MESQUITE, Nevada – More than 100 community members filled the Mesquite City Hall Council Chambers Tuesday evening for a public hearing on two proposed ordinances relating to the cultivation, testing and dispensing of medical marijuana within Mesquite city limits. Bills 484 and 485 were passed 4 to 1 by the Mesquite City Council, enabling a medical marijuana dispensary to become a reality in Mesquite.
“There were good debates there, and a lot of people either voiced their concern or their praise or their questions,” Tracy Beck, deputy city clerk for the City of Mesquite, said.
The entirety of Tuesday night’s public meeting was devoted to the medical marijuana issue, Beck said. During the meeting, which lasted approximately three hours, citizens had three opportunities to voice their opinions and give feedback on the proposed ordinances – both before the final vote took place and during a comments forum afterward.
“Everybody got a chance to speak, pro or con,” Beck said. “And our council, you know, did a lot of their homework, did a lot of research on their own.”
Though the ordinances have now been approved, it won’t mean instant medical marijuana availability for residents of Mesquite and the surrounding areas.
Medical marijuana use has been legal in Nevada since 2000 for individuals with certain medical conditions who hold state-issued medical marijuana cards, but Nevada only approved its new dispensary program in 2013. The state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries won’t likely open until late 2014 or early 2015, and any companies desiring to establish a dispensary in Mesquite will first have to become certified through the state’s Medical Marijuana Establishments Program and then get local business licensure.
“You have to apply to the state first. Once they approve you, then it comes here to the city and you apply for the necessary permits and licenses,” Beck said.
In a previous interview with St. George News, Mesquite Mayor Allan Litman said the state’s current law will only allow one medical marijuana grow facility and one dispensary facility to take up residence in Mesquite. At least two vendors have already expressed interest in opening medical marijuana facilities in Mesquite, Gaye Stockman, of Mesquite Regional Business Inc., said during a presentation at a Mesquite town hall meeting on July 29.
Arguments against Mesquite’s marijuana ordinances have been many and varied, including concerns that recreational marijuana use will be the next thing to receive approval if medical marijuana takes hold in the area. Since the State of Nevada has allowed cities and municipalities to make their own decisions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, Beck said the city anticipates similar guidelines will be put in place if Nevada approves recreational marijuana use.
“We have to wait for the state to make their move,” Beck said.
“There were members of the council that were strong, that said, ‘no, we won’t bring (recreational marijuana) here,'” she added, “but we don’t know how that will play out.”
Arguments in favor of the medical marijuana ordinances have revolved around the potential boost to Mesquite’s economy if a cultivation and dispensary business opens up, and also the benefit for local medical marijuana cardholders if a nearby dispensary is available to them. Only between 40-50 cardholders live in Mesquite, Beck said, but a Mesquite dispensary could also service cardholders in surrounding communities like Bunkerville, Moapa and Logandale.
“It’s easier to make that 30-mile trip as opposed to the 75-mile trip to north Vegas,” she said.
A dispensary in Mesquite would also mean easier access for medical marijuana users in nearby Arizona communities like Littlefield and Beaver Dam, where medical marijuana use is also legal.
“We are planning a reciprocity program,” Pam Graber, education and information officer for Nevada’s Medical Marijuana Establishment Program, said.
A reciprocity program will mean those holding valid medical marijuana cards issued by other states will be able to make purchases at Nevada dispensaries.
Utah residents will not be able to purchase medical marijuana in Mesquite, since medical marijuana is not legal in Utah and, therefore, Utah residents cannot obtain valid medical marijuana cards.
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