Marijuana makes politicians do some pretty dope things. Clinging to the principles of Prohibition, imprisoning nonviolent Americans and making cancer patients suffer unnecessarily come to mind.
But the reefer madness that overtook a Las Vegas City Council committee Tuesday begged a question: What in the world is Mayor Carolyn Goodman smoking?
The panel recommended a six-month moratorium on business license applications for medical marijuana dispensaries. The Legislature finally authorized the dispensaries this year — more than 12 years after voters approved an amendment to the Nevada Constitution allowing the use of marijuana with a doctor’s prescription.
The new state law allows as many as 40 Clark County marijuana dispensaries and farms. What is the council hoping? That all those dispensaries will open outside city limits? If that’s the case, the council committee should have voted to post signs outside City Hall that say “Weed not welcome” or “This bud’s not for you.”
Goodman certainly did her part to keep lucrative marijuana sales out of Las Vegas proper. Her ideas on how the dispensaries should operate were better suited for a smoke-filled college dorm.
As reported by the Review-Journal’s Adam Kealoha Causey, Goodman’s stoner-worthy monologue suggested that all dispensaries function as nonprofits, because only nonprofit entities could be trusted to supply high-quality hemp. She also said the council should set prices at all city dispensaries, because identical pricing would ensure the same caliber cannabis.
“They should not have to shop around,” Goodman said of patients.
Government-set prices? Ordering a business licensee to obtain 501(c) status? Discouraging competition as a way to boost product quality?
Oh, Carolyn. You inhaled, didn’t you? Someone pass her the chips.
It’s hard to decide what’s more delusional: the mayor’s understanding of basic economics, or her understanding of the limits of the council’s power.
Medical marijuana patients require a variety of choices. Different strains treat different symptoms, from pain to nausea. Entrepreneurs take on huge risks in opening dispensaries, knowing federal agents could kick down their doors and shut them down on any given day, so they put a lot of work and effort into improving and diversifying their products.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored the legislation that authorized medical marijuana dispensaries. After lawmakers toured an Arizona dispensary to learn about the industry, Segerblom said, “Best bud I’ve ever seen.”
A state license to operate a marijuana dispensary costs $20,000, with annual renewals costing $5,000. The incentive in making such investments: profit.
Fortunately, there were plenty of people at Tuesday’s meeting to call out Goodman’s toke talk. Adam Sternberg, of the medical marijuana consulting group Compassion Nevada, reminded Goodman that his clients, like tens of thousands of other legal companies, are in business to make money.
“They’re in it for profit as it is now,” he said. “We’re also in it for creating jobs and income for the citizens of the state.”
Can you imagine Goodman making such demands of any other industry? Given her interest in medicine, let’s apply her idea to drugstores. Las Vegas has hundreds of them. I can go into Wal-Mart and get any number of generic prescriptions for $4. Same at Target. Should Goodman require every pharmacy in the city to provide identical $4 generic offerings, even if they lack the volume to make such prices pencil out?
No one pays sales taxes on their drugstore prescriptions. Medical marijuana dispensaries, on the other hand, will charge sales taxes. And they’ll collect a lot of revenue for whatever jurisdiction they’re based in. Colorado’s legal medical marijuana dispensaries reported more than $219 million in retail sales in fiscal year 2012. Through three quarters of fiscal year 2013, the state had exceeded that total, with $225 million in sales.
This is a big business. It will be competitive. It likely won’t be able to meet consumer demand. It will generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue. And the mayor wants to make them wait six months for a city business license, fix prices and convert companies into charities? She must be high.
Then again, these ideas come from the same woman who, less than a year ago, suggested at a local government summit that Nevada impose a $5 per person, per year “recovery” tax — ostensibly a tax just for living and breathing in the state of Nevada, a levy that wouldn’t even recover the costs of enforcing and collecting it.
If Goodman is serious about wanting high-quality marijuana for some of Southern Nevada’s sickest residents, allowing dispensaries to profit is the surest way to guarantee it.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Madam Mayor.
Glenn Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.