Carson City Associate Planner Heather Ferris talks to the Board of Supervisors about the new marijuana ordinance at the Sept. 15 meeting.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.
Two more retail marijuana dispensaries may open in Carson City after the Board of Supervisors upheld their previous approval of a new ordinance changing the number of retail establishments permitted in the city from two to four.
Last month, a 3-2 vote carried the first reading of the new ordinance forward. Thursday, supervisors followed their previous votes on the second reading, with Stacey Giomi and Lisa Schuette voting no once again.
“I’m not for adding two more, and I won’t vote for it,” said Giomi.
The applicant behind the ordinance, Las Vegas-based Qualcan, previously proposed another dispensary in south Carson but couldn’t proceed under city code, which capped the number of retail establishments to two and required they be co-located within existing medical marijuana establishments.
The new ordinance expands the number of retail outlets to four — as allowed by state law — reverses the co-location requirement and allows drive-through service.
Giomi said he’s concerned about the drive-through service. He said it’s up to the board to use the code it has to regulate establishments and that it might consider making controls stronger in the future.
“If it’s going to pass, it has to come back to this body,” he said.
Supervisors Stan Jones and Maurice White, along with Mayor Lori Bagwell, upheld their previous approval of the new ordinance.
White said the drive-through service wouldn’t increase customers and that the issue before the board isn't about past marijuana legalization.
“It’s a different question in front of us today,” he said. “Is it appropriate for the government to manipulate the market? I say it’s not.”
White said dispensaries have “thousands of customers” and that the city can regulate them through strict special use permitting.
Jones said children aren’t buying marijuana from dispensaries. He also cited discussions he’s had with the District Attorney’s Office.
“They have not spent five minutes on a marijuana issue since it became legal in Carson,” he said.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in the Silver State in 2016. Carson City passed the first ordinance limiting establishments to two in 2017.
Schuette, the other no vote, said there was no compelling reason to revise existing code.
Bagwell said the city can focus on drug prevention for youth while also supporting a regulated environment for adults.
“We don’t always agree,” she said. “We weigh all information that comes before us in all avenues.”
Currently, Sierra Well and Rise are the only dispensaries in Carson. Rise is owned by Green Thumb Industries based in Chicago. Sierra Well was recently acquired by Verano, which is also based in Chicago. Qualcan holds one of the additional licenses from the state for the Carson area, and Green Thumb Industries holds the other.
Representatives from local dispensaries have opposed the change in the past, saying there was not enough demand. Will Adler, representing GTI, asked the city Thursday to expand commercially zoned areas where dispensaries can be allowed. Expansion of dispensaries, he said, means “expansion of opportunities.”
Public opposition to the new ordinance was still present Thursday.
Sarah Adler spoke on behalf of resident Jeannie White, whose property borders Qualcan’s previously proposed dispensary in south Carson. Adler said she’s concerned about the “seesaw of permissibility of drive-throughs.”
Jeannie White testified again, saying those who support the new ordinance are disregarding the impact on herself and fellow residents.
An ordinance must be approved in two public meetings before being adopted into law. The new ordinance will take effect Oct. 1.
In other action:
Supervisors voted 4-1 to begin a competitive bid process for the city’s new homelessness plan.
White was the lone vote against approving a letter of intent that would begin the process. He said he didn’t want to spend money from the Indigent Accident Fund in the future. He expressed concerns that costs for the project are changing, or “project creep.”
Presently, about $1.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding could be awarded to interested organizations, although supervisors nixed specific amounts for the letter of intent hoping proposals come in below past estimates. Interested organizations must include plan specifics and provide project descriptions with their letter of intent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. Oct. 14. If an organization is determined to be eligible, they will receive a larger application. An application review work group is scheduled for December.
The city’s plan uses the funding for temporary housing for unsheltered individuals. The housing — either leased units or modular construction — would come with a certain level of commitment from participants that they transition to independent living. Spearheaded by a broad coalition of community members, the Carson City Housing Plan calls for “wraparound services” like medical assistance and life-skills training to help individuals stabilize and thrive.
According to Carson City Health and Human Services, there are 69 unsheltered individuals in the capital city. That number comes from an official count in February and could be higher.
“There isn’t one size fits all,” said Schuette. “The objective and spirit of this project is to meet the needs of this community.”
Total available funding is approximately $4.4 million that could cover four years of the new program. The current grant process focuses on the first two years only with the ARPA funding.