UPDATED: Concerns arise about implementation of marijuana dispensaries, cultivation | NevadaAppeal.com

UPDATED: Concerns arise about implementation of marijuana dispensaries, cultivation

Adam Robertson
arobertson@lahontanvalleynews.com
From left: Russel Wedlake, Colby Frey and Joe Frey give their thoughts on the state's marijuana law during the county commissioner's meeting.
ADAM ROBERTSON / LVN |

Growing marijuana for legal use in Churchill County drew some spirited discussion at the Dec. 21 commissioners’ meeting.

The commissioners said the law raised more questions than it answered. They still have several questions about its workings and how much control they have on marijuana’s presence within the county.

Fallon resident and vintner Colby Frey raised concerns about people growing their own plants — the law allows adult residents to grow six plants and for a household of multiple adults to grow up to 12 if they do not live within 25 miles of a licensed dispensary.

Frey said he has a concern about the wording of the ballot measure and how both state and local governments need to work together to craft the final law.

Frey, furthermore, said he wants the county to look at both the positive and negative aspect of the law so the county doesn’t find itself in an uncompromising situation down the road.

While Frey voted against the Question 2 ballot measure in November, he said he may be in favor of the county having a dispensary or cultivation operation so it can be better regulated. The city of Fallon, however, has already approved a dispensary to operate within the city limits. Frey said his family had considered getting a permit to grow marijuana, but he wasn’t sure anymore; after learning more about the ballot question, he said he did not like how it was worded.

“Originally. we were kind of excited about it,” Frey said. “But we looked more into the laws, so we’re not sure now. We’re kind of 50/50.”

He said the Frey family is not looking into growing marijuana at this time. Concerns with the law and the county’s reaction to it has caused them to reconsider.

One criticism of growing marijuana was how much water it takes for cultivation. Because growing marijuana is still federally illegal, only underground water can be used for cultivation. Sheriff Ben Trotter said farming marijuana could have a hard impact on groundwater.

“Since underground water resources will be tapped for this type of farming, what will be the short-term and long-term impact on the underground water supply in our community?” Trotter said in a follow-up email after the county commission meeting..

Fallon residents could still be unable to grow their own marijuana. During the meeting, Trotter noted the city council has already approved licensing a dispensary, which would restrict residents from growing their own marijuana.

Colby’s cousin, Joe Frey, said a local dispensary would also keep people in Churchill County rather than them going elsewhere for marijuana products. The consensus of the commissioners and public was that if it has to be legal, it’s best the money stay local.

“We can all work together, as a county, sheriff, fire department, to see that some of these problems are mitigated and potentially economically benefit the community by any sales tax income,” Joe Frey said.

Commission chairman Pete Olsen said his main goal was to protect the community and establish regulations. He said a blanket moratorium on dispensaries would be dangerous for the community since it would still allow residents to grow their own plants. The commissioners agreed having marijuana where they could regulate it, and it would give them more peace of mind.

“I guess all that said, I’m not sure we know enough concretely to make any kind of decision today,” Olsen said.

The commissioners plan to look into how much freedom they have with executing the law. Olsen and Trotter said the minimum they should do is create an open container law that restricts using marijuana in public; they also wanted to look into a ban on edible products and limiting advertising in the area.

“It’s going to be legal whether we say no or not,” Olsen said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to pursue (answers); some of these questions are going to be answered in time. Although I’ve learned a lot in the last 60 days, I think there’s more to learn.”

Commissioner Bus Scharmann, though, said he was ready vote no.

Ben Shawcroft, deputy district attorney for the commissioners, said the legislature is expected to create its own regulations on marijuana by the middle of 2017. In the meantime, Olsen said the county’s best option is to limit the negatives as much as possible and learn more about what they can do.

Colby Frey did tell commissioners that the Frey Ranch has agricultural underground water permits that could sustain a cultivation operation.

In other business, the commission approved the operating agreement with Fallon Golf Course, Inc. for taking over the golf course in January. Commissioners also approved a $30,000 interim loan for the company to begin operations at the course.

The commissioners also recognized a number of county employees for their service to the county. Anthony Laca, Holly Meader and Trevin Goodrick received service awards for five years service; Barbara Hodges and Linda Rothery received awards for 15 years; and David Lima received one for 20 years.

In other business, the commission approved the operating agreement with Fallon Golf Course, Inc. for taking over the golf course in January. Commissioners also approved a $30,000 interim loan for the company to begin operations at the course.

The commissioners also recognized a number of county employees for their service to the county. Anthony Laca, Holly Meader and Trevin Goodrick received service awards for five years service; Barbara Hodges and Linda Rothery received awards for 15 years; and David Lima received one for 20 years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THE REPORTER HAS CLARIFIED AND REWRITTEN PORTIONS OF THE COUNTY COMMISSION APPOINTMENT THAT ADDRESSED THIS CONCERN.