Adults in the Room or Adolescents on the Strip?

“I don’t think people think [things] through.

They just think:  Oh, everybody’s doing it;

that must be where things are going.”

-Mark Cuban

The youthful-looking owner of the Dallas Mavericks and billionaire investor on the popular TV series Shark Tank achieved much of his success by not following the crowd – or the crowd’s conventional wisdom.

Group-think and the oh-so-profitable prospects for “harvesting the green” have got a new class of Nevada investors lining up like lemmings in the hope of capitalizing on what a couple of other states have already done:  legalize recreational marijuana use. Proponents will be asking voters in November to approve, among other things, the legal sale of pot gummy bears and other edibles by saying yes to Initiative Petition (IP) 1.

Feels like Joe Camel all over again. Remember the hip ad campaign launched by Big Tobacco in the 1990’s as it sought to build a customer base that started its adherents young by making its products seem cool? Now Big Marijuana, with brands like [Bob] Marley Naturals, is heading down that same mass commercialization trail as it seeks to popularize pot in slick add campaigns not seen since the Marlboro Man.

Twenty-odd years ago, Madison Avenue gave us slick enticements like Doctors smoke Camels,” and “Dentists recommend Viceroys.” Now, after decades of spiraling societal and medical costs from the ill-effects of tobacco, how many doctors and dentists do you know who are still advocating for smoking today?

Using the same “logic” that Cuban frequently derides on Shark Tank, pot proponents want you to vote to legalize recreational marijuana because everybody is either already doing it, or soon will. But rather than buying in to the self-serving “wisdom” of a new class of “potprenuer” investors in three-piece suits (are there tie-dye tee shirts underneath those pin stripes?), Nevadans should soberly assess how things have been going in the states that have so-far experimented with legalization.

Before we turn the Las Vegas Strip into the “Amsterdam of the West,” as legalization proponent and state senator Tick Segerblom has cheerfully recommended, we should carefully look at how legalization has affected our neighbors to the north and east.

Take Colorado, for example. With Nevada already facing huge challenges in turning out a trained professional workforce, including quality teachers, it’s instructive to see how the proliferation of legal drug use in the Mile High (pun intended) City of Denver has affected workplace environments.

Leona Wellener, owner of Front Range Staffing in Colorado Springs, says [legal] marijuana use has “compromised the state’s workforce.” Just last month, in February, Wellener reported that more than half the applicants who came to her company looking for work failed the required drug tests because of elevated THC [pot] levels in their system, according to a story in the Pulitzer Prize winning Colorado Springs Gazette.

Jim Johnson, CEO of one of Colorado’s largest commercial construction companies, told the Gazette he has seen a change as well. He said his company “has encountered so many candidates who have failed pre-employment drug tests because of THC [pot] use” that it is now “actively recruiting construction workers from others states.”

Just what Nevada needs, right? Currently we are attracting high-tech businesses like Tesla, Switch, and Faraday Futures to the Silver State. If IP1 passes, companies will have to start hiring more workers from outside the state – while hundreds if not thousands of Nevada workers and their families become the unwitting victims of permissive pot laws that cost them a high-paying job.

Studies also show that marijuana users create more disciplinary and safety problems in the workplace than non-users. These problems include industrial accidents, job-related injuries, disciplinary problems, and absenteeism, and they have been on the rise in states like Colorado that have legalized pot.

And what about Washington, our neighbor to the north? Already, there are 200 more recreational marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks locations in the coffee giant’s home state! Here in Nevada, you can find a Starbucks at every turn. Do you really want to pass a pot shop every time you take your family to a restaurant or drive your kids to and from school?

In Washington, one-third of all DUI cases now test positive for active THC [pot], up from 19% in 2012 when marijuana was first legalized. And with respect to the argument that legalization will result in lower levels of youth drug use, that is simply not what the data shows. Kids in Washington between the ages of 12 and 17 accounted for 74% of all state marijuana seizures in 2014, compared to 29% in 2010.

Nevadans will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether to dance down that same yellow brick road that Colorado and Washington once did. Before investing in the Oz-like pot dreams of a new corporate class that’s already aligned itself with alcohol wholesalers in Nevada in order to get a “first-to market” advantage, Nevadans should answer the following questions:

Are you comfortable with edibles like THC-infused gummy bears being sold in Nevada, knowing they are nearly impossible to detect in schools and in the workplace? Do you want a pot dispensary in your community? Do you want the risk of THC-intoxicated people driving down your street while your kids play? Do you want a pot shop near your children’s or grandchildren’s schools? Or near your toddler’s day cay center? Or your church? How about near staffing agencies that place workers at Tesla and other high tech employers?

Nevadans should think carefully before letting this dangerous genie out of the bottle. Mark Cuban wouldn’t invest in something just “because everyone is doing it” and neither should Nevada. Why not invest in ourselves as the Silicon Valley of the future, rather than become another Amsterdam of the past?

Come this November, Nevadans will have the opportunity to act like the adults in the room, instead of a bunch of adolescents let loose on the Strip.