No risk in voting ‘yes’ on 9

So you feel you’ve been bullied by both sides of the Question 9 debate. The big drums of the war-on-drug mongers beat out their reefer madness nonsense on one side. The drooling drug legalization crowd led us on about making marijuana more accessible to those with a legitimate medical need. The pro-pot folks just want what they’ve always wanted—legal weed.

So what’s a person in the middle of all this to do?

Well, registered voters, you’ve got two choices. You can vote no on Question 9, and the debate ends. That’s it. It’s over.

Or you can vote yes and let the discussion—and perhaps an honest search for answers—continue for another two years.

Remember, even if Question 9 wins a vote of the people this time around, it has to come back for another vote in 2004. The initiative doesn’t go to the state legislature for action until after it passes a second time.

Two years would give us time to deal with plenty of unanswered questions. What are the real dangers of legalized marijuana? How would such a thing change your life? How would the federal government react to Nevada’s decision not to prosecute folks with three ounces or less of pot? How many fewer individuals would be in Nevada prisons today if that pot had been legal?

OK, we can answer that last question. Nevada has three individuals currently in prison solely for possessing marijuana, according to Fritz Schlottman, a research analyst for the Nevada Department of Corrections. But local police officers have arrested, searched, harassed, given police records to, fined and placed on probation many individuals who possess small amounts of weed. Not all pot smokers are the burned-out dregs of society you catch sight of sleeping in the park during the day. Some are actually successful professionals.

Is pot a gateway drug? For some people, it is. So is alcohol, which is legal. So is tobacco, which is more addictive than heroin.

Would some kind of government regulation benefit users of pot? That doesn’t seem unlikely. Legalized brothels in Nevada, where working girls undergo routine medical check-ups for sexually transmitted diseases, are arguably safer places to buy sex than the average AIDS-infested street corner. Does legalized prostitution make selling sex OK? Not for many people—who don’t go to brothels.

Legalizing small amounts of pot would make it possible for small dealers and moderate users to obtain dope without dealing with the seedy underworld of illegal drug cartels. With the right kind of creative business plan, tourism could conceivably benefit. Nevada has historically been on the cutting edge of sin in the United States—divorce, legal gambling, prostitution—why not pot?

Voting no on 9 ends it here. A yes vote gives us two more years to think about our fears and about the possibilities.

An anti-drug pamphlet used in Washoe County School’s substance abuse classes has a list of reasons why a person shouldn’t smoke pot. The first reason offered: “It is illegal.”

What happens if it’s not?