Amid cheers, Fallon City Council bans recreational cannabis in 3-0 vote
FALLON, Nev. — Fallon City Hall was a full house Tuesday night as cheers filled the room when council members voted 3-0 to adopt Bill 780, an ordinance banning recreational marijuana sales citywide, including cultivation testing, and distributing facilities.
Representatives of dispensaries from local regions to statewide attended the four-hour debate, as well as residents from other cities to provide input.
The vote followed the May 1 meeting when council members originally voted against recreational access in Fallon.
“The people who are here speaking are not even from here, they’re from out of town,” said Russell Gibson, a new resident of Fallon. “They don’t care, it’s a business. I don’t think it’s good for our town.”
“We don’t want to commercialize it,” said Jim Hartman of Genoa, adding that when Nevada voted in 2016 to adopt legal recreational cannabis, “all of the (in favor) results from Question 2 came from Clark and Washoe counties.”
Along with those two counties, Nye and Storey also voted for recreational, totaling a 54.4 percent for yes statewide over 45.5 percent no.
In Churchill County, 59.8 percent voted against with 40.1 percent in favor.
Fallon isn’t one of only a few towns in the country that’s banned recreational use — although nine states have legalized recreational use, rural towns in California, Oregon and even Colorado have also voted to ban.
Democratic Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom attended Tuesday’s meeting to oppose Bill 780, touting the benefits of dispensaries in the state.
He said Nevada has the best cannabis industry in the country, and taxes from recreational marijuana since July 1, 2017, have brought in nearly $20 million in tax revenue. He also said Fernley is planning to open a dispensary in September.
But in response to City Council’s vote, Segerblom said he understands the decision.
“It’s not going to impact the state, but people are going to have to drive to other locations,” he said. “I understand where they’re coming from, but it’s already here. We as a state can prove it’s safe and sound.”
Safety concerns, federal law key drivers
Council members opposed it for three main reasons: lack of county votes in favor of legalization; effects on users and surrounding people; and the drug is not legal on a federal level in terms of possession, distribution and cultivation.
“It’s the perception we send out to the community,” said Councilman Bob Erickson. “The perception is that marijuana is legal, but it’s not. You’re still subject to prosecution under statutes. The federal statutes have not changed in 48 years.”
A majority of concerns from those favoring adopting the bill consisted of access to children. Representatives from the Churchill County School District attended to share statements before City Council, speaking about Colorado’s recent increase in hospitalization of children due to marijuana .
Further, according to a report by the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office, the agency has made 44 arrests of minors for marijuana possession since July 2017.
Banner Churchill Community Hospital’s James Verrees, M.D., told council members he has patients that use marijuana during pregnancy, such as an increased risk of stillbirth.
Those who spoke against recreational use in Fallon shared statistics how marijuana usage at an early age can lower IQ and affect cogitative and memory skills and motivation, while also touting the risk of driving under the influence.
CCHS Principal Kevin Lords reported the use of marijuana has tripled within the district, including cases of edibles being distributed by adults, despite Nevada’s state law indicating an establishment cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school.
School Board Trustee Carmen Schank added that cannabis also is present at the middle school, adding that one student has been expelled for consumption.
“We need to protect our community,” Lords said. “The ease of access has concerned me as a parent and an educator.”
Without hesitation, Councilwoman Kelly Frost wanted to motion the adoption of the bill.
“I don’t believe the The Green Cross Farmacy sells to those under 21,” she said, “but I’m concerned about adults getting their hands on the products and passing it down.”
‘Stop the Fallon black market’
The Green Cross Farmacy is Fallon’s sole medical cannabis dispensary. President and CEO of the dispensary, Steve McNeal, said the facts and statistics bill opposers presented had nothing to do with Fallon’s customers.
“The Farmacy is avoiding any kind of marketing toward children,” he said. “Drugs are not (coming) from the Farmacy. They’re (coming) from the people in Fallon.
“Stop the Fallon black market.”
With that, many recreational supporters expressed the benefits of a recreational dispensary, to further avoid people purchasing product that has not been tested for safety or chemicals in a lab.
In Nevada, statutes say no personal cultivation within 25 miles radius of a marijuana retail store.
Ardea Canepa-Rotoli, of Reno’s legal firm Maddox Segerblom Canepa, said that while recreational and medical is federally illegal, Fallon has already jumped the hurdle.
“If we don’t have a recreational in Fallon, we’ll have an issue with home growers and law enforcement,” she said. “This could open up to house fires, pesticides and home-versus-personal use.”
Although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states veterans will not be denied benefits for marijuana use, local veterans still struggle to obtain approval when applying for a medical card, without risking benefits, said Reno Attorney Joey Gilbert.
Gilbert said veterans with PTSD, or other physical or mental illnesses, should be able to access recreational to cope with pain. Gilbert said as veteran himself, he also has PTSD and finds benefit in marijuana use. “Tax it and regulate it,” he said. “It’s an escape for some people, just like alcohol is. There is no difference.”
Nevada nurse and founder of The Cannabis Nurses Magazine, Julie Monteiro, said recreational cannabis could help stray people away from opioid addictions.
“Allowing it recreationally will give a patient a chance to heal,” she said.
In conclusion of a long night, Councilman James Richardson compared the cultures of Reno and Las Vegas to Fallon, and how first impressions matter when it comes to being a city of its own, especially for the protection of children.
“We don’t want that image — it’s a different story in Fallon,” he said.
Nathan VanTreese, owner of The Green Cross Farmacy, said although he may have been defeated, he’s not giving up the fight in the long run.
The dispensary still has a state license and Fallon Business License.
“Education is key,” he said. “We’ll be OK.”