New initiative to regulate pot use filed in Nevada

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A new initiative to tax and regulate adult use of marijuana in Nevada by licensing retail stores and growers was filed Wednesday with the secretary of state’s office.

Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws will need to gather 97,002 signatures to send the measure to the 2011 Legislature. If lawmakers fail to act, it would be placed on the 2012 ballot.

It will be the fourth attempt in the last decade to legalize marijuana in the state.

David Schwartz, manager of the campaign, said the group will focus on its claims that marijuana use is safer than alcohol.

“We will encourage voters to consider this fact and decide for themselves whether it makes sense to allow adults to use alcohol freely, but punish them if they choose to use a less harmful substance, marijuana,” Schwartz said.

The measure would limit the number of retail stores to 120 statewide, with numbers determined locally by population, Schwartz said. Store operators would pay a $2,500 licensing fee, according to the initiative.

Additionally, Schwartz said “cultivators” would be limited to 50 and that they would have to pay a $5,000 licensing fee and collect a tax at the wholesale level of $50 per ounce. It also would allow personal possession of up to 1 ounce.

Nevadans sanctioned medical marijuana use with passage of a constitutional amendment in 1998 and again in 2000, but voters in 2002 defeated a proposal to allow personal possession of up to 3 ounces.

A second attempt failed to qualify for the 2004 ballot.

Another measure allowing adults to legally possess up to 1 ounce was rejected in 2006, but backers of that effort were encouraged by the support and pledged then to try again in Nevada. Schwartz reiterated that opinion Wednesday.

“The environment we feel has changed,” he said. “The discussion has become nationwide.”

The 2006 measure failed 56 percent to 44 percent, buoyed by strong opposition from law enforcement. It also directed the state Department of Taxation to set up procedures to license and regulate pot growers, distributors and retailers.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, backed the prior initiatives and is supporting the latest effort.