The Drug War has Gone to Pot

While the jackbooted thugs at the DOJ would have us believe that the front lines in the drug war are the blood-stained streets of America’s inner cities, the most important battle in years is being quietly waged in the desert.

In some ways Nevada is the last bastion of American freedom. Though a far cry from the laissez-faire of my dreams, in portions of Nevada people are permitted to freely engage in peaceful, non-aggressive activities the rest of the states would gleefully jail them for. So it seems rather fitting that an upcoming vote in the Silver State may well mark the beginning of the end of the nonsensical Drug War.

An initiative crafted by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, appearing on the November ballot, would amend Title 40 of the state’s Revised Statutes to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older. The multi-point initiative defines licensing, manufacturing and sales requirements. The penalty for driving under the influence of marijuana is increased and transporting it across state lines would be criminalized by Nevada law (that should make the blanket appeal to the commerce clause a bit more difficult). The referendum also doubles the penalty for providing cannabis to a minor.

A similar initiative to decriminalize up to three ounces was defeated by Nevada voters in 2002. The earlier campaign clearly lacked the organization, fund raising and palatable limits and wording that the current initiative has. The three ounce limit of the prior campaign was a major issue for the opposition as newscasts repeatedly showed video of people carrying around large bags of marijuana. Despite these difficulties, thirty-nine percent of voters approved the earlier proposal.

Campaign staff member Marco Carbone tells us the current campaign is raising funds to continue radio ads and drive traffic to the Committee’s website where voters can read about the initiative and peruse one of the best FAQs I’ve ever seen. Although the Committee is partially backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, more donations are needed to make voter-approval a reality.

While our lofty goal of a free society remains well out of reach, people are becoming more and more tired of being told how to live their lives.

Alaska’s 2004 initiative for outright legalization garnered forty-four percent of the vote despite the absurd Reefer Madness-style late inning press coverage. Current polls show Alaskans are quite angry after an underhanded attempt by the legislature to re-criminalization marijuana despite the constitutionally protected right of possession.

People are slowly tiring of government’s many excesses, and they are saying so at the ballots. Marijuana laws are on their way out. Laws governing other consensual activities will certainly follow. Both lifelong Republicans and Democrats are growing verbally disgusted with the current political climate.

The Nevada domino may well fall in November; the first of many state vetoes of federal usurpation. What’s good for freedom anywhere is good for freedom everywhere. Don’t fail to help in any way you can just because you don’t live in Nevada.

Somewhere Niemoller is hoping.

Artus Register

A self-described "objectivist-leaning libertarian deist," Artus Register became a full fledged libertarian after the 2000 elections. An unapologetic freedom-lover, enemy of the state, trouble maker, and permanent subscriber to the "ain't a dime's worth of difference" ideology, Register enjoys few things more than illustrating the hypocrisy of the so-called "left" and "right." When not bellowing from his cyber soapbox, he enjoys Cuban tobacco, good whiskey, and better debate. He lives with his wife in the American southeast where he works as a privacy consultant.You can contact him, if you must, at minarchist[at]

  1. The penalties for driving “under the influence” are stiffened? That’s absolutely stupid! In other words, if you smoke pot and then a week later get pulled over, you’ll get a stiff penalty for being “under the influence”.

    That’s a deal breaking poison pill, if you ask me.

  2. According to MPP, this ballot initiative is in dead heat:

    “The Marijuana Policy Project recently commissioned a survey of 5,000 registered voters in Nevada which revealed that voters are split precisely 50% to 50% on our ballot initiative.”

  3. Actually, the increased penalty for driving under the influence of marijuana may be okay, depending on what is sufficient proof of someone being “under the influence.”

    If it’s the presence of cannabinoids in the hair or blood, there’s a big problem. If it’s required to prove actual impaired operation of the vehicle, then the cannabis involvement is used to stiffen the penalty, then it’s less meaningful.

  4. DD,

    This question is addressed in the FAQ at

    Won’t this initiative make it illegal to drive if you’ve used marijuana within the past 30 days?

    No. The initiative does not create a law that criminalizes sober drivers. Unfortunately, that law is already on the books in Nevada. Our initiative cannot fix every bad law in the state. But we hope that the initiative will bring attention to this law and that the legislature will pass a law that accurately measures marijuana intoxication.

