Would passing the initiative take marijuana sales out of the hands of criminal drug dealers?

The proponents of legalizing marijuana in Nevada claim that voting in favor of the initiative would take sales of the drug out of the hands of criminal drug dealers. They would like voters to believe that Nevada’s Department of Taxation would license, regulate, and tax marijuana wholesalers and retailers.

States cannot regulate and license retail businesses to sell marijuana. Only the Drug Enforcement Administration has been appointed authority by the federal government to license and regulate controlled substances, including marijuana. (See FAQ: Would the initiative help medical marijuana patients obtain the drug legally?)

It is highly unlikely the state of Nevada will license and regulate any business to produce or sell marijuana. Any business involved in the production and sales of marijuana would face the serious threat of prosecution from federal authorities. Few if any businesses would risk that threat. Marijuana would continue to be sold by criminals.

Even if it was possible to sell marijuana in a controlled and regulated market, a criminal black market will still exist to supply underage users. Making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older will not reduce the demand by those who are prohibited to possess marijuana from using the drug. The greatest number of marijuana users is concentrated among adolescents. The criminals who profit from illegal drug sales are not likely to find legitimate employment if a portion of their customers can buy from legal stores. Chances are those criminals will target the underage market more aggressively to replace lost income.

Alcohol and tobacco use has become commonplace today. Some teens do not fear the laws against them possessing the substances and approach strangers in parking lots to buy them beer or cigarettes.

Do Nevada voters want to make marijuana as common as alcohol and tobacco?