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Anti-Marijuana Adelson Pressures Newspaper to Reconsider Legalization Stance

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Just as marijuana law reform advocates feared, new Las Vegas Review-Journal owner Sheldon Adelson is exerting pressure on the paper’s editorial board to reverse its long-held pro-legalization stance.

According to journalists present at a Monday meeting with publisher Jason Taylor and interim editor Glenn Cook, Adelson and his wife Miriam are asking editorial board members to visit a drug treatment center and reconsider the publication’s support for ending prohibition ahead of a November vote on legalizing marijuana in Nevada.

Cook and fellow editorial writers Patrick Everson and Steve Sebelius are reportedly set to visit a drug treatment facility at Adleson’s suggestion sometime next week.

Chances are, anyone the opinion writers encounter at the treatment center who is there for marijuana will have been referred by the criminal justice system instead of having checked themselves in for a self-identified problem. Federal data released last month showed that nearly 52 percent of people in drug treatment primarily for marijuana were referred by the criminal justice system. At a time when America is experiencing an epidemic of opioid overdoses, drug policy reform advocates have questioned whether it makes sense for the criminal justice system to mandate that cannabis users take up so much space in drug treatment programs.

Marijuana is apparently a singular issue the Adelsons want to exert influence over at the paper. Publisher Taylor says the family won’t be involved in decisions over the editorial board’s endorsements of political candidates and won’t help to write editorials in general.

Adelson, the world’s 18th richest person, according to Forbes, is a casino magnate and was the top donor in opposition to a medical marijuana initiative that was narrowly defeated by Florida voters in 2014.

The Review-Journal, which Adelson purchased last month, has published editorials supporting marijuana legalization since at least 2002.

Asked by Marijuana.com whether they anticipated the editorial board would reverse its stance in the face of pressure from the Adelsons, Review-Journal staff members offered no solid predictions.

So it remains to be seen what shift, if any, the paper’s position on marijuana will undergo as November’s statewide vote on legalization approaches.

But because undecided voters often look to endorsements from opinion leaders such as newspaper editorial boards when making up their minds on ballot questions, a reversal under Adelson’s influence, or even just a silencing of a favorable editorials that otherwise would have been published in the coming months, could make the difference between legalization and continued prohibition in Nevada if polls are close on Election Day.

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