Will pot initiative ruin Nevada’s image? | TheUnion.com

Will pot initiative ruin Nevada’s image?

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
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Nevada’s image could go up in smoke if a proposed marijuana initiative is eventually passed.

The Nevada Secretary of State, a Regular Joe named Dean Heller who races stock cars on weekends and plays pickup basketball at nights, recently confirmed that 74,767 registered voters had signed a petition that would remove the threat of arrest for adults who possess less than three ounces of marijuana.

Voters will still need to approve the ballot initiative in both the 2002 and 2004 general elections, and even if it passes, the feds are likely to invoke federal law to kill it.

The Silver State seems to have come full circle on its pot position. I recall growing up in the ’60s in San Francisco that Nevada was not a good place to get busted with marijuana. I’d heard the horror stories of the 10-year prison sentences dished out for a single joint (for those who have never inhaled, think cigarette). So my friends would leave their pot behind when they went to Nevada to visit legalized brothels and casinos. Nevada had standards back then: Drunk, yes. Stoned, no.

I’ll guess Nevada’s new interest in marijuana is not so much a result of wanting its citizens stoned all day. Imagine how difficult it would be counting poker chips after sucking a reefer. “One, two, three, four … seven … no … wait a minute … one, two, three, four … eight. ..” It’s more about individualism. Nevada has always been contrary. Especially when it comes to the federal government.

Nevada is Uncle Sam’s black sheep. “Why can’t you be more like Kansas?” Uncle chides it from time to time. “You don’t see Kansas chasing women and playing video poker all day.”

Just before I left Nevada, the feds were confiscating cows that were grazing on BLM land. Ranchers were retaliating by confiscating federal employees who were grazing on their land. Last I heard they were talking hostage exchange. “We’ll give you one of your employees back for every three cows you release,” the ranchers offered. “No way,” responded the feds. “Our employees are worth at least six cows.”

Bent out of shape, the feds decided to send a little nuclear waste Nevada’s way. “You can have your stupid cows!” they screamed. “But let’s see how they graze after a little radiation!”

Hence, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site was approved by a unanimous vote of Congress. “All in favor of nuking Nevada, say aye.”

Devastated by that decision, at least 74,000 Nevadans must have decided, “What the hell. If we’re going to die, we may as well be stoned.”

On the other hand, it could have something to do with the overcrowded prisons. You don’t get three strikes in Nevada. You get one, and foul balls count. I used to correspond with a bank robber ( I told you I didn’t have many friends) who has been in prison longer than most murderers. And the worst possible crime you can commit in Nevada is cheating. Rig a slot machine and you’ll be locked up until your teeth fall out and you forget how to use a toilet. Count cards and they chop your potty hand off and stick you in a tower with piped in music from Tony Orlando and Dawn until you go completely mad.

There’s simply no more room in the prisons for the dope smokers. Besides, they eat all the peanut butter.

According to the Nevada marijuana initiative, minors would still be prohibited from smoking pot. They have a law like that with cigarettes and you don’t see any kids out there smoking cigarettes, now do you?

And no marijuana would be allowed to be transported to or from Nevada, according to the initiative. Which means, I suppose, that they’ll be smoking home-grown weed.

That could be tough, considering Nevada is mostly desert. If memory serves me correctly (and my memory is probably better than former President Clinton’s), marijuana doesn’t grow too well in the desert. That’s why Maui has become the nation’s pot capital. It’s wet there.

The initiative also would prohibit marijuana advertising. Brothels face the same restriction, which is why the Mustang Ranch radio ads used to encourage listeners to visit their gift shop instead. “Just get off at the I-80 exit,” those ads would suggest.

It’s a beautiful state, Nevada.

There’s no question that Californians will be keeping close tabs on their bad-boy neighbors as the marijuana initiative makes its way through the political process. If it eventually passes, we could see a mass exodus to Nevada not seen since Megabucks hit $30 million.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,

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