EDFP

Marijuana sales are coming to Elko County regardless of what commissioners or the Elko City Council want.

West Wendover plans to have a dispensary licensed around the first of the year. The next one could be located in Jackpot or even right here in Elko – although not technically within the city limits.

County commissioners last week said they would have staff look into a request by Jackpot’s town advisory board and Idaho-based businessmen to allow a dispensary in the border town, although they would need to sway at least one more commissioner to change his opinion. Three commissioners voted to set up the anti-pot ordinance, with Rex Steninger and Jon Karr in opposition.

A dispensary in Jackpot and/or Wendover would do big business because of their locations right across the line from neighboring states that currently do not allow marijuana sales. Judging from the business being generated in Las Vegas and other states where pot is sold, they could see a huge boost in tourism and tax revenue.

Marijuana sales also could be coming to Elko, where two companies have proposed putting a dispensary across from the smoke shop on the upper Indian colony, as well as growing facilities. The Elko Band Council heard pitches from both on Sunday night, but some members are saying that only the full Te-Moak Tribal Council has the authority to approve a deal.

The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe opened a dispensary last week, which claims to be the largest in the country. Tribal groups in Ely and Yerington have also registered with the state to set up dispensaries.

Sentiment at the Elko Band Council meeting appeared to be mostly in favor of selling marijuana, although there was a definite difference of opinion coming from the other side of the bleachers.

The hastily called meeting included presentations from Joshua White of Elko-based Cannabis Consulting Group LLC, and Jon Goldstein representing separate marijuana and casino proposals.

We were familiar with the Whites’ proposal, and their support from Elko Band Council Chairman David Decker, who testified for a bill passed by the Legislature last spring and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Decker and others see it as a way to fund needed services such as health care and road maintenance.

What surprised us was the proposal from an established marijuana grower and dispenser from California, which is seeking to spread out to several other states besides Nevada. Goldstein spoke Sunday about separate proposals for a marijuana operation — which has already been designed — and a hotel-casino-retail development that could be proposed soon.

Goldstein claims to have political and business connections in Nevada and investors from out of state that could quickly make both projects a reality, provided that Te-Moak members can come together and agree on a business plan. That’s a big “if,” considering the diversity of opinions and lack of communication in the tribe.

The Elko Band could choose the homegrown route and approve the Whites’ proposal, which they claim would provide a greater return to the tribe. At a recent Elko Rotary Club presentation, they talked about the high amount of legal marijuana already coming into Elko city and county, while all of the tax revenue goes to the counties were marijuana is legally sold.

It’s hard to argue with their position that marijuana has medical benefits, and that local governments should be getting tax revenue from the hundreds of legitimate medical users who live here. Some of those people showed up at Sunday night’s band council meeting to plead for a local dispensary.

Unfortunately, there is no hard line between medical and recreational marijuana sales because of the way state law is written. Another snag involves the clause that prohibits individuals from growing their own pot if they live within 25 miles of a licensed retail dispensary.

The Whites’ proposal appeared to be overshadowed by the interest shown in Goldstein’s plan for a full-scale marijuana operation and casino. If everything he spoke about Sunday night came to fruition, it would be a major development in Elko, particularly when it comes to Interstate 80 traffic that runs adjacent to the property.

Investing in a casino would also come with risks for the tribe. Concerns mentioned at the band council meeting included an increase in crime, paying off the loan, and even a potential threat to tribal sovereignty.

One thing is clear: Neither city nor county officials have any jurisdiction over the tribe. Any deal with the Te-Moak would likely include a portion of the tax revenue going to the city and/or county, which would put Elko in the marijuana sales business after all.

The only remaining question is, at what point will city and county leaders stop fighting what Nevada voters have already approved?

Unfortunately, there is no hard line between medical and recreational marijuana sales because of the way state law is written. Another snag involves the clause that prohibits individuals from growing their own pot if they live within 25 miles of a licensed retail dispensary.

Members of the Elko Daily Free Press editorial board are Travis Quast, Jeffry Mullins and Suzanne Featherston.

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