ACLU, NAACP Support Legalized Recreational Marijuana - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

ACLU, NAACP Support Legalized Recreational Marijuana

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Question 2 is one of the most controversial measures on this year's ballot.  Two national groups have put their support behind the ballot measure, saying it will benefit minorities who are more likely to be cited for marijuana-related crimes.

"An African American person is 4.5-times more likely to get a citation or go to jail for marijuana possession than a white person, when the use is no different," Holly Welborn, Policy Director of ACLU of Nevada said.

The NAACP agrees that legalizing marijuana would keep minorities out of trouble, rather than be cited for a non-violent crime.

"So we can stop that from happening so folks can go on with their lives," Patricia Gallimore, President of Reno/Sparks NAACP said. "Unfortunately, driving while black is a real thing. Driving while a minority, it's a real thing."

In addition to race, Welborn says Colorado has seen a 70 percent decrease in the black market for marijuana since it was legalized there, which eliminates other related crimes.

"If we eradicate that market, and bring it to a regulated market, then we will start seeing a decrease in people being arrested for trafficking and incarcerated for trafficking," Welborn said.

Other studies show black markets are still very prevalent in Colorado, saying street marijuana is cheaper than regulated and taxed marijuana.  It has also created a middle man for minors who want to get the drug.

"The notion that you have to be 21 to buy it, you're not going to be able to get it.  That's just hollow. That's not going to be the case," Chris Hicks, Washoe County District Attorney said. "We know that people get alcohol, kids get alcohol, and we've seen a black market in Colorado now where people, over 21 are buying it and then breaking it down and selling it to youth."

Proponents argue that billions of dollars could be saved on the enforcement and legal costs associated with marijuana laws.  Will Adler is the Executive Director of Nevada Medical Marijuana Association.  He says decriminalizing weed is a good way to keep people out of jails for minor infractions.

"If you go to jail for 30 days, that's still enough to ruin your life, lose your job and put a black mark on your record that will never come off," Adler said.

"You don't get arrested for possession of marijuana. You get cited," Hicks said. "So, the notion that our jails and our prisons are full with people on minor marijuana possession is just not true."

Projections show a regulated, legalized marijuana system would generate about $1.1 billion of economic activity in Nevada, along with $300 million in sales tax revenue.  Hicks argues that the societal, long-term, drug addiction and prosecution costs far outweigh the benefits of legalized recreational marijuana.

"If we have one less person that's going to be killed by an impaired driver or one less kid that's going to become a drug addict and get involved in our criminal justice system, that's enough to me to vote no," Hicks said.

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