Election 2016: Marijuana in Nevada — to legalize, or not to legalize? | SierraSun.com

Election 2016: Marijuana in Nevada — to legalize, or not to legalize?

Kayla Anderson
Special to the Bonanza

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — One hundred days out from early election voting this spring, Reese Kintz Guinasso LLC Legal Partner Jason Guinasso launched a Facebook campaign posting 100 reasons why Measure 2 (the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative) should not be adopted in November's election.

As of Aug. 11, Guinasso has posted 32 reasons of why he believes Measure 2 should fail — ranging from economic impact, health detriments, and corporate interest conflicts.

"The engagement (on Facebook) has been interesting," said Guinasso, whose legal firm represents the Incline Village General Improvement District, among other local and regional entities. "I have a lot of friends who are pro marijuana, but my friends who are against it don't want to get into the fray."

Since there are mixed opinions about Measure 2, Guinasso posted guidelines to keep the Facebook conversation at a high level of dialogue.

"It's been a good discussion and I'm glad I'm getting folks' counterpoints because it allows me to analyze them and dig deeper into the research," he said.

Considering the importance of the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot for Nevada voters, the Bonanza recently interviewed Guinasso to learn more about his position.

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Is Marijuana Like Alcohol?

"One argument is that marijuana is just like alcohol, and that's not the case," Guinasso said. "The effects of marijuana are far more profound and addictive. For every dollar raised from alcohol we spend $10 in the consequences. For every dollar spent for marijuana, we spend $15 combating it."

Guinasso said that he has always had an opposition to legalizing marijuana, but he has never been involved in an integrated conversation such as this on multiple levels.

Cannabis in Pharmacies?

Guinasso was opposed to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes back when it was on the ballot in 2000.

"If we're going to treat marijuana as a drug, treat it like other medicines with regulations and testing," he said. "Quantify the medical benefits and distribute it through pharmacies."

Guinasso thinks that Nevada dispensaries and the state's special categorization for how cannabis is handled comes off as a sham.

Marijuana and the Black Market

Guinasso also believes that allowing marijuana for recreational use contributes to the black market rather than reducing it.

"The black market has nearly doubled in other states," he said, noting that there has been a huge increase in sex trafficking since Nevada legalized prostitution.

"Legalizing something to reduce the problem doesn't hold water based on experience," he said. "It exacerbates the problem; it doesn't solve it."

Will Marijuana Drive Tourism?

Some people have argued that legalizing marijuana would drive tourism and create a cash flow into the state, but Guinasso doesn't think that's the case.

"The gaming establishments are opposed to it because there's no benefit to them," he said. "It actually puts them in a quandary with it being illegal on a federal level.

"We've done a good job with connecting gaming and tourism, but with marijuana, that's not the case."

Guinasso believes that the effects of gaming are quantifiable, and gaming addiction is more easily treatable than marijuana.

"Marijuana is exponentially more harmful and impactful. It will put such a strain on the state dealing with the consequences," he said.

Creating a State Bureaucracy?

Another problem Guinasso sees is that all licensing and regulation would be run through the Department of Taxation.

"The ballot measure will give the Department of Taxation regulatory authority over the industry statewide and create a massive state bureaucracy," Guinasso posted to Facebook.

There was also a rumor circulating that after Colorado legalized recreational use marijuana, a lot of that money went toward education.

"That's not true," Guinasso says. "Before that money gets to education, you have to have the bureaucracy in place."

Among community outreach, education and bureaucracy, Guinasso says legalizing marijuana can cost upwards of $80 million.

"At the end of the day, when we just committed to the biggest tax increase toward education, now we're legalizing marijuana to contribute to a lack of performance and addiction?" Guinasso asks.

He cites a study from Duke University that tells how a person's IQ drops 8 percentage points by using marijuana.

"It impacts our ability to educate," he adds.

How Does Measure 2 Fit In With Employment?

As far as the cannabis industry creating jobs, Guinasso's rebuttal is, "It depends if you want more $10/hour jobs in selling a product that causes harm. But if you want a skilled workforce, then imposing this drug goes directly against that. Nevada wants high skilled, high paying jobs; legalization doesn't fit in.

What is the Likeliness Measure 2 Will Pass?

Regarding the likeliness Measure 2 will pass, Guinasso says, "Right now we're behind — 51% are in favor of it and 49% are opposed. But this is before any information is out; once people learn the facts, that majority will start to slip."

Guinasso believes the language in the way the measure is written is bad policy. Every major business he said he knows is against Measure 2, mainly because businesses are afraid of workers' compensation fees increasing and on-job accidents occurring more often.

"It's the marijuana industry dollars against grassroots dollars, and I hope the grassroots effort will win," Guinasso says. "But it's a hard battle, especially with respected figureheads wanting to legalize it. But it's a disastrous public policy choice that will ultimately work against growth and opportunity in Nevada."

Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer with a background in marketing and journalism. Email her at kaylaanderson1080@gmail.com.

Learn more

Visit bit.ly/2beRzNM to read the full language and to learn more about Measure 2.

Visit facebook.com/jason.guinasso to follow the dialogue on Jason Guinasso’s Facebook page urging voters to not adopt Measure 2.

Have thoughts on Measure 2? Send us a letter to the editor or guest column proposal to kmacmillan@sierrasun.com.

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