ST. GEORGE — The Mesquite City Council is inviting public discussion at a town hall meeting Tuesday night over a proposed ordinance that would allow medical marijuana facilities and sales in the city, an ordinance that concerns the city’s own residents and raises the interest of neighboring Southern Utahns as well.
The town hall meeting will be held at 5 p.m. PDT, 6 p.m. MDT, Tuesday in the Mesquite City Council chambers at 10 E. Mesquite Boulevard, Nevada. After the public discussion, the council will vote on the proposed city ordinance at a special meeting of the City Council on Aug. 5. and, just like most ordinances, this one will not go to the general public for a vote.
Known as the Medical Marijuana Ordinance No. 484, if passed it would allow future medical marijuana facilities within the greater Mesquite area and set local rules on those facilities.
Nevada medical marijuana law
Since Nevada passed law last year allowing medical marijuana facilities statewide, residents in the more populated metro areas like Las Vegas have rushed to get permits to start cultivation facilities, to open shops, maintain labs and operate marijuana-related production factories. During this time, government agencies have been burdened with building an entire system from the ground up to manage and regulate these future facilities.
Municipalities from the greater Las Vegas area were the first to jump on board with many passing ordinances governing cultivation and related facilities and operations, although it will still be some time until the systems are visibly working. Some smaller Nevada communities, like Boulder City, have denied the facilities and operations in their cities altogether.
Mesquite consideration, Southern Utah concerns
Nevada’s medical marijuana regulations are already tough, Mesquite Mayor Allan Litman said, but Mesquite’s bill, proposed by City Council Members Cindi Delaney and Geno Withelder, is even tougher.
It has been legal to grow and consume small amounts of medical marijuana in Nevada since 2001 with a special card issued through the state called a “registry identification card.” However it wasn’t until 12 years later, in 2013, that Nevada’s Legislature created a legal framework for larger scale cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana products, including traditional marijuana and other marijuana-infused edibles. This framework came from enacting Senate Bill 374 which significantly amended existing Nevada law on taxing controlled substances and medical use of marijuana.
Even if the Mesquite City Council passes its proposed ordinance, residents would not be able to buy medical marijuana anytime soon, Litman said. At the earliest, he said, it would be approximately a year until someone could have a legitimate facility in Mesquite.
“There’s so many regulations, by the time the state vets the applications – assuming this thing passes – you’re looking at three months at the state level, then they have to send it back to the city.”
Then, Litman said, if a prospective business owner passes the state and city application processes, they would have to locate or build a facility and get product.
As the state law stands, the greater Mesquite area could only allow one grow facility and one dispensary type facility, Litman said.
The concerns that nearby Southern Utah residents will flock across the border to take advantage of the more liberal controlled substance laws are unwarranted, he said. Under the new Nevada law, Utah residents can’t even apply for a medical marijuana card.
“Can they come to Mesquite to buy medical marijuana? Absolutely not,” Litman said, “because they can’t have a card – if they can’t have a card, they can’t make a purchase.”
For Nevada residents to obtain a card, they must be diagnosed with a “chronic or debilitating medical condition” that is approved for medical marijuana use according to Nevada law. Once they have written consent from their doctor, residents can obtain a card at which point they are exempt from state-level criminal punishment for possession, use or cultivation of restricted amounts of marijuana.
Diseases which are approved for medical marijuana use are currently: cancer, glaucoma and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. However, you can also obtain marijuana for several other medical conditions, if the condition produces one or more of the following:
- Persistent muscle spasms, including, without limitation, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis
- Seizures, including, without limitation, seizures caused by epilepsy
- Severe nausea
- Severe pain
- Any other medical condition or treatment for a medical condition that is:
- classified as a chronic or debilitating medical condition by regulation of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health State of Department of Health and Human Services, or
- approved as a chronic or debilitating medical condition pursuant to a petition submitted in accordance with Nevada law, NRS 453A.710.
Nevada residents who have been diagnosed with one of these conditions are allowed to have 2 ½ ounces of useable marijuana at a time, and up to 12 plants. So in practice, until last year, marijuana that was consumed for medical reasons should have been grown by the card holder or the card holder’s caretaker.
Currently, in the Mesquite area there are about 40 medical marijuana card holders, Litman said. Considering the small population of card holders, and the restriction on selling to non-Nevadans, including Utahns who spend money in Mesquite, the mayor said he is fairly impartial to the proposed ordinance. However, jobs created from a production facility or a cultivation facility could supply a boost to the Mesquite economy and for that reason he does not oppose it.
The general response to Mesquite’s proposed ordinance has been mixed. There have been several loud community voices opposed to the bill, but there have also been several loud voices in support of the bill.
“Is that response a true measure of anything? Absolutely not,” the mayor said, “a few verbal people on each side to me doesn’t really mean anything.”
However, Litman said, he hopes that the meeting Tuesday night will supply a broad spectrum of voices as the council considers its decision on the matter.
Nationwide, there are currently 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana use to a certain degree and two states, Colorado and Washington State, which have legalized recreational marijuana use.
- Nevada’s 2013 medical marijuana Senate Bill 374
- Nevada’s current medical use of marijuana laws, NRS chapter 435A
- Mesquite’s medical marijuana town hall meeting agenda
- Mesquite’s proposed medical marijuana bill 485
- Information packet for Mesquites town hall meeting
- On the EDge: Will Mesquite act or get off the pot?
- Division of Securities issues investor warning on medical marijuana offers
- Perspectives: Reconsidering medical marijuana laws
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