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Nevadans OK Recreational Pot, Gun Background Checks

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevadans legalized pot for recreational use on Tuesday and narrowly voted to tighten background checks for gun buyers.

Voters also gave first-round approval to breaking up NV Energy’s statewide power-producing monopoly and exempting medical devices like oxygen tanks, feeding pumps, and hospital beds from being taxed.

The marijuana initiative, Question 2, was backed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, with backing from a group that supports legalization campaigns across the country.

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Opponents, including Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, billionaire casino magnate and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson and many of the state’s top elected Republicans called legalization a threat to Nevada children.

The law will allow possession and use by adults of up to an ounce of marijuana and tax marijuana sales 15 percent, which proponents said could generate $20 million a year to help the state’s chronically underfunded schools.

Joe Brezny, a leader of the drive for the law, said he expects Nevada will develop the toughest regulations in the country “because we made promises that we would do this in the most responsible way possible, in a way that’s safe for the community.”

He noted that California and Massachusetts approved similar measures Tuesday, and said legalizing marijuana could become a national issue.

The gun background checks initiative was approved by a razor-thin margin, winning by some 10,000 votes out of 1.1 million cast with some ballots still uncounted. Question 1 drew the most attention and sparked the most debate during the campaign.

Backers said a legal loophole lets people skip background screening when buying guns from another person or online, and opponents who say it would cost law-abiding gun owners time and money without making them any safer.

Opponents had financial backing from the National Rifle Association, and support from Gov. Brian Sandoval, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and 16 of the state’s 17 elected county sheriffs have come out against the background checks measure.

Proponents were supported by the national group Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, an organization supported by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They said the measure would cost law-abiding gun owners time and money without making anyone safer because criminals just don’t get background checks.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was the most prominent current elected official to support the measure, along with former sheriffs in Las Vegas and Reno, the Las Vegas Fraternal Order of Police and the Nevada Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association, teacher and union groups, and several casino industry executives.

Question 3, a proposed constitutional amendment dubbed the Energy Choice Initiative, had financial support from Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, and data center company Switch, among others.

Large companies including Sands that have sought to leave NV Energy and find their own electricity providers have faced high exit fees imposed by regulators to soften the effect of their departure on remaining customers.

Opponents argued that Nevadans pay less for electricity than ratepayers in neighboring California and most of the rest of the country. They said deregulation in other states has led to higher electricity prices for consumers and more market volatility.

Question 4, the medical device initiative, is similar to a proposal that failed in the Legislature last year. State analysts said it would have cost the state $25 million in tax revenue over 10 years. Like Question 3, it needs approval again in two years to become part of the state constitution.

Supporters said revoking the tax on equipment like wheelchairs, infant sleep apnea monitors and crutches would benefit vulnerable and sick patients and have little effect on the state budget.

Opponents said the measure was vaguely worded and amounts to a giveaway to equipment providers at the expense of funding for public services.

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