BY MONA ZHANG
The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently published an editorial urging Nevadans to vote no on legalizing marijuana. While a local paper coming out against legalization is not necessarily notable, up until recently, the Review-Journal has consistently supported drug reform.
So, why the flip-flop on cannabis legalization?
Answer: Sheldon Adelson.
The billionaire casino magnate is a well-known Republican donor who has also given millions to oppose cannabis legalization. Last December, Adelson purchased the Review-Journal in a secret transaction that had its own reporters trying to find out who the mystery buyer was. After the news broke, many editorial staffers left the newspaper, citing a clampdown on editorial freedom. The new ownership also replaced the editor and publisher.
Covering the story for Marijuana.com, Tom Angell pointed out the editorial board’s consistent support of drug reform. The paper has published editorials criticizing the USPS ban on cannabis advertising, endorsing marijuana’s removal from Schedule I and supporting a 2002 ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in the state.
But its most recent editorial claims “legalizing weed would jeopardize the health of countless Nevadans, expose more people to drug abuse and addiction, put excessive stress on the state’s health-care facilities and do little to relieve the state’s bloated prison population.”
Review-Journal publisher Craig Moon claims that Adelson had no involvement in the editorial. However, earlier this year, the Adelson family invited editorial board members to visit a drug treatment center and asked them to reconsider their pro-pot stance.
“I don’t buy the publisher’s denial for a second,” Angell told HIGH TIMES in an email. “There’s no other reasonable explanation for the stark reversal in position other than the fact that the paper is now owned by an ardent prohibitionist.”
Indeed, it seems that the paper’s ownership has been influencing the editorial board ever since it took over. When Adelson’s company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, proposed building a new football stadium for the University of Nevada, the Review-Journal’s editorial board quickly endorsed the project.
Nevadans will get to vote on Question 2 in November, which would legalize and tax cannabis sales. Before the initiative gathered enough signatures, the Review Journal published an editorial supporting the measure, calling it an “important step forward in fixing a failed policy.”
Many cannabis policy watchers see Question 2 as having a good chance of passing.
“If you’re searching for a sure bet, look no further than Nevada,” reported Leafly.
But will Adelson’s seeming influence over the paper affect the measure’s chances?
“It remains to be seen how often Adelson’s paper will print its new anti-legalization message leading up to November,” Angell said. “And we still don’t have any indication of whether the billionaire will be pumping his casino profits directly into anti-legalization campaign operations this year.”
“I just hope that the news side continues to cover the issue fairly and in a way that shows how legalization is working well in places where it’s already been enacted,” he continued.