LAS VEGAS (AP) -
Nevada's largest police organization ousted its president Friday and reversed his endorsement of a statewide initiative that would let adults legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana.
The Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs issued a statement blaming former president Andy Anderson for a "misunderstanding" and declared that the executive board had not endorsed decriminalizing marijuana when Anderson polled them Tuesday.
"NCOPS does not endorse Question 9," it said, referring to the measure's number on the Nov. 5 ballot, "nor will it support any measure for the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana."
Anderson, one of the founding members of the 23-year-old advocacy organization, could not immediately be reached for comment. NCOPS represents about 3,000 mostly southern Nevada law enforcement officers - about two-thirds of police in the state.
Billy Rogers, head of Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, the main political group supporting the measure, insisted that the NCOPS board had unanimously supported Question 9 before Anderson made the endorsement public.
"There was tremendous pressure from the politicians and the law enforcement establishment to get these board members to change their minds," Rogers said Friday.
The NCOPS endorsement had echoed the Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement position that taxpayer dollars and law enforcement time are wasted prosecuting minor drug offenders.
"Its a priority issue," Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We just feel we could use our resources better. Why waste our time with marijuana arrests?"
The position drew national media attention and howls from police and prosecutors, including Deputy Clark County District Attorney Gary Booker who said Friday that 3 ounces of marijuana can make 200 or more marijuana cigarettes - far more than needed for personal use. Passing Question 9 would undercut drunken-driving prosecutions, Booker has said.
The endorsement also raised the profile of a campaign that has drawn recent visits to Nevada from federal Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson and federal "drug czar" John P. Walters to underscore the Bush administration's opposition to the measure.
Two statewide polls in recent weeks have found voters evenly split on the proposal, with about 10 percent undecided.
Until last year, Nevada had the strictest marijuana law in the nation - making it a felony to possess a single marijuana cigarette. Now, possessing an ounce or less is a misdemeanor.
The initiative would allow marijuana to be sold only in state-licensed and taxed smoke shops. Possession by minors would still be a crime, public use would be banned and driving under the influence would be illegal. Sales by private individuals would be prohibited.
The measure would have to pass twice - in November and again in 2004 - to
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press