At a public workshop on June 20, the city manager expressed the opinion Carson City would be relinquishing control of its fate to the Reno City Council if it elects to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within its borders and the cost of dealing with marijuana consumption within our jurisdiction (because of its availability in Washoe County) can’t be adequately offset without the ability to collect taxes on new retail pot sales.
Several years ago, Vail, Colo., faced the same dilemma — should they permit the retail sale of pot or forgo the income and protect their brand as a worldwide ski vacation destination for families? Despite the loss of revenue, in the final analysis, the Town Council reasoned image and reputation were more important than revenue. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said his city, which allows medical marijuana businesses, had to consider the strong military presence within its city limits and what kind of impact legal recreational pot sales would have on its image and its relationships.
Carson City has a reputation and relationships to protect as well. It’s a state capital with a diverse manufacturing base, priding itself on its vibrant history, its outdoor amenities, its natural parks and miles of hiking and biking trails. It supports healthy lifestyles and family friendly events and activities. I don’t believe retail marijuana consumption was the kind of “recreation” we had in mind when we developed our Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Embedded in that master plan’s mission statement is the expressed desire to “provide a clean, safe, positive environment to facilitate the development of body and mind to all citizens of Carson City.” It’s important we not sacrifice these ideals based on fear or financial expediency.
Although there are those who insist we have no choice but to zone in recreational marijuana sales because of the economic consequences if we don’t, under the law we do, in fact, have a choice and should exercise our right to dissent. The costs Carson City will allegedly incur as a result of pot sales in Reno are a matter of conjecture. (According to a 2016 Denver Post article, the juxtaposition of cities with and without recreational pot sales has not resulted in “significant spillover effects” in those communities that have opted out of the market).
What is more certain, in my mind, is the power of social norms. If we, as a community, stand firm in our opposition and telegraph our expectations to our fellow citizens by rejecting recreational sales, then we, not Reno, control the narrative by countering the ill-advised notion that “anything goes.”
Most importantly, the people of Carson City rejected the idea of recreational pot sales at the ballot box last November and it’s incumbent upon us to respect that decision.
Shelly Aldean is a former Carson City Supervisor and local business owner.