The cultivation, testing and dispensing of medical marijuana is now allowed within the City of Mesquite. The city council approved three measures Tuesday night that set the standards, zoning and fees for medical marijuana facilities in a 4 to 1 vote, with councilor Kraig Hafen voting no, and councilors Delaney, Withelder, Rapson and Green voting yes.
Over 125 citizens attended the meeting and testified both for and against the measures for over two hours.
The action came after the city council reversed an earlier decision to delay any decision until January of 2015. At the request of councilor Cindi Delaney and Geno Withelder, the earlier decision was reversed and the full council voted to approve the three measures without any delay.
Councilor Delaney explained her decision to move ahead with the ordinances, “we got ahead of ourselves at a very emotional night with a lot of people talking.” Delaney went on to explain that after talking with legal counsel she realized that after informational meetings the council would still not be able to act until next year. “I had heard that councilor Withelder also had reservations on how things had went and I called him and he agreed to put this back on the agenda.”
Council member Rich Green also explained his vote change saying that it “became clear to me that I was not very well informed on this subject, including the impact of the grow-your-own alternative that would be available.” Green told the council and those in attendance that he then set out to “more fully educate myself.”
Green also told the packed audience that while the council’s decision on the subject “will not please 100 percent of our citizens, I hope that you will recognize that we have each done a great deal of research and given considerable thought to this very important matter.” Green also said he would support a vote of the people before any approval of recreational marijuana.
Councilor Withelder said he was “by no means in favor of recreational marijuana,” but that he believed medical marijuana was necessary. “The issue is medical marijuana not recreational marijuana,” said Withelder.
Councilor Hafen said he “appreciated the civility by both sides.” He then stated that “I want it on the record that I am not against medical marijuana,” and that he understood the need some people have for the drug to relieve pain. “But let’s not forget the fact that this is still illegal at the federal level,” said Hafen.
Hafen also told the council that they would be back in two years time with the same issue only “this time for allowing recreational marijuana.”
Hafen then asked Deputy City Attorney Bob Sweetin if the city could operate the dispensary. Sweetin told the council that generally the state constitution prohibits local governments from operating private enterprises, but that there were limited examples of governments operating businesses “for the public good.” Sweetin recommended that if the council wanted to consider operating dispensaries they should direct him to seek an Attorney General opinion.
Councilor George Rapson then questioned Sweetin on whether or not out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders could buy from a Nevada dispensary. Sweetin said “there is a provision in the law that will allow out-of-staters to purchase medical marijuana here as long as they have the functional equivalent of a medical marijuana card in their state.”
Sweetin advised the council that the state would be identifying which states medical marijuana cards would be accepted in Nevada.
Councilor Rapson said he favored the ordinances because “it is control versus no control.” Rapson expressed the concern that if the city didn’t have licensed dispensaries people would have the ability to grow their own marijuana. “The amounts that can be grown is typically more than could be consumed” Rapson said. “You could get a gang-banger in a house next to yours,” and have cars coming in and out all night and the “city have no control,” said Rapson.
But Rapson said he would oppose any approval of recreational marijuana by the city, and said he would support as part of the ordinance a provision saying the city would not approve recreational use.
Rapson then moved to approve the ordinances with an amendment saying the council would not approve recreational marijuana in the city. City Attorney Cheryl Hunt then advised the council that future councils could change the provision. The motion passed with Hafen voting no.
The council also adopted a fee schedule for marijuana facilities. The fees ranged from annual fees of $67,000 for dispensaries to $10,000 for laboratories. In addition there are state and local taxes on gross revenues of seven percent, and property taxes.
Councilor Hafen told the council not to expect a “windfall” of tax revenues. Hafen said he had seen numerous examples of projects that never happened. After the hearing Hafen told the MLN that he was concerned the decision was based on a facility that might never happen, and that the city would be left with “different results” than they anticipated.