The Mesquite city council voted Tuesday to delay any further action on two ordinances to allow the establishment of medical marijuana facilities in the city until January 2015.
The four to one vote effectively prohibits any such facilities within the city until the fall of next year, as any applicant must also be approved by the state, which only accepts applications for ten days each August.
The decision came after several residents testified against allowing medical marijuana sales in the city or asked the city to delay the decision to allow more time for study and review by citizens.
Mesquite resident Charles Williams told the council that they had a long history of delaying decisions to allow for more public input and should do it again on medical marijuana. “I am concerned that a lot of people are gone right now, their not included in any part of this decision at all,” said Williams.
Dave Ballweg urged the council to delay saying “we have an exceptional opportunity to delay and watch what happens down there,” referring to medical marijuana sales in the Las Vegas area. “There will be unexpected consequences, and believe me we have no knowledge of them right now,” Ballweg told the council.
Resident Barbara Ellestad told the council about here recent experience in Colorado where she had to sign a statement at her hotel that she would not smoke marijuana in the hotel rooms. “Whatever you decide you will set the tone for Mesquite forever,” said Ellestad.
Ellestad also cautioned the council that wherever they locate a medical marijuana facility they are jeopardizing neighboring businesses, and new businesses may not want to locate adjacent to the facilities.
Resident John White told of his experience as a director of a drug rehabilitation center in Southern California and of his own previous drug problems. “I started with marijuana, it is a gateway drug,” said White. White told the council that marijuana stays in the body for 18 months staying in body tissue. “The long term affects of this drug on the city will be horrific. Every addict affects 44 people,” said White. White urged the council to take the time necessary to “do it right.”
Dave West suggested to the council that they restrict medical marijuana sales to people who live within 25 miles of Mesquite. “We might be the supplier for another state so I think we should include some restrictions to limit sales. We don’t want to become somebody else’s supplier.
Pastor Dennis Lee of the Living Waters Fellowship urged the council to delay the decision so there can be more discussion. Lee also admonished the council to consider that when government legalizes drugs the clergy “are the ones who clean up the mess.”
Lee also referred to a Nevada State Senator who said he wanted Nevada to legalize marijuana and be the “Amsterdam” of the West. Lee then asked the council “Do you really want Mesquite to be the Amsterdam of the West?”
New Mesquite resident Jon Amundson was one of the few people who testified in support of the ordinances. Amundson told the council of his experience as a substance abuse councilor for 25 years and said that there is much misinformation about marijuana, and that the focus should be on getting rid of the dealers. “Somewhere between five and seven percent of the population will use marijuana no matter what,” Amundson said.
After public testimony, the council heard a summary of the law from Richard Secrist Development Services Director for the city. Secrist, along with Deputy City Attorney Bob Sweetin, then answered several questions from councilors.
Councilor George Rapson said it appeared the city’s options were to regulate medical marijuana or to allow medical marijuana card holders to grow their own unregulated. “My question is what are the ramifications statutorily if we delay this,” asked Rapson.
Sweetin and Secrist replied that since the state only opens applications for state approval of medical marijuana facilities once a year in August, the effect of delay would be to not have any facilities in the city until late next year.
“That would be the only ramification, we are not in violation of any law,” Sweetin told the council.” Sweetin also confirmed that the law allows holders of medical marijuana cards to legally grow their own marijuana if they are further than 25 miles from a facility.
Councilor Geno Withelder urged the council to delay the decision, “if we air this out a bit more it will be helpful as we don’t want to go back and repeat what happened with prohibition.”
Councilor Rich Green also asked for a delay to give the council time to “hear about success and hear about failure,” in regulating medical marijuana. Green also asked Sweetin and Secrist if the city didn’t have a dispensary would that allow someone the ability to apply with Clark County. “They can apply in Clark County or wherever they have adopted regulations to permit it,” said Secrist.
In the end, the council voted 4 to 1 to delay the ordinance until the second council meeting in January 2015. Councilor Rapson voted no saying he preferred to regulate medical marijuana use. “I would rather be in control,” said Rapson.
At the end of the council meeting, resident Peggy Purner told the council “Shame on you.” Purner then emotionally recounted the difficulties for people who need medical marijuana go through. “How many will seek relief illegally,” if there is no legal source said Purner. Saying the marijuana isn’t a gateway drug she told the council “The pusher is the gateway. There is no oversight and there is only the pusher’s word whatever that might be worth.”
Mesquite Tea Party president Connie Foust responded that “I lost my son to cancer in April and if anyone is aware of suffering it is me.” Foust asserted that medical marijuana card holders can get marijuana today, and that the ordinance isn’t necessary.
In other council business city lobbyist Warren Hardy of Hardy Consulting Group briefed the council on the bill process for the next session of the Nevada Legislature. Hardy also told the council that there may be a bill introduced to assist in providing natural gas to rural areas of the state. Hardy will return to the council in August after meeting with city staff to discuss possible bills to be introduced on behalf of Mesquite.