Jump-starting its previously languid approach to providing medical marijuana to patients, the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday voted 5-2 to allow facilities within city limits.
Voting in favor were Bob Coffin, Ricki Barlow, Bob Beers, Steve Ross and Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Opposing Coffin’s motion were Stavros Anthony and Lois Tarkanian.
Goodman initially objected to the broad approach in Coffin’s motion to have staff move forward “immediately” and write regulations concerning zoning and licensing for dispensaries, cultivation facilities, testing labs and edible production facilities.
Goodman had wanted to take individual votes on each aspect. The mayor also made it clear she wanted more information but didn’t want to lose the right to provide medical marijuana. Later, she changed her vote and voted for Coffin’s motion. All seven council members approved extending a moratorium from accepting license applications until July 2.
“We’ve crossed the Rubicon on this issue,” said Coffin, the most outspoken advocate of medical marijuana, after his motion and the moratorium passed.
He cited examples of how medical marijuana helps patients, saying, “It’s not snake oil.”
Voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998 and 2000, but only in 2013 did the Nevada Legislature allow dispensaries. The city is allowed 10 dispensaries under the state law but is not required to allow them.
Clark County officials have moved more briskly on the issue. But Coffin said it wasn’t right to criticize the City Council for acting slowly in approving medical marijuana dispensaries, though he had been one of those critics.
Anthony, a former police officer, renewed his objections to medical marijuana, citing studies saying marijuana is bad for people, draws in organized crime, is bad for the workplace, creates birth defects and is a water waster during production. “It’s an absolute disaster, and I