Unlike the last few council meetings when marijuana-related issues were on the agenda and the meetings lasted a few hours, Tuesday’s meeting was short and without much discussion as the council passed two ordinances dealing with marijuana.
The first ordinance creates official guidelines for recreational marijuana establishments that mirror those for medical marijuana. Included are licensing application procedures, established fees and taxes and rules regarding hours of operation (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily).
The license application fee for a recreational marijuana facility is set at $1,500. However, as is the case for Deep Roots Harvest, Mesquite’s existing medical marijuana facility, if the applicant already has a current marijuana business on the same property and owned by the same owners, the fee is $1,500 for the first application and $500 for each additional application.
The ordinance set origination fees at $20,000 for each dispensary, cultivation facility and production facility. But those fees are exempted for any marijuana facility if that same applicant “existed as a medical marijuana facility prior to Nov. 8, 2016 and then later added recreational sales to its services.” Such is the case with Deep Roots Harvest.
Both medical and recreational marijuana gross sales are subject to a 3 percent quarterly revenue tax separately in a dispensary, cultivation facility and production facility. To clarify, an ounce of marijuana cultivated, produced and sold in the Deep Roots Harvest facility in Mesquite would not be taxed three separate times, only once.
As a follow-up to previous council meetings in which a portion of marijuana sales taxes would be distributed to the local schools was discussed, Councilman Dave Ballweg said he and Councilman Brian Wursten were working together on a new resolution that would provide structure to the distribution. “Everyone up here has expressed a goal to help the kids. It comes down to how we’re going to do it. We’re working to come up with something better,” Ballweg said.
Wursten said “I’m excited we’re working together on a solution that’s pleasing to us and pleasing to the public.”
Both councilors were referring to the often-contentious discussions that have taken place at previous council meetings over the last three months during which Wursten introduced a measure that would give one half of 1 percent of the 3 percent marijuana sales tax to local schools. The money would help bridge shortfalls local educators say they have in their regular school budgets.
Ballweg and Councilman George Rapson objected to the idea of immediately giving the money to the schools without first knowing the exact amount of sales taxes collected and without a firm plan from the schools on how they would spend the money.
The issue was tabled at the Sept. 12 council meeting with a promise to bring it back for a full vote in October.
Ballweg said after the meeting that the newest idea is to create a charitable foundation through the city in which a portion of tax money would be deposited for the schools to use. The foundation would be open for citizens to donate to thereby possibly increasing the amount of money the schools would have. The foundation would create a structure by which the schools would be required to account for their spending. Ballweg projected that the foundation idea would be introduced at the Oct. 24 meeting.
Lee Kirk, acting monument director for Gold Butte National Monument, updated the council on several projects the Bureau of Land Management is working on in the area. Among them is replacing the fencing around the Devil’s Throat sinkhole and moving it outwards away from the edge. Kirk said the existing fence is beginning to fall into the sinkhole. Construction on the new fence will begin in November. Because the fencing will be further from the edge, Kirk said “you won’t be able to look down into the hole like you can now.”
Kiosks are under development for Devil’s Throat, the old Gold Butte townsite, and Little Finland as well as new directional road signs on the scenic byway road. Two new toilets have been placed at Whitney Pockets.
Kirk invited the public to participate in the National Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 30 starting at 8 a.m. in the Gold Butte area as people join in some clean-up and improvement work.
Ballweg asked Kirk to investigate a right-of-way application that the Virgin Valley Water District submitted more than two and a half years ago but has not been acted on by the BLM. The ROW would give the water district official access to its water rights in the Nickel Creek area. Ballweg said the district had paid a $20,000 application fee. He also pointed out that the BLM notified the district on March 19 that the ROW application was in a holding pattern pending federal action on the monument.
“We’ve been told the monument designation gave the district clear-cut access to its water rights and the access would not be assailed and they weren’t in jeopardy. So why do we still have this on hold after two and a half years,” Ballweg said.
Kirk said he would have to consult with the BLM’s land staff and “get back to you on that.”