On the EDge: Will Mesquite act or get off the pot?

OPINION – How much clout does the St. George culture hold over the region?

We’ll soon find out as the City Council in Mesquite, Nevada, tackles the sticky issue of medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

Medpot has been legal in Nevada since Oct. 1, 2001, but the push for state-approved dispensaries was slow to take root. It wasn’t until about a year ago that state and local leaders got onboard, usually with some fairly heavy guidelines to ensure that the owners were legit and not affiliated with criminal organizations or activities.

Arizona, on April 14, 2011, also approved medpot, but none are operating in the border towns of Littlefield and Beaver Dam, Arizona.

Instead, those with valid medical marijuana recommendations from their physicians have had to grow their own or deal with illicit suppliers.

Now, however, Colorado, which allows marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes, has created a model that is sure to set the course to national legalization in a very short time. There are regulations in place to track the product from seed to sale, restrictions on who can engage in sales and who can buy, and safety measures that are being honed on a regular basis to ensure that no harm comes to those who partake for whatever reason.

For nearly 20 years, Southern Utah had little concern about what was taking place in the advancement of medical marijuana as a viable therapy for a variety of illnesses and the thought of using the herb for recreational purposes was totally out of the question.

Until now.

Right now, as a matter of fact.

The success of Colorado’s program – in terms of compassionate and financial reward – is turning heads, particularly when governments realize just how much money is on the table through licensing application fees, permits, and tax dollars.

As a result, it will be interesting to see whether the theocracy that is Southern Utah or the financial needs of local government will win out.

Southern Utah’s conservative religious and political beliefs have impacted Mesquite before.

In 1994, there was an adult bookstore, as they were called in those days, that offered a menu of videos and other items that some found objectionable.

A group of Southern Utah residents from Iron and Washington counties picketed the business. The picketing and protests went on for quite some time until the business owner finally shut the doors.

The cause and effect of this was interesting, not to mention hypocritical, when a 2009 study called “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Entertainment” by Harvard Economics professor Benjamin Edelman ranked Utah as No. 1 in the nation for paid porn subscriptions.

But, the city’s financial stake in an adult-oriented business is far less than it would be for a medpot dispensary.

In Las Vegas, for example, the municipality gets a pretty good chunk of money before a dispensary opens its doors.

There is a nonrefundable $5,000 application fee, a $30,000 charge for a dispensary certificate, a $3,000 fee for a cultivation facility permit, a $3,000 registration fee for a facility that manufactures marijuana edibles, and a $5,000 fee to set up an independent testing lab. On top of that, the city takes a 2 percent excise tax (in addition to city sales taxes) and, voilà, there’s about a $50,000 score in fees alone from one dispensary. The cash flow dwindles in subsequent years as all of those registration fees are lowered to more reasonable rates. Still, the yearly fee hit for a dispensary sits at about $10,000 per business.

Mesquite officials seemed to be on the verge of putting off, yet again, a decision on dispensaries when it voted earlier this month to postpone a “technical review” of the issue until January 2015, which would have delayed the application period for a medpot dispensary until August 2015. It was a rather cowardly, yet politically safe, way to deal with a sticky situation.

Later in that meeting, however, the council decided, in the interest of fairness it said, to place the issue on its July 22 agenda.

How fairly the discussion of allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in Mesquite will be is up for grabs.

My gut tells me there will be a lot of moralizing about the evils of the demon weed as the images of reefer madness continue to cloud a certain mindset that science has yet to educate. There is plentiful legitimate research at hand proving the efficacy of marijuana as a source of pain relief, as a way to combat the effects of cancer and HIV/AIDS treatments, and as a substance far safer in terms of pharmacology and addiction properties than alcohol and current prescription pain medications. Whether best-science prevails over the long-held stigma attached to marijuana remains to be seen.

There is also the money factor and, as we all know, money talks, especially when we look at the amounts being raked into the Colorado state coffers where the Great Marijuana Experiment is, by all accounts, a major success in terms of safety, control, enforcement, and, of course, profitability.

Pot smokers in the United States, according to a recent report, spent more than $40 billion on marijuana last year. That’s a fair amount of money and, by odd coincidence, about as much as the nation spends on pizza, although implementing more liberal marijuana laws would, I am sure, ensure a healthy uptick in pizza sales.

Utahns recently went to bat for kids with epilepsy who would find relief through a marijuana derivative, will they stand in the way of others in need of similar relief by exerting influence on the Mesquite City Council or will they do the right thing and show compassion?

