Over 120 people packed the city council chambers Tuesday night for a “Town Hall” meeting on medical marijuana.  The meeting was called by the Mesquite city council to provide presentations both for and against medical marijuana as well as public testimony.

The council will consider adopting ordinances to allow the cultivation, processing and sales of medical marijuana at a special meeting on August 5 at 5 p.m.

Invited to testify were Gaye Stockman of Mesquite Regional Business (MRB), Frank Adams, a retired law enforcement official and Joe Brezny from the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association.  The public was also invited to comment and to ask questions of the presenters.

Stockman presented an economic impact analysis of medical marijuana based on two confidential contacts MRB had received from companies interested in locating in Mesquite.  The two companies agreed to allow the use of their information and plans as long as their names were not used for competitive reasons.

The first company identified as “Company A” would involve a cultivation center, production facility and a dispensary.  According to Stockman the company plans to purchase an existing building “that has been empty and vandalized” in Mesquite for $4 million and do over $3.4 million in improvements.  When completed and operating, the company will have a facility of 80,000 square feet with 132 jobs and a total capital investment of $12.5 million.

Over a five-year period, Stockman estimated the company would support 149 households in Mesquite and provide approximately 196 direct and indirect jobs.

Stockman also estimated that “Company A” would provide between $2.3 million to $2.9 million in revenue to the City of Mesquite over five years.  The revenue would come from licensing fees, excise taxes and property taxes.

Other local governments would also receive increased revenues.   MRB estimates that Virgin Valley Water District would receive about $2,500 in water utility fees per year and Overton Power District would receive about $318,000 a year in utility fees.

“Company B” was identified as a dispensary only operation.  The smaller company would have three employees and a capitol investment of $100,000.  MRB estimated that the company would generate about $1.7 million in total economic activity in Mesquite over five years.

The company would also generate between $91,000 and $404,000 in new city revenue over 5 years depending upon sales.

Stockman concluded by saying her estimates had been developed using modeling software through the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and had been “vetted by the Governors economic development office.”

Cindy Lynch questions  Frank Adams. Photo by Burton Weast.

Cindy Lynch questions Frank Adams. Photo by Burton Weast.

The second presenter was by Mesquite resident Frank Adams.  Adams said that he had “just completed 43 years of service in Nevada law enforcement,” working at the state, local and federal levels.

“I am not against medical marijuana,” Adams said, as it is the law in Nevada and that the council has to deal with it.  Adams said he was against the locating of marijuana facilities in Mesquite.  Based on Mesquite’s population, Adams said there should be “about 54 medical marijuana cards,” in town.  “Why then would a company put up that much cash for that many card holders?”

Adams said the profit will come when Nevada legalizes recreational marijuana, as Mesquite will have production and distribution facilities located on the Utah and Arizona border making the city a “gateway” to Nevada for the purchase of marijuana.

“When I came here I saw the city project itself as a safe community,” said Adams.  He asked if the city wanted to change its image.  “Do we want this in our community?” Adams asked the council.

Adams concluded by asking the council to “take its time” on the issue and ask what is best for the community.

Resident Cindy Lynch told Adams that most of the people moving to Mesquite were older and “wouldn’t they benefit from medical marijuana?”  Adams repeated he wasn’t against medical marijuana but was concerned that “we will be the only border city with production facilities.”

Adams then told the council that because of the importance of the issue it should be put on the ballot for a community vote.  “We should all have a voice in it as this is the future of our community,” said Adams.

Joe Brezny addresses City Council. Photo by Burton Weast.

The final invited speaker was Joe Brezny, the executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association.  Brezny agreed with previous speakers that recreational marijuana is coming, and the issue is “how we manage it.”

He introduced himself as “not the typical tie-dyed person.”  Brezny said he is the former executive director of the Nevada Republican Party, and was Mitt Romney’s state director in 2008.  “I just honestly believe this (legalization) is the better way,” said Brezny.

Brezny pointed out that the war on drugs has been a failure and that surveys show that 3 of every 4 Americans agree and that there is a drug arrest in the country every 19 seconds.  “Over 80 percent of arrests are for simple drug possession alone, if somebody tells you that we are not locking up people at a mad rate they are lying,” Brezny told the council.

Brezny said the war on drugs is a disaster for children and that twice as many American children are using marijuana as children in countries where it is legal such as Portugal,  “that’s something that we cannot allow to continue.”

Brezny asserted that “kids will have less access to pot under my system.”  Brezny told the crowd that there were cell phone apps that right now provide for illegal marijuana distribution and delivery in Mesquite.  “I tried to get them to deliver to me at this meeting but they wouldn’t do it,” Brezny said.

With illegal drug sales there are three things happening Brezny told the council:  no one is checking ID’s, no one is regulating it and the money is going to the drug cartels.  Brezny said the “cartels are not going to stop selling it to kids.”  Brezny also said that the distribution facilities are already in Mesquite and that they are located in the high school.

Under legalization Brezny said the sales would be strictly regulated and the people operating the facilities would be motivated to not sell to children as they would lose their investment.  “They are going to want to make sure that their operation doesn’t sell to a single kid.” Brezny said.

Brezny then said there was a reason people were coming to Mesquite to provide medical marijuana.  He showed the council an ABC News story that showed that older Americans were becoming the biggest users of medical marijuana.  “According to the statistics, you are a great fit for a cannabis distributor,” said Brezny.  Older Americans are using cannabis to treat their pain according to the study.

In summarizing Brezny said we “can get the dispensaries out of the high school and get it in the dispensary.”  He also asserted that the interests of the cannabis industry and the police are aligned in getting rid of the drug cartels and that the legitimate industry works with police.  “The cartels are competition.” Brezny said.

Several individuals testified both for and against the city adopting medical marijuana ordinances.

Brad Cox, a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration located in St. George told the council he had spent 16 years working in the area on drug issues.  “There is a strong correlation between the THC content of marijuana and the rate of addiction,” Cox said.  Cox said the marijuana of today is different than the marijuana of the 1960’s.  Cox said the “the rate of criminal activity will increase if there is a dispensary here.”

According to Cox, medical marijuana will be sold legally to a person and the individual will become a “smurf” and resell the drug illegally for a greater price.

Councilor Cindi Delaney said that “no one is arguing that all illegal sales will go away,” and asked Cox “don’t we have the same problem with prescription drugs?”

“Absolutely,” said Cox, but added “we don’t have a manufacturer in Mesquite making pills.”  “You answered my question,” said Delaney.

Several people complimented the council for the presentations.  At the August 5 meeting of the council a decision is expected.  Options for the council include again adopting a delay on the issue, rejecting the ordinances or adopting the medical marijuana regulations.