Pot tale of the week

In the Carson Valley Times, prohibitionist lawyer Jim Hartman was quoted on the initiative petition, ballot Question Two, that provides for regulation of marijuana:

“It’s a 13-page initiative that was written by the marijuana industry,” Hartman was quoted as saying. “It protects the industry while doing a disservice to Nevadans. It never went through the legislative process. It hasn’t been vetted. It’s tremendously skewed toward the industry.”

In fact, the initiative petition was submitted to the 2015 Nevada Legislature for exactly that purpose, to be vetted. The legislators passed up the chance. Under the law, the lawmakers can enact an initiative petition outright, eliminating the need to put it on the ballot, or they can draft an alternative version of the petition which would appear side-by-side on the ballot with the original version and the voters can take their pick.

The legislators chose a third option—they more or less ignored the whole thing. Only one house dealt with it at all. The Assembly sent it to the Judiciary Committee, which took its time dealing with it, though it was waiting for the legislators on the first day of the legislature, Feb. 2. Not until March 9 did the committee have a hearing on it, at which committee chair Ira Hansen said, “Just so everyone knows, I intend to move both I.P. One and Initiative Petition Two out of committee without any recommendation to let them go to the leadership, and if the leadership wants to hold an actual vote on them, it will be a vote of the Committee of the Whole [the entire Assembly]. That is all I am doing with these.” (At that point marijuana was IP One and weapons background checks was IP Two. For unknown reasons, the numbers were switched by the secretary of state’s office when they went on the ballot.)

Thereafter, it was mentioned once in the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee but otherwise was ignored and allowed to go on the ballot. The job of scrutinizing its policy implications or workability was never done. By turning the matter over to legislative leaders, the legislative fate of the petition was determined behind closed doors. The legislators—or their leaders—did not avail themselves of the opportunities to vet the petition or to draft a better version. The failure of the Assembly to act on the petition meant that the Senate never saw it.