Guy W. Farmer: Carson City should opt out of recreational marijuana
April 22, 2017
Carson Mayor Bob Crowell and our four elected supervisors should take a close look at what the Douglas County Commission did last month when it unanimously outlawed sales of so-called "recreational" marijuana in our neighboring county, which voted against Question 2 last fall, as we did.
My very well informed friend, Genoa attorney Jim Hartman, who led the fight against Question 2 — which was defeated in 13 of Nevada's 17 counties — is urging more counties to use local zoning rules to opt out of the statewide measure sponsored and financed by what Hartman calls "Big Marijuana." That would be the aggressive marijuana marketers who want to force us to accept something we voted against. No thanks! For the record Douglas County rejected Question 2 by a 57-43 margin and Carson voters opposed it 52-48, a margin of more than 700 votes.
And besides, we already have two "medical" marijuana shops in Carson, which raises an important question: How much pot is too much? So let's have this discussion in Carson City, and let's hear from Sheriff Ken Furlong and District Attorney Jason Woodbury along the way. Fearing increased crime, Furlong is a strong opponent of legal pot and I know Woodbury is willing to provide legal advice on Douglas County's opt out decision.
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson used existing zoning rules to draft the opt out ordinance the Planning Commission approved before it was adopted unanimously by the County Commission. "I'm here to say 'not in our county,'" said Douglas County Commissioner Steve Thaler. "We don't want it." The county's opt-out ordinance prohibits "marijuana establishment uses, including cultivation, testing, product manufacturing, distribution and retail facilities in all Douglas County zoning districts," including the South Lake Tahoe casino district, which generates most of the county's tax revenue.
Of course Nevada casino owners avoid "legal" pot like the plague because they fear heavy-handed federal intervention in our state's vital gambling industry. Remember President Obama's Drug Enforcement Administration last year again classified marijuana as a Class 1 "dangerous drug" and President Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has vowed to enforce our nation's drug laws. So who needs more legal pot? Not Nevada, that's for sure, no matter what "Marijuana Maharajah" Tick Segerblom says. Segerblom is a Democrat state senator from Las Vegas who accepted large campaign contributions from the marijuana industry last year.
In urging more counties to opt out of recreational pot sales, Hartman wrote Douglas County followed Colorado precedent when it rejected legal pot shops. That's because more than 60 percent of Colorado's counties opted out of that state's recreational pot legislation. And in liberal Massachusetts, which (unlike Nevada) is moving carefully and deliberately on this issue, many cities and counties are saying "no" to neighborhood pot shops.
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As Hartman told me, "We're in a huge hurry to get this (recreational pot sales) started — the industry anxious for profits and politicians misguidedly thinking marijuana taxes will yield 'a pot of gold,' as well as major campaign contributions." Shame on Gov. Brian Sandoval, who opposed Question 2, and clueless state lawmakers for rushing headlong into a potential regulatory nightmare. And shame on them and Big Marijuana for trying to force us to accept something we don't want.
Hartman noted Sandoval and the State Tax Commission, which will tax and regulate recreational pot, plan to authorize legal weed sales by July 1. By contrast, Massachusetts is waiting until July 2018 to implement that state's new pot legislation.
Bottom line: Carson City should opt out on Question 2. Just do it!
Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, worked on anti-drug programs in 7 countries.