As the recent Mineral County Town Hall meeting began, commissioner and vice chairman Jerrie Tipton stated there had been many months in which an agenda item at the commissioner’s meetings allowed that the topic of legalized marijuana be discussed in relation to this rural county. Only one resident took advantage of attending and he alone had provided a single opinion.
Adding the topic into a public forum before the commissioners were meant to provide an open discussion of many opinions and suggestions which could eventually assist in providing a plan in which Mineral County must weigh-in on proper zoning locations; issuing business licenses with detailed acceptance plans; planning for appropriate locations; reviewing the segment of acceptable operations that may be approved, while balancing the existing state laws within our own rural atmosphere. Tipton reminded attendees that Mineral County was a district in which legalizing marijuana was not passed by the county voters.
Throughout the transition of the Marijuana Nevada State Law, NRS453, passing at a state level, rural communities have been voicing concerns and scrambling on this matter to avoid being sued or stuck with businesses they cannot support. Tipton had conferred with other small districts which shared that an overall ban would probably bring legal fees and weigh down the process of a solid plan being in place. With that in mind, the Mineral County town hall meeting was scheduled to allow public discussion and to provide proper information.
NRS 453D.020:, “The people of the State of Nevada find and declare that the cultivation and sale of Marijuana should be taken from the domain of criminals and be regulated under a controlled system where business will be taxed and the revenue will be dedicated to Public Education and the enforcement of this chapter.
The commissioners shared a basic view of the marijuana business information using an overhead screen. (This lengthy presentation is available to anyone that can access it by email, just by contacting the county clerk’s office.) This information introduced four basic licensing avenues from the legalization of marijuana. In a smaller county such as Mineral, it was explained to have importance due to the limited logistics, the appearance of a smaller town’s atmosphere and other limitations involved in accommodating such a business request, which could include items such as potential water use and other utilities.
The four business avenues discussed were: A) Medical Dispensary; B) Production Facility of edibles or infused Cannabis product lines that may include balms, lozenges, etc.; C) Cultivation Facilities or Grow locations; D) Independent Testing Laboratories which are designed to oversee quality controls, check for mold, potency or chemical contaminants and pesticides.
Audience comments included the support of medical use and providing easy local access, especially for those with chronic or debilitating conditions and yet others cited the higher costs associated with using dispensaries, stating “If you allow a dispensary, then one cannot grow their own within a certain distance of that storefront. For some that grow, it is for their personal use only.”
An audience member specified that “separating the issue as a medical or recreational choice is no longer relevant – this state made that decision for us.”
It was noted by the commissioners that individual or personal use of the allowed 1 ounce or less, within one’s possession, was not necessarily in the forefront of their discussion. (The ability to grow a limited, approved amount was not at a county zoning concern, although law enforcement would make the appropriate arrests if laws were broken by those under 21 years of age who would use, or with anyone growing to transport, deliver, dispense or sell to another and especially to minors.)
Several residents stated their displeasure with the “image and the message it would send out” about the town and to the local kids which would not be good for the community. A reminder of the limitations in place and those set forth by the State of Nevada was in verbal review, which involved acceptable business locations and the reality of any placement being a possible storefront within a town of this size. Certain footage restrictions would create conflicts and limitations. Stated mandates are necessary for proximity to schools, daycares, churches, public pools or parks and other public places. Schools require an even greater distance from these Marijuana-based business endeavors.
In discussing the marijuana cultivation businesses, attendee Mike Guss compared current restrictions of locations and the mandatory use of private water wells already exists within the restrictive brothels. He made the point that legally restricting the zoning to certain locations could be one solution, rather than the county being sued for banning or restricting business altogether, which would then conflict with the state’s legal stance. Since Mineral County was USDA federally assisted within the water situation, allowing access to county or city water by a Marijuana related business could create a legal constraint, as Marijuana is not legalized by the Federal Government.
Tipton suggested that Nevada was under Dillion’s Rule Law, which is used in interpreting state laws into the local government power. “I know we have limitations and we have to stay within what we can do,” she stated.
Balancing aspects such as health and public safety were also addressed with great concern. Actual taxation amounts were not available and according to research with the Department of Taxation, it is still being worked on until January of 2018, but Commissioner Tipton commented that she believed the revenue would primarily go to the state, rather than to local levels or education.
Commissioner Chairman Garth Price stated, “If it happens here, then we have to see how it will be zoned.” He also commented that local law enforcement urged a ban upon any marijuana businesses, but many unforeseen aspects made it clear that legal business decisions must be dealt with and decided upon.