I guess we’ll find out on July 22.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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28 Comments

  • Reiligious Advocate July 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I’m a very happy member of the LDS faith. That is always the forefront of my mind. I am also a strong supporter of our nations constitution and the way we create laws. If by the voice of the people they want to legalize marijuana then so be it. Alcohol is legal, tobacco is legal, I have my own agency and the ability to make decisions on my own. I choose not to use these products. I don’t look down on others who do, I don’t try to “help them”. I recognize their own agency and support it as much as I do my own. Just because something is now legal does not mean I will start using it. I adhere to what I feel is right in my own heart. I recognize that others do not share my same beliefs, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me self righteous, it just means we have a difference of opinion. If by the voice of the people they want to add roadside stands that sell marijuana, then it should be allowed. It should be evaluated on a basis of public safety and public desire. God blessed us all with the gift of agency, the founding fathers blessed us all with our freedoms. There has always been a distinction between God’s laws and man’s laws. It’s very wrong for people to force their religion into State and Federal laws. If the people want it, let it happen.

    • bob July 22, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I wonder what kind of cannabis Joseph Smith was smoking when he was having his visions…

  • Panda July 22, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Legalize marijuana – the medical benefits alone are worth it. At what point do we quit wasting money and energy fighting to keep the myth that marijuana is dangerous going? Marijuana isn’t anymore dangerous than alcohol. Science has only scratched the surface of the medical benefits of marijuana. The medical benefits can even be met without the hallucinogenic effects. As our population gets older and older the need for pain relief for many types of medical conditions is important.

    • confused July 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      How are there any hallucinogenic effects of marajuana? I smoked it everyday for years on end and never experienced a hallucination. It’s not classified as one either.

    • McMurphy July 23, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Not being any worse than alcohol is hardly an endorsement

  • Secret Undies July 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

    The secret undies society thinks it should govern everybody with its cult religion mandates.

  • Mesquite-Oh July 22, 2014 at 10:57 am

    If approved, this would give neighboring Utahns another reason to visit Mesquite. The casinos, Lees, and now, medicine!

  • BSMETER July 22, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Don’t make your argument that it is about medical uses. That’s the same as saying alcohol is only good for medical uses. Its real use is in recreation. Call a spade a spade. That said, I think the government should regulate and tax it. Let people make their own decisions. Just don’t hurt others with your “fun”.

    • medical or not July 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      I have severe nerve damage. I shattered my leg and the bones ripped up my nerves. Though I’ve always said ganja should be legal, and would most certainly use it like most use alcohol, it is a medicine for me. It’s the only way my leg isn’t killing me. The only way I can sleep at night. And the only way I don’t feel like a hair trigger. It is medicinal for a lot of people.

    • Brian July 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks for being honest about it, at least. Unfortunately, the pot today has little in common with the pot people smoked so much of in the 60’s (clearly Ed was one of them…). Pot today has WAY more THC than it did back then, and varieties have been cultured to have maximum potency. It’s argued that pot is harmless, but brain scans of regular pot users definitely show otherwise, and look very similar to brain scans of meth and heroin addicts: very damaged. While I do believe it will continue to be legalized (mostly for revenue reasons), the consequences to society won’t be good.

      • THAT GUY July 22, 2014 at 7:28 pm

        BRAIN where is this study/scans you speak of? Can you prove your claim you talk of this with passion. But even Hitler had passion. So without providing the documented facts it for now is just words spewing out of a paranoid mind.

        • Brian July 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          Yeah, because its so hard to go to Google and type “marijuana brain scans” and look at the very first result: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275516.php
          Since you clearly lack motivation, I’ll quote the relevant points here: “Heavy marijuana use has been linked with impaired motivation, attention, learning and memory, but common beliefs maintain that casual use of the drug does not result in any negative outcomes. Now, a new study suggests young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week have altered areas of the brain involved in emotion and motivation.”

    • Ed Kociela July 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      BSMETER: The timely issue is about what Mesquite will do about a medpot dispensary. There are multiple — and growing — medicinal uses that legitimate research institutions are finding for therapeutic and palliative care. Recreational use, which I also endorse, is another matter entirely.

    • San July 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      When used responsibly and per manufacturers labeling a beer never killed anyone. You can’t say that about cigarettes, which is legal in every state in this country. Marijuana was a medical staple until trade agreements with Cuba (?) caused the eradication of it in this country. It is an indigenous plant here, hence the term ‘weed’. Until that time, it was picked along rivers, which were not patrolled by gun toting drug dealers/gang members.

      I don’t think the government is going to be able to stay off legalization forever. Given the number of photos I’ve seen showing pesticide containers at raid sites, it might be socially responsible to do it (or as a society we could be dealing with the mind altering effects of smoking Round-Up and the central nervous damage attributed to Malathion. I just hope that common sense prevails in this argument.

      This is not a ‘big brother’ issue anymore, it’s gotten bigger than that now. Legalize week and a $40bil a year motivation for drug cartels to be here will go away. At least stoners don’t seem to want to kill people.

