Elko residents who want to purchase marijuana may not need to drive any farther than West Wendover.

The state Department of Taxation plans to begin licensing retail establishments by July 1. The border city is hoping to jump on the bandwagon, offering sales that would no doubt draw more visitors from Utah and boost coffers with a 3 percent tax on pot sales.

The West Wendover City Council has held two public hearings in the past month, and next month members will pay a visit to a dispensary in Mesquite to learn more about the business.

Mayor Daniel J. Corona told the council about his recent visit to the Legislature and his meeting with Sen. Tick Segerblom. They have been working on a bill allowing municipalities to offer medical marijuana licensing.

Corona reported Tuesday that the bill had been introduced by this week’s deadline.

“It would allow us to go directly to the department of taxation if we decide to go ahead with marijuana in the City of West Wendover, and it would also allow us to put a tax of no more than 3 percent, or a fee, on the total gross revenue from the sales of marijuana in the City,” Corona said. “And my favorite part, it prevents the County from placing an extra tax on top of it, so we’ll get the 3 percent and the County can’t take it from us.”

If passed, SB 341 would allow any city or town – even an unincorporated jurisdiction within a county – to license additional marijuana establishments beyond what the law currently allows. In Elko County’s case, the current law limits the county to two establishments.

The hearings in West Wendover drew several public comments, many of which were similar to those aired in the City of Elko during hearings on its medical marijuana moratorium.

Several residents spoke in favor of medical and-or recreational marijuana, some of them pointing out that if a dispensary were established it would then be illegal for people to grow their own – thereby reducing criminal marijuana activity.

Others were opposed, citing Colorado as an example of the negative social impact outweighing the fiscal benefits. We agree, and are equally skeptical of the direction Nevada is going.

West Wendover council members will be getting a firsthand look at their potential future on April 10 when they visit the Deep Roots Harvest facility in Mesquite to conduct a special meeting.

“The purpose of the meeting is to be given an educational tour on the operations of a marijuana dispensary operating under the laws of the State of Nevada,” according to the council agenda.

Elko County officials should not be surprised by their interest. For several decades the border towns of West Wendover and Jackpot have thrived on casino tourism from neighboring states. Business has leveled off in recent years, however, as casino gambling has been legalized in many other parts of the country.

Marijuana could be a real shot in the arm for West Wendover. Jackpot could also benefit, but Idaho pot smokers already have the option of crossing their western border into Oregon to buy the drug.

At any rate, it is clear that West Wendover does not want to be held back by Elko County, should commissioners decide to license their quota of two marijuana establishments elsewhere.

Nevada’s drug laws could become even more lax in the near future, as Segerblom also introduced a bill this month allowing public pot smoking.

SB 236 would let local governments create marijuana “safe-havens,” according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Local governments would be able to issue licenses to businesses like bars, marijuana dispensaries and even yoga studios, or for one-off events like the Electric Daisy Carnival, under the bill.”

The proliferation of pot seems inevitable now that Nevada voters have made it a reality. It may take years or longer for communities to realize that setting up marijuana establishments was a bad idea.

Members of the Elko Daily Free Press editorial board are Travis Quast, Jeffry Mullins and Marianne Kobak McKown.