Officials ignore their orders

There are always difficulties when citizens do their own lawmaking instead of going to the legislature to do it. It’s one reason we have often argued against initiative government.

Initiative petitions sometimes have drafting flaws in them, and in some cases they may not be discovered until after the election is over. Members of the public have every reason to expect their lawmakers to respect the public’s intent and make a good-faith effort to make the measures work, anyway. In a couple of instances, public officials this year are trying to defeat the public’s intent in ballot measures passed in the November election.

In the case of ballot Question 1, which provided for some background checks for gun purchases, the measure specified that FBI background checks be run. After the voters approved the measure, the FBI informed the state that it prefers Nevada to conduct the checks.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who opposed the measure during the campaign, all but cackled with pleasure over this news. He and some other officials shrugged their shoulders and said there was no way to implement the law passed by the public, which was nonsense. The problems could have been and should have been solved. But there was no respect for the public’s vote—not by the governor, who previously vetoed a similar legislative measure and failed to call on the legislature to follow the public’s orders, not by the attorney general, not by state legislators.

Then there is ballot Question 2, providing for legal marijuana use. County officials around the state who do not approve of the public’s decision are busily trying to obstruct it. They’ve taken a leaf from the anti-abortion book, in which activists who found they cannot outlaw abortion have tried repeatedly to make the procedure difficult to obtain by legislating peripheral difficulties, such as parental consent, physician lectures, unnecessary clinic requirements, spousal consent, and on and on.

In the case of Douglas County, Ordinance 2017-1481 prohibits “marijuana establishment uses, including cultivation, testing, product manufacturing, distribution and retail facilities in all Douglas County zoning districts.” Officials in Douglas, with 2.3 percent of the state’s population, believe they can try to use administrative measures to limit the breadth of the public’s vote.

Elko County has discussed similar measures but taken no action so far. Prohibitionist lawyer Jim Hartman of Genoa has been pushing the approach, citing the 200-plus towns in Colorado that opted out of legal marijuana as “precedent” for counties to do the same. But Colorado’s marijuana law allows local option. Nevada’s does not. And that’s really not the point, which is officialdom using bureaucracy to try to defeat by other means a decision made by the public that could not be defeated at the polls.

Nevada officials have their marching orders from the voters. They may not agree with the voters or the new laws. That is irrelevant. These are officials who would be appalled if the members of the public picked and chose which laws they would obey. Yet these officials are picking and choosing which of the laws the public enacts they will respect.