  • Terry July 22, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Ok Ed, your Gut?? Really? It’s an herb plain n simple, Utah will allow it soon, it’s inevitable. Have you yeses Cannibus ? I used it to get off the … pain pills the doctor in St george was handing me , 7 a day! Then my urine sample claimed positive for Cannibus n she stopped prescribing promptly! Do you know what it does to you when you stop pain killers !! It’s insane ! A very dangerous thing to do, just stop, any trained physition will say it’s Dangerous! Yet She Just cut me off n said her job was on the line! What about my Health??! With that said I am pain free from Pain Killers and I feel like me again. Spread this story Please!! Big Phama is killing People with pills!
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • JAR July 22, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Interesting article Ed.
    However, I’m not convinced Mesquite or Clark County for that matter, really cares what Utah thinks about what is proper. (Life styles in Colorado city/ Hilldale come to mind). It’s all about the money. For those who need the medical properties of the weed to get along in life, I think they should be allowed to plant a few ‘Organic’ seeds in their gardens for cultivation. (as long as they place warning signs or a load mouth parrot to ward off hip senior citizens passing by.

  • Brian July 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Once again the 2009 “study” is quoted when it has zero merit or detail. It uses a single anonymous source using unverifiable “data” that was collected right during the heart of the Prop 8 controversy. Do you think just maybe the single source of “data” in question is biased? Not a single source of verifiable data points to Utah being the number 1 consumer of online porn (paid or otherwise), and yet that “study” is trotted out continuously by the disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to bash Utah and Mormons. To me it paints those quoting it as the dishonest hypocrites, not Utahn’s.

  • San July 22, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Well, if the do approve it we can only imagine where Mesquite will use those funds. My guess is that they’ll have a new dog park or senior center, headstart school or community medical clinic. Those $$ add up fast. Take a look at Colorado’s haul.

    Medical Marijuana does not have to be smoked, the way a stoner would use it, for relief of cancer and other symptoms. It comes in a variety of packaging. I wouldn’t mind seeing a dispensary for patches, pills or creams go into our area….but not straight weed. More community education (kids) needs to go into place before that happens. With access comes a lot of liability.

    Have any studies been done on traffic accidents and overdoses in CA and CO since legalizations? How about the stats on pizza sales? LOL!

  • EL JEFE July 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    If Mesquite ends up allowing the weed and the dispensaries, my homies are going to be super pissed off. THEY DON’T LIKE COMPETITION !! Legalizing it there will increase the violence in Mesquite. Such increase in violence will more than likely filter out into the St Geezy area. Do we really want that?? Gonna be time to arm up….lock and load people. All for the almighty dollar.

  • goldie July 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    It will indeed by an interesting outcome — and I hope Mesquite will stand by itself, and not be swayed by its southern Utah neighbors.

  • Herb July 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Marijuana is not the problem, the “War on Drugs” is the problem. Prohibition has never worked so why don’t we end it now. Law Enforcement Agencies have been the the sole benefactors under present policies, the rest of us not so much. Let’s just legalize it all and use the money for treatment and rehab. We aren’t stopping anyone from using drugs. The fact that it’s illegal inhibits few. Much of the violence we see is only because it is illegal. I have a hard time with people that don’t get it.

  • munchie July 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I would like to comment on this story but my pizza just arrived

  • neighbor lady July 22, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I say to each his own. I have felt for a long time that “pot” should be legal. I say legalize it, tax the %$#* out of it and pump the money into education. Education leads to understanding and really education is going down the toilet. But education is not under scrutiny just weed ( pot, grass, dope, etc..) People feel how they want to feel and that’s all. Take a stand one way or the other. Tinkle or get off the pot. HAHAHAHAHA

  • Dolly July 22, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Marijuana has been used for years by the medical profession to reduce the pressure on the optic nerve that causes Glaucoma and subsequent blindness. As usual, my timing sucks…I moved here to Utah from California a few years back….and now (Murphy’s Law) I develop Glaucoma. If I’m lucky, Zion Eye Institute will begin offering pot brownies soon.. 🙂

  • Halftrack July 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Ed just wants a lower priced way to Get high. Typical dope smoking liberal.

    • Ed Kociela July 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Typical booze-swilling conservative response.

  • tom July 23, 2014 at 11:34 am

    The government and Big Pharmanows marijauna is safe and works much better than all the pills they want us to use…If people knew this then Big Pharma would lose much of the profits that they have become accustomed. If they cant make as much money then they will not condone its usage. Same thing as our dependance on fossil fuels. There are other ways but it would hurt their bottom line.

  • FreeUtahn July 24, 2014 at 10:05 am

    So what happened at the Mesquite City Council meeting on July 22nd? Did they kick the can down the road a week, per this article?

    http://www.kcsg.com/view/full_story/25481165/article-Mesquite-Town-Hall-Meeting-about-Medical-Marijuana?instance=more_local_news1

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