While the legalization of medical marijuana in Nevada has gotten a great deal of publicity and comment elsewhere, the June 3 Mesquite city town hall meeting only attracted two people to testify, one in favor and one against.

Local business owner David Tanner told the council that he favored allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in Mesquite.  “As an herbal formulator I understand there are many benefits to this plant if controlled properly,” said Tanner.  He urged the council to take control of the issue and that with education and time medical marijuana will “not be something that people will be fearful of.”

Also testifying was businessman Dave Ballweg who told the council “The one thing we have to keep our eye on is that we are talking medical marijuana today but within two and no longer than four years we will have recreational marijuana.”  Ballweg urged the council to keep that in mind when adopting regulations.

Following public testimony a staff presentation by Development Services Director Richard Secrist outlined the requirements and history of SB 374, which authorizes but does not require cities to approve medical marijuana facilities.

Secrist told the council that marijuana was still illegal under federal law, but that 21 states including Nevada had made medical marijuana legal and two of those states, Washington and Colorado, have made recreational use of marijuana legal.  “There is a track record of other communities that we can draw from,’ said Secrist.

Deputy city attorney Bob Sweetin in response to a question from councilor George Rapson, told the council that there was little chance the federal government would enforce marijuana laws in states that have passed measures approving its use.  Sweetin also noted that this policy reflected the current administration and that “A new administration could take a different position.”

Sweetin also said that the U.S. House of Representatives has already approved a bill that would allow the states to have the final say on marijuana use.

Under the Nevada law, cities have the option of not allowing medical marijuana businesses within the city limits but if a marijuana dispensary is not available within 25 miles, a person with a medical marijuana card has the right to grow up to 12 plants.  The law also generally provides for one dispensary for every 25,000 population, giving Mesquite the ability to approve just one.  There are no limits for marijuana related facilities such as laboratories and commercial indoor growing businesses.

Police chief Troy Tanner told the council that there were “about 40 persons with medical marijuana cards living in Mesquite” but that the number would probably grow when the law goes into effect.  Tanner also told the council that currently there are as many arrests for driving under the influence of drugs as there is for alcohol and the problem will only get worse with the new law.

Under state law persons who want to operate a medical marijuana business must apply to the state between August 5 and 18.  Secrist told the council that if they choose to allow and regulate a dispensary the city would have to have regulations in place prior to August 18 with a likely first public hearing at the July 22 city council meeting.