The Board of Supervisors on Thursday started down the road to allow sales of recreational marijuana in Carson City.
The board directed staff to develop the needed ordinance which would permit recreational marijuana sales only at the city’s two existing medical marijuana dispensaries, RISE on Clearview Drive and Sierra Wellness Connection on Highway 50.
By law, the city can have up to four recreational marijuana dispensaries and two medical marijuana outlets, but the supervisors decided to limit all sales to the two currently operating shops.
The vote was 3-2 with Supervisors Lori Bagwell and John Barrette voting no.
The decision came after about four hours of sometimes contentious public comment and discussion, most of it focused on how to pay for law enforcement and other costs associated with recreational marijuana, and the message sent to the city’s youth by tacitly condoning it.
“The problem I have is when you tax something you legitimize it,” said Shelly Aldean, who was one of about 10 people who spoke in opposition to allowing retail sales in Carson City.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong talked about the pot party with some 40 juveniles over the weekend that tapped out the city’s emergency services.
“We allowed our kids to do it because we’re creating a norm,” Furlong told the supervisors.
He said the department was already overwhelmed and needed four new officers to deal with recreational pot use, which led to a lengthy back and forth between Furlong and Barrette.
“Is it going to be any different if we allow sales or not?” Barrette asked several times.
Recreational marijuana use and possession is legal throughout the state and retail pot can already be purchased in Reno and delivered to Carson City from anywhere in the state where sales are allowed.
Mayor Bob Crowell asked how the city would cover the attendant costs if not for the fees and taxes it could impose on recreational marijuana businesses.
“Where will the money come from?,” said Furlong. “It will come from growth in this community. Will (allowing retail sales) stifle that growth?”
The closest Reno dispensary may be far enough from most Carson City residents to let them legally grow their own pot if the city has no recreational dispensaries of its own. State law allows people to grow at home if the closest dispensary is more than 25 miles away.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said he wouldn’t support any measure that would leave the city open to home grows, which are hard to regulate.
“I concur with Brad. Home growing terrifies me,” said Supervisor Karen Abowd. “We should regulate recreational just like we’ve regulated medical marijuana.”
Abowd suggested more conditions, which were incorporated in the proposed ordinance. They included requiring additional informational materials be provided with each sale, charging distributors license fees, and authorizing the city to revoke a recreational marijuana business’ special use permit at any time.
“If that sort of sword of Damocles can be held over these businesses I may go with it,” said Barrette.
Jason Woodbury, Carson City district attorney, said staff would have to see if the permits could be revoked without cause and would include that in the ordinance if feasible.
Bagwell and Barrette voted no on the measure, which was to direct staff to draft the ordinance.
“I’m not going to support a dispensary. It does send a message to children,” said Bagwell. “I could live with cultivation, production, and distribution, but not the dispensaries.”
The board also voted to remove marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and distribution businesses from the current moratorium on recreational pot businesses.
The supervisors heard on first reading an ordinance to create a new business license for those businesses and a business impact statement imposing a 3 percent tax on the businesses gross revenues. The moratorium, which goes to Sept. 19, remains in effect for dispensaries while the city drafts the ordinance.