Should Carson City allow retail sales of recreational marijuana?
That was the essential question debated Tuesday at a public workshop at the Carson City Community Center hosted by the city.
The meeting included a working group panel of more than a dozen representatives from the marijuana industry, law enforcement, schools and the health and counseling services as well as about a dozen members of the public.
“We need to zone out retail sales,” said Shelly Aldean, president, Capital City C.I.R.C.L.E.S Initiative, a former city supervisor and panel member. “I get a little upset when I hear talk about making the best of a bad situation. I can’t sit idly by and let this happen.”
While recreational marijuana is legal in the state, cities and counties do have the option to prohibit retail pot businesses through zoning, said Dagney Stapleton, deputy director, Nevada Association of Counties, who gave a presentation on recent changes to the law.
“We’re not going to recriminalize marijuana. The voters have voted,” said Nick Marano, city manager. “We either regulate it here or you delegate that to the Reno City Council.”
Washoe County has already decided to allow retail marijuana businesses.
Possession and use is legal everywhere so users in Carson City will be able to buy pot in Washoe County, or have it delivered, and consume it here whether or not the city allows marijuana businesses.
Aldean urged the city to look at towns in Colorado, such as Vail, that banned recreational pot businesses and are in close proximity to other cities that didn’t to find out what the impact has been.
Barring a complete ban, the city has some other authority it can exercise, said Stapleton.
Cities and counties can enact local regulations more restrictive than state law on advertising and marketing, and business licensing, she said. And local jurisdictions can impose and collect a 3 percent tax on each type of marijuana business.
“I’d like to focus back on what we can and can’t do if we proceed with our working group,” said Linda Lang, director, Nevada Statewide Coalition Partnership, and a panel member.
Lang suggested the group look at ways to limit advertising and marketing of recreational pot and on how so-called budtenders, or sellers, are trained.
Carson City currently has a moratorium on retail marijuana business through Sept. 19 and may extend that with a second ban to the end of the year.
In the meantime, the city is looking at creating a new business license category for recreational pot cultivation, production and distribution businesses, which are less controversial than the dispensaries where the pot is sold to consumers.
The Board of Supervisors will hear the first reading of an ordinance to create the new category at its July 6 meeting and a second reading, if it makes it that far, at its July 20 meeting, Marano said.
On July 26, the Planning Commission will take up a new moratorium. And the supervisors meet again on Aug. 3.
“That is probably an important date if we go ahead with zoning in retail,” said Marano.