Countdown

Marijuana will be legal in Nevada starting Sunday but lighting up won’t be that easy.

The Elko Daily Free Press is finishing its “Countdown to Marijuana” series this week. Over the past several weeks we have asked and tried to answer 30 questions about how legalization will impact rural Nevada residents.

The most frequent response was “it depends” or “we’ll have to wait and see.” Despite marijuana already being legalized in a handful of other states, no one seems to agree on how the drug has affected them or whether the overall impact has been positive or negative.

The biggest question that comes to mind as Sunday approaches is “How will anyone legitimately get their hands on marijuana to be smoked for recreational purposes?” It could take months or more than a year for Nevada to license any dispensaries. Medical marijuana is already available but it should not be sold or given to anyone without a prescription. Oregon has recreational dispensaries but it is a federal crime to transport drugs across state lines.

Of course, it is also a federal crime to possess marijuana in any amount – a paradox that people in states like Nevada will need to come to grips with.

Regardless of the kinks in the law, we assume that plenty of people in Nevada will have some recreational pot on hand come Sunday. That’s because plenty of people already have their hands on illegal weed, which will magically become legal as long as you have less than an ounce of it.

There will still be plenty of ways to run afoul of the law if you decide to become a marijuana user. Driving while stoned can result in a DUI, and charges could be filed even if a smoker doesn’t feel “high” at the time. That’s because the legal threshold for pot is 10 nanograms per milliliter of urine or 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood.

Even an occasional marijuana user can have traces of the drug in their blood for several days after smoking it, and it can be detected in frequent or extreme users for several weeks. Besides the potential problems with operating a motor vehicle, smokers could lose their jobs if their employer has a no-drugs policy, such as our region’s mining companies which must adhere to federal safety standards.

Among the interesting facts we learned:

Smoking pot is less lethal than alcohol, killing zero people compared with an average of about six people dying per day from drinking too much alcohol.

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Like alcohol, however, marijuana can impair memory and have adverse effects on an unborn child if smoked during pregnancy, as well as other side effects.

Marijuana will have more restrictions than alcohol when it comes to where people can smoke. Casinos and bars will not allow marijuana use, nor will you be allowed to smoke in public places such as parks. That limits pot pretty much to private home use.

We hope readers have gleaned some useful information about marijuana from our series, which will surely be followed by future articles as the state Department of Taxation begins working on the mechanics of putting recreational marijuana dispensaries into operation.

Our final installment in the series on Saturday will look at the history of marijuana use in the United States – including some surprising facts. Did you know that states were the first to outlaw the drug, not the federal government? Did you know that Colorado was the first state to outlaw it, as well as the first to legalize it after federal prohibition?

It seems the trippy world of cannabis sativa is filled with odd contradictions such as this. Nevada’s legalization of marijuana should lead to an interesting year, whether you take the leap or just sit back and watch.

Members of the Elko Daily Free Press editorial board are Travis Quast, Jeffry Mullins and Marianne Kobak McKown.

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