    I don’t think the driving under the influence penalties should be a deal breaker. The benefits of this initiative far outweigh the stiffer penalties for driving under the influence. They put that in there to fend off attacks from last time a legalization intiative was on the ballot and the prohibitionists said that everyone would be driving stoned if it passed. Think about legal possession of 1oz.

  5. It should be noted that the maximum, not minimum, penalty for vehicular homicide under the influence is being doubled, and not the general DUI penalty. As for the law about what defines being under marijuana’s influence, MPP has committed to work on overturning that law during the next Nevada legislative session.

  6. Colorado is also trying to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, via Petition signatures were due today and I understand they submitted a suitable number.

    SAFER was also behind Denver’s legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana last year surprising most political observers, showing that voters CAN act rationally in the secrecy of the voting booth.

    I already sent them a link to the UK report /2006/08/07/uk-science-panel-lists-marijuana-ecstasy-lsd-behind-tobacco-alcohol/ posted here earlier today since their argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol has been ridiculed in the press.

  7. The only situation that I can see someone getting charged for driving stoned would be if the cop saw the driver smoking. Otherwise, I know of no way to prove when the driver had smoked.

  8. I think the Nevada group is taking the right approach. In many cases, I think that those of us who are “all-or-nothing” libertarians often overlook the fact that you need to start somewhere palatable to the general public. In a way, it is a good wedge to drive into the gap. Once people begin to see that the effects are not so bad, the laws can be further relaxed. We need to start taking incremental steps to get where we want to be rather than taking the all-or-nothing approach that seems to be all-too-common in our party. Some may call it standing down from principles while I see it as a means to take steps to further our cause, albeit slight. Instead of drawing lines in the sand, crossing our arms and telling everyone they must leap, we take them by the hand and guide them step by step.

  9. For Driving under the influence there is a saliva test available that actually shortens detection time down about 14 hours. With being legal hopefully a reasonable intoxification level will be determined unlike Michigan. The bad thing is past studies have shown a decrease in fatal accidents with increased marijuana use. Thanks in part to fact less people drink and drive.
    Drug prohibition is huge monster that can be argued as a whole but every small victory helps start another.

  10. It is still banned federally… and this does fall under interstate commerce, because legal marijuana in Nevada would create a substantial effect on interstate commerce, thus it is (in the courts opinion) within the federal government’s authority to illegalize.

  11. Kudos to the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana and the folks at SAFER for doing a great job of organizing and engaging in action as opposed to engaging in internal name-calling, finger-pointing, naval-gazing, and worrying about what political opponents think.

    And shame, shame, shame on all those “all-or-nothing” libertarians who tried to thwart the work of the people in Nevada and Colorado. Remember, it only takes one of these “all-or-nothing” libertarians to negate the efforts of thousands.

    Maybe someone who knows the secret identities of these “all-or-nothing” libertarians could post their names here so we know exactly who they are. I don’t know who they are, but I hear so many references to them that there must be a great number of them lurking around.

  12. Colson — I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    Don’t be surprised to hear people reply, “Incrementalism in theory is perpetuity in practice.” It’s utter nonsense — but expect to hear it. :) I’ll leave you to figure out *why* it is.

    Matt — the stiffened penalties for carrying even NV-legal amounts across state borders restrict the possibility of the interstate commerce clause being enacted; after all — how can something affect interstate commerce if carrying it across state lines at all is strictly prohibited?

    Not air-tight… but good.

  13. Tom:

    wtf are you talking about? Your comment looks like a big troll for the sole reason of stirring the pot when it dont need stirred. If I didnt know better, I ‘d say you’ve been pining away for a name calling contest before you write exactly the kind of comment you wrote in hopes of starting a fight.

    I got other things to do right now. You so NOT on the list. Pick someone else.

  14. Tim – Instead of stirring the pot, try smoking some. My comments about the “all-or-nothing” libertarians is in reference to post #9.

    I want to find out who all these “all-or-nothing” libertarians are that I hear so much about.

    I seek no name calling contest and I am utterly baffled by your statement:

    “I got other things to do right now. You so NOT on the list. Pick someone else.”

    What are you talking about?

  15. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( is making presentations about the failure of the War on Drugs in Las Vegas and Reno over the next couple of months–imagine an organization of cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others in the criminal justice system who believe that drug prohibition is a complete failure. That org exists and it’s providing a msg that is causing the “other side” to blink. The media is shocked but hey, who better to explain the issue than the people tasked with carrying out the policy?

  16. I live in a “per-se” state, which means that they don’t have to bother with providing evidence that you were driving under the influence other than a BAC or drug content in blood. You could have been driving straight as an arrow at the speed limit and come up on a road block. You don’t have to be impaired, only have the evidence of having taken the substance to be convicted.

    Maybe Nevada isn’t a per-se state and they have to show that you were erratic or dangerous in addition to the bac, etc.

  17. in reply to post #11

    It is still banned federally”¦ and this does fall under interstate commerce, because legal marijuana in Nevada would create a substantial effect on interstate commerce, thus it is (in the courts opinion) within the federal government’s authority to illegalize.

    Comment by Matt ”” 2006-08-07 @ 8:59 pm

    well to put it simply, the federal goverment should have better things to do than prosecute state law abiding citizens, especialy when they can’t even prepare for a hurricane with a 1 week notice.

    not to mention the war accross see’s. and every state has the power to make it’s own laws.

    but the important part is that currently anyone who want’s marijuana is already getting marijuana, so why not take money away from violent gang’s and drug dealer’s and generate money for the state? and the key at least in my mind is simple….


    but under this initiative you would have to be 21 just to enter a store that sell’s marijuana.

  18. Winning the iniative is more important than if the federal government voids the action. If the iniative passes, it will prove that the topic of mj legalization can be won on a larger scale. This will cause an in rush of money from those who support mj legalization. Moreover, it will legitamize the movement and provide support for politicians who decide to take on the ole prohibitionist regime. In time the federal law will change and we will be rid of this insane and corrupt policy forever.

  19. Question: What do you think about employers screening employees (without cause) if it ever does become legal, on both a state and federal level?

    What if employers use a test that shows a positive if administered within 30 days of use, and can’t show depairment or toxic effects?

    This is a tougher one for me, since I believe in the free market and free associations, but also in individual rights. Corporations are entities created by the state, that have privleges many smaller businesses do not, so they should not be entitled to do what they choose in all matters.


  20. I disagree with your line of thinking, Pande. Taking money away from the drug dealers to give to the state may be more pallatable for those from traditional moral backgrounds, but if pot is going to be legalized, I don’t think taxation should be the justification. And if we were using any age as a benchmark forl egality I would use the same age as tobacco, 18 or 19(depending on state).

    I think using the idea of more revenue for the state kind of cheapens legalization, when the real reason it should be legalized is because adults’ bodies are not wards of the state.

  21. Those who have expressed confusion about the DUI/DWI issue, as well as other “negative” points involved in the initiative….you must realize that a step in the right direction is a positive one, DUI/DWI laws already exist, and I believe that the penalty will become more agressive for anyone, under the influence of anything. Tests can determine a level of THC in the blood high or low, and I am sure there will be some regulation on how high that number will need to be to deem a person under the influence. Responsibility is a part of our freedom, wether we want it or not! Get involved and help get those votes towards freedom everyone!!

  22. While you all are right about the stiff penalties for DUI, the law is presumptuous, which is described as following accepted general knowledge, so that it would seem that any good Lawyer worth their weight legally, would be able to show and argue that acceptable scientific knowledge doesn’t apply to “just a proof positive” that a positive test gives. There is enough evidence for a sound threshold for being under the influence. What is needed are Judges with balls to follow accepted knowledge and then rule wisely.

  23. I am seeing a lot of good points here. I think the key to winning this battle is to prove to the old people and the squares and the churchies that there lives wont be ruined by legalized marijuana. Unfortunately, we are fighting people who have no idea what marijuana is about. Besides, they are in complete denial if they think their neighbors aren’t high right now. If were going to have a war on drugs, let’s fight the alcohol that makes people cheat on their husbands and wives and the happy pills they take to become dull and lifeless. Congratulations to Nevada and Colorado for taking a stand and taking back control of their own bodies. I also believe that legalizing marijuana may help to curb this heinous meth epidemic nationwide by giving these people a choice. Feel free to comment.

  24. You say we are fighting people who have no idea what marijuana is about. I know what you mean, but you have stumbled upon the key to this campaign. We have to show how marijuana prohibtion affects everyone. Well, what is marijuana about in relation to the above mentioned people? I’m sure these people would be concerned about the $13 billion in taxes, their taxes, wasted trying to unsuccessfully stop the marijuana black market. I’m sure they may be concerned by the diversion of police forces away from violent crimes to persue marijuana crimes. Winning this inniative will require expressing all the reasons for legalizing marijuana. It is just a matter of what issue resonates with a particular voter.