New industry shows its business side
Supporters of ballot Question Two have begun pushing messages designed to calm fears that marijuana prohibitionists are trying to spread.
During the first week of September, the Nevada Dispensary Association held events on child safety to support legislation regulating the design of medical marijuana edibles so they do not attract children.
In the second week of September, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol held news conferences to spotlight its claim that regulated, legal marijuana would produce both jobs and taxes in Nevada.
At the Reno news conference, Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung was on hand to endorse the measure and also introduced another factor in the campaign. She said approving the measure is a way of empowering women who tend to dominate existing medical marijuana companies.
Some critics say women tend to be out in front at the companies but that the ownership is principally male.
Jung responded, “I know two women majority owners that were at the news conference.”
Sarah Rosenfeld, listed as a corporate officer in Medical Marijuana Group Inc., said, “From my anecdotal experience, I would say there are more women in this industry.” (In June the Atlantic Monthly posted an article, “Why the Marijuana Business Is Appealing to Female Entrepreneurs.”)Black market
Asked why the language of the initiative petition favors some companies over others, Nevada Medical Marijuana Association spokesperson Will Adler said it was intended that the players who took early risks investing in medical marijuana should have a leg up on newcomers seeking to enter the field.
“I would prefer they are the first actors in the regulated marijuana market, anyway,” he said.
He said enactment of the initiative petition would “take a lot of jobs out of the black market and move them into the regulated legal market.” Whether it would work out that way is difficult to predict. A visual aid he employed at the news conference projected a $464,005,000 bonanza in tax revenues for the state over seven years if voters approve the measure. In Colorado, a combination of marijuana remaining illegal in some parts of the state and an array of taxes that push up the price of marijuana have kept a black market in business.
The Colorado marijuana market includes a 10 percent state marijuana tax, 2.9 percent state sales tax, 15 percent excise, and local sales taxes in some places. It is earmarked mostly for health-related spending, plus some education and law enforcement costs.
Taxation often drives a black market. Nevada loses some money to black market tobacco products, but the Western champ in this field is generally considered to be Arizona, where the tax level is higher than both neighboring states and tribal reservations.
Opponents of Question Two have been laying low through most of the campaign so far, and are believed to be marshalling their funds for heavy advertising buys at the end of the campaign. Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson is among leading Nevada opponents of regulated marijuana, and he provided most of the funding for an anti-marijuana campaign in Florida two years ago. That campaign dealt with medical uses for the plant, and opinion surveys showed up to 90 percent of Floridians supported the state measure, but Adelson’s $5 million overcame that. The vote actually supported passage of medical marijuana with a 57 percent majority, but fell short of a required 60 percent supermajority.
There has been no firm sign yet of whether Adelson will enter the Nevada campaign, but his Las Vegas Review Journal reversed its position on legal marijuana after he purchased that newspaper.
There are several organizations set up to oppose Question Two in Nevada, but they are mostly little-funded. The most credible, headed by former Nevada Assembly Republican floor leader Pat Hickey, is called Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy, but its activities have been mostly educational and low-key so far.
Clark County Sens. Richard Segerblom and Patricia Farley have said they will sponsor legislation to deal with marijuana edibles if the ballot measure is approved. In Colorado, the physical appearance of some commercial edibles was similar to candy or dessert items and lured children, akin to the way some cold tablets resemble red M&Ms. The Colorado attorney general has twice issued regulations to reduce the risk to children. Though no Nevada language is available yet, the Farley/Segerblom measures are expected to crack down on the use of cartoon characters, animal and fruit shapes.
Farley is a Republican, Segerblom a Democrat.