The Carson City Board of Supervisors on Thursday decided to extend a ban on the sale of recreational marijuana until an ordinance addressing the new business is drafted.
The board had the option to let the existing moratorium expire in July and allow the city’s two medical marijuana dispensaries to start selling recreational pot under temporary regulations issued by the Nevada Department of Taxation earlier this month.
But the supervisors, after hearing public comment from more than a dozen people, said they didn’t want to act prematurely before both city code and permanent state regulations were finalized.
“I appreciate all the testimony given and the most important part is when we rush we make mistakes,” said Supervisor Lori Bagwell. “Let’s slow down, take a deep breath and do the best we can for this community.”
Several people representing the marijuana industry spoke in support of joining the so-called early start program, which allows existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state to apply to start selling pot to recreational users on July 1.
“This is about existing operators in good standing,” said Will Adler, executive director, Nevada Medical Marijuana Association, referring to RISE and Sierra Wellness, Carson City’s two medical marijuana dispensaries. “You have no mandate to expand. It’s not about more storefronts.”
But most of the public comment was in opposition.
“Let’s let Washoe County be at the bleeding edge. Let’s see how it works in other counties,” said Jim Peckham, executive director, Friends in Service Helping.
Peckham and several others, including Kathy Bartosz, executive director, Partnership Carson City, said they hoped Carson City would consider prohibiting recreational marijuana sales altogether as Douglas County has done.
While recreational use is legal statewide, local jurisdictions have the authority through zoning to not allow retail sales of marijuana.
But failing an outright sales ban, they asked the board to extend the moratorium until the Legislature is finished and state law is more complete.
“We’re coming in too fast, too high, too hard, and we don’t really know what we’re doing,” said Sheriff Kenny Furlong.
Furlong said since he’s been sheriff, the only drug-related murder involved marijuana.
“We have not had a methamphetamine homicide. We have not had a heroin homicide. Grant Watkins died handing off three ounces of pot,” Furlong said, referring to the 2016 shooting of the 18 year-old during a drug deal in Blackwell’s Pond Park.
At a meeting in June, the board will vote on a resolution to extend the current ban to September, which is all that can be done under the existing moratorium.
If the supervisors want to extend it further, possibly to January, when permanent state regulations into effect, the Planning Commission will have to approve a new moratorium.
The board also directed staff to start writing an ordinance that would limit point of sale for recreational pot to Carson City’s two medical marijuana dispensaries; extend zoning to allow alcohol distributors to also distribute marijuana as allowed by state law; and to create one or more working groups comprised of citizens and representatives from marijuana businesses, nonprofits and other involved entities to discuss what Carson City should do.
But Mayor Bob Crowell cautioned local municipalities had only so much control over the matter.
“I am not opposed to citizen input, but I just don’t want anyone to get the misimpression on what they can do,” he said. “The law is the law.”
The board also approved the city’s $150 million 2018 budget. General fund revenues are projected to increase almost 2 percent in 2018, to about $73.9 million while expenditures are expected to increase less than 1 percent by $68.1 million.
The projected ending fund balance for 2018 is $5.2 million, or 7.6 percent of expenditures, a 7.1 increase from 2017.
The board also approved a health insurance contract with Prominence Health Plan, dental and life insurance contracts with Standard, and a vision insurance contract with EyeMed for employee and retiree coverage and adopted a resolution to sell 8.62 acre feet of water rights in Washoe Valley the city doesn’t use.