, and U.S. Reps. Joe Heck, Mark Amodel, and Cresent Hardy, all Republicans. Supporters of the initiative raised $4 million, while opponents raised $3.5 million, almost all of it from gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, founder, chairman. and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Last year Adelson spent another $140 million on the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a longtime opponent of marijuana prohibition that promptly switched sides on Question 2.