A few months ago, Pat Hickey, a former member of the Nevada State Legislature and the current leader of the Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy, asked if he could meet with me to share what he wants moms to know about the recreational marijuana question on the ballot.
I honestly hadn’t done any research on this issue, and was happy to hear what he had to say. I went into the conversation thinking we should totally legalize marijuana and tax the heck out of it to help pay for education in Nevada. I’ll keep my opinions to myself, but Pat had some valid points to consider before you cast your ballot. This is what he wants us moms to know:
- The question on the ballot is whether or not to legalize recreational sale and make it legal for adults over 21 to possess it. The people in support of this initiative believe the war on drugs has failed, so we should regulate and tax it like we’ve done with alcohol, gaming, and prostitution. Pat told me that the Colorado governor recently said that he tells other governors that legalizing marijuana won’t solve your needs for paying for schools because 95% of the revenues generated have gone into implementing the infrastructure to regulate, set prices, and education on high potency and edibles. What’s more, emergency visits are way up. Colorado says marijuana tax revenues make up .06% of the overall budget, and almost 25% of that money goes towards implementation and regulation. In response to the argument is that legalizing marijuana eliminates the black market, Pat said in states where it is legal, the cartels are still existing. The black market is into making money, so they sell marijuana cheaper, and it also creates a “gray market”, where growers are selling both in legal and illegal avenues.
- The problem for schools: Studies have indicated that marijuana use results in lower IQs, drop-out rates double, and college entrance scores going down. Colorado and Washington State have 20% of underage use, which is a significant increase after the legalization. Pat said, “as a member of the board of education, the reason I’m opposed to it is that marijuana use is not going to help us turn out the kind of students that will succeed.” He went on to say that the requirements of the new workforce, in which Northern Nevada is trying to get away from gaming and construction is for more technical and advanced manufacturing roles, which will require high education standards. He said that legalizing marijuana created huge problems in Colorado for workforce issues, which meant companies are having to market outside of the state because of applicants failing drug tests.
- The biggest problem is the appeal to younger consumers. I think this is the biggest concern for Moms. Just as big tobacco argued it wasn’t addictive and used Joe Camel to appeal to underage audiences, with the edibles, they’ve created pot gummy bears, pop tarts, ice cream, and soda “pot”, creating emergency room visits because kids get into their family’s supply of edibles. According to Hickey, big corporations are trying to make a ton of money off this initiative. Marley Naturals, a big tobacco company, has already paid $55 million for rights. Personally, I worry about raising a teen in a state where marijuana is legal and easier to get. You may be able to control access in your own house, but what about when your child goes to a friend’s house, and they aren’t as concerned with locking up their edibles?
- The only people who could start recreational businesses are the ones already into the medical marijuana and the alcohol wholesalers, which are the same groups that pushed to get this on the ballot.
- Officials haven’t yet figured out how to test marijuana like alcohol for DUI testing. Marijuana gets into your fat and stays in your system a lot longer. You have to admit we already have a signifiant issue with people driving under the influence due to alcohol, and legal marijuana could likely make matters worse on our local roads.
- Industries such as alcohol and marijuana profit off of creating habitual users. 75% of alcohol’s profits come from 10% of drinkers, and potencies are increased to make it more addictive.
- Colorado took 12 years to go from medical to recreational. They have all kinds of problems with regulating medical marijuana due to fake cards from CA, which are not taxed because of an out of state prescription. Pat Hickey asks, “Why are we in such a rush to legalize recreational when we still haven’t mastered the regulation of medical marijuana?”
- This isn’t the marijuana that we grew up with. According to Hickey, today’s marijuana is high potency, GMO engineered products, and in many cases 20 and 30 times more potent of the marijuana of the 70s. Case in point: read this article about when NY Times reporter Maureen Dowd tried edible marijuana and ended up overdosing on it accidentally. Edibles take a while before you feel the effects, whereas smoking is almost instantaneous. A lot of people eat a bit, and then think it’s not working, and eat more. Or, like Maureen Dowd, they make the mistake of mixing it with alcohol, all which can cause an overdose. If an educated woman who is purposely trying an edible to write an article makes this mistake, imagine how easy it would be for a teen or college student to do the same.
- Profits will only go to education after the department of taxation covers all of their expenses for implementing. In essence, the State of Nevada will have to set up a mini food and drug administration to check things like potency and pesticide levels. Any money left over will be given to the statewide education fund and lawmakers can decide to use it for other purposes. The first year Colorado had legalized marijuana, $20 Million went to their schools, which isn’t even enough to build one elementary school.
In essence, Pat Hickey says this initiative is bad for kids, bad for schools, bad for the workforce, hirings and workplace safety. He reminds us that this won’t solve WCSD capital challenges (but I’ll insert that voting yes on WC-1 will help a lot!), and is an initiative driven by corporate interest and their interest is profit from mostly out of state corporations.
Want to learn more? The Reno Gazette Journal recently published an article on who will benefit financially from this initiative. The Las Vegas Sun also recently published an article about Things to Know About Nevada’s Legal Pot Ballot Measure.
Pat Hickey was an early advocate for educational reforms while serving in the Nevada Legislature. He has also supported and voted for greater revenue for K-12 education in Nevada on the heels of passing those reforms. Gov. Brian Sandoval recently appointed Hickey to serve on the Nevada State Board of Education, District 2. He also represents Nevandans for Responsible Drug Policy. Pat Hickey has four children who went through WCSD as well as private school, and he teaches political science and journalism school at UNR.