News - March 29, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Assemblyman Keith Pickard, R-Henderson, and a member of the Assembly Taxation Committee, said taxes from Nevada's new recreational marijuana industry could go to treating the "social costs" that it could incur.

Pickard, a family law attorney, also said on Nevada Newsmakers Wednesday that he sees recreational marijuana use as a growing issue in divorce cases.

"It comes up fairly frequently and I would say use drug use generally comes up fairly frequently," Pickard said of marijuana in divorce cases.

"I do think it will come up more frequently (in divorce cases) but I don't think we will see a significant change in how the courts deal with it," he later added. "Frankly, the courts have recognized from a practical standpoint that marijuana is pretty prevalent in our society and so they treat it more like alcohol. It is legal but if you are using it, or particularly abusing it, then that affects your ability to parent your child and that is going to enter into the equation."

Pickard called recreational marijuana "a problem in America."

"Personally I support (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions' approach (to oppose recreational marijuana) to the extent that my wife and I also participated for nearly four years as facilitators in a drug addiction recovery program. So we have seen it first hand. And my wife is also the juvenile drug court hearing master. So she sees this on a regular basis, so we have personal thoughts on this."

Pickard, who approves of medical marijuana, says his personal feelings about recreational marijuana will not become his public stance.

"I don't know if my personal views are particularity relevant, given the fact that people of the state have already weighed in on this and decided recreational marijuana is a good thing, at least they want to try it," he said.

"I think taxing it is probably an appropriate means of regulating it and certainly to offset some of the social costs that we know are associated with the recreational use of marijuana. If you look at what has been happening in Colorado, or we can even go father than that and look at what has been happening in Amsterdam and the long term effects. Those are going to have some significant social costs."

Recreational marijuana is projected to add about $100 million to Gov. Brian Sandoval's two-year $8.1 billion general fund budget. Most of that is earmarked for education.

The industry could bring more than $1.1 billion in tax revenue over the next eight years, according to a study by Las Vegas-based RCG Economics, as reported by the Business Insider.

Pickard foresees increased rates of psychosis and cannabis overdoses among the youth. Recreational marijuana in Nevada, however, is only legal for those 21 and over.

"We had a family law bar presentation where some experts came and spoke to us," Pickard said. "One of them came from Amsterdam and talked about their long-term history with marijuana. And one of the things they noticed was a significant increase in the rate of psychosis, where they (users) are presenting themselves to hospitals and psychiatric wards and we expect to see some of that.

"There is also the experience in Colorado where one of the unintended consequences is overdosing with cannabis in the youth population," he added. "So we are going to see some of that. And certainly, as we get our arms around the regulation and taxation of it, I think we will better understand what those limits need to be."

Marijuana use can be a factor in custody battles between divorcing parents, Pickard said.

"I've had several cases where my client has complained about the parenting ability of their soon-to-be former spouse within a custody context," he said. "And the courts do take a look at that. If there is evidence that can be provided to show a parent is not being particularity attentive because of their drug use, then that will affect custody matters."