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Pahrump board debates marijuana business licensing

The Pahrump Town Board weighed in on the local medical marijuana debate.

Board members discussed the creation of a policy on business licensing fees for the cultivation of marijuana within the Town of Pahrump.

Town Manager Susan Holecheck said with the passage of NRS 453 regarding the cultivation and/or dispensing of medical marijuana, town staff is receiving more and more inquiries regarding how individuals or organizations can receive licensing, which prompted town officials to put the item on last Tuesday’s agenda.

“We’re getting a lot of calls from people saying they want to open a cultivation business for medical marijuana and because of that, I have to get direction from the board. If a business is located in Pahrump within our boundaries, are we going to license it? Because it’s new, we probably need an ordinance and I need to know how much are we going to charge? Is it the same as an LLC? Because of the nature of the business, should we charge more? These are all of the things I need the board to begin thinking about,” she said.

Contained within the town’s proposed ordinance draft, a business license application and fire inspection fee for the facility would cost $2,100 along with an annual fee of $3,000 per year.

Holecheck said even though county officials are still hashing out zoning and land issues related to the industry, she felt the town should not wait until the last minute to draft a policy proposal.

“We still have to wait and see what the county is going to do as well. I can’t keep taking phone calls from people without knowing are we for it or are we against it. I understand that at the state level, some of the so-called ‘snags’ will be dealt with in the next legislative session,” she said.

The town manager also provided copies of applications from nearby states where medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities are now legal.

She cautioned that a final decision on the item may take some time.

“I just need the board to say whether they are in favor of it and direct staff to begin to research this. I have also given some samples of other jurisdictions regarding how much they charge and what their applications look like,” she said.

Holecheck also sought input from the board on any issues and concerns related to the agenda item.

“The long and short of this item is that you will hopefully direct staff to work with Nye County so that we can get this done to the benefit of the county and the town by the deadline. We want to make this simplified for the one dispensary and cultivation unit. The more we can work with the county, I think will be better for the person or entity that will be coming in,” she said.

Town Board Chair Harley Kulkin noted the importance of seizing on an opportunity that would benefit the town.

“I don’t want that opportunity to backfire on us. I would like to have the simplest procedure for getting the license. We want to entice everybody to bring their business here. As far as water rights, I’d rather have it used for a business than for domestic growth. I want to be the most attractive place for people to bring their marijuana farm,” he said.

Board member Amy Riches noted that after extensive research, she has reached the conclusion that medical marijuana is a true benefit for those suffering from various ailments.

“It is documented that it helps people and I think that there should be a dispensary in town so that the people that need it don’t have to drive to Las Vegas or wherever to get it. They can get it right here. I don’t think Walmart or Smith’s is going to do it. The only way to do this properly is for the county and the town to join forces,” she said.

Board Vice Chair Bill Dolan said dispensaries and cultivation facilities aside, there are other elements that need to be considered.

“There are testing labs that can be opened and production facilities for edible marijuana products and marijuana infused products. I think we also need to address those issues as well if we are going to address licensing. The only thing that we will have control over is licensing,” he said.

The vice chair also said he sees a disturbing trend emerging in the medical pot industry – greed.

“It’s not just in this county it’s in other counties in the state. Between the state, the counties, the towns and cities, they are wanting to get rich off of this and all it’s going to do is drive the prices through the roof. It’s going to send these people right back to where they are now, which is going to their neighborhood junkie in back alleys in Clark and Nye counties to get what they have a right to have to control their disease processes,” he said.

Following further discussion, board members eventually voted unanimously to approve the item, which will include working with county officials.

At present, county commissioners are mulling a bill to repeal a previous medical marijuana zoning bill.

If approved, dispensaries would be authorized to operate in the Pahrump Regional Planning District.

Additionally, a second bill would allow for individuals to continue growing their own marijuana apparently in defiance of state law.

Both bills are set for a public hearing on May 19 in Pahrump.

Last month, County Commissioner Frank Carbone pushed to exclude dispensaries in Pahrump.

The issue of decriminalizing medical marijuana in the Silver State has been ongoing for more than a decade.

On Nov. 7, 2000 a medical marijuana bill was approved by 63 percent of Nye County voters and by 62 percent of voters in the state amending the Nevada Constitution to allow for the possession and use of marijuana plants by patients and their caregivers.

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