(Jim Clark) – I spent the last couple of weeks visiting the northwest, primarily Washington. Locals there are complaining about a “dry” season but everything I saw was wet and green and the many rivers were at full spring flow.
Politically the State of Washington looks a bit like a future Nevada when it comes to intoxicants. Currently pending in the Nevada legislature is a bill that would legalize wineries and tasting rooms in Washoe and Clark Counties. Also, although there is currently no legislative proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the Silver State, medical marijuana was approved by the 2013 legislature and State Sen. Tick Segerbloom (D – Las Vegas) will be the driving force behind a citizens’ petition to legalize recreational marijuana if he can secure the 101,667 signatures required to place the measure on the 2016 ballot.
Arguments for easing restrictions on Nevada’s fledgling wine industry are powerful. Eastern Washington has soil and climate very similar to Nevada’s and some excellent red and white wines are produced in the Walla Walla and Columbia River Valley areas. Grape vines require only a fraction of the water that alfalfa does so stimulation of a Nevada wine industry would be both good conservation and tourism policy.
Currently, Washington is the second largest producer of wine and wine grapes in the United States, lagging behind only California. The number of Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade and currently total over 750. Based on the latest figures available the economic impact of the Washington wine industry on that state’s economy is $8.6 billion annually, more than Nevada’s entire two year budget.
Washington’s experience legalizing pot in 2012 can also be instructive to Nevadans. They too instituted the law by initiative petition; the only opposition was police organizations although both the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor nominally opposed the initiative. Support was substantial and the measure won by 56% to 44%. Voter turnout for the election was 81%, highest in the United States (Nevada Democratic State Senator Segerbloom is also urging the Democratic Party to endorse and support the initiative as a means of increasing turnout so they can recapture the legislature from Republicans). The influential Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper is editorially supporting the Nevada measure.
What can Nevadans expect if the legalization measure becomes law in the Silver State? Andy Whyman, M.D., has written several columns in the Bonanza on marijuana and expressed an opinion that the substance is probably less harmful than alcohol so it is unlikely that the landscape will change too much. Seattle looks much like it always has although the area now supports ten retail cannabis stores and three “glass” (paraphernalia) stores.
Individuals are permitted to possess 1 ounce of cannabis flower, 7 grams of cannabis extracts, 16 ounces of “edibles and topicals” in solid form and 72 ounces of edibles and topicals in liquid form. Operating a vehicle in Washington with 5 or more nanograms of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC per milliliter of blood is presumed by law to be driving under the influence.
The economic impact of weed legalization is still not known. For one thing, pot is still against federal law and, although not being enforced in states where it’s legal, federally insured banks are reluctant to open accounts for marijuana retailers. However the Washington cannabis commission expects state tax revenues of $237 million for the current budget rising to $415 million for the next biennium budget.
Both the expansion of wineries and legalization of marijuana are expected to substantially increase Nevada tourism. The gaming industry would most likely welcome increased tourism as well as a couple of other industries with which to share Nevada’s business tax burden.
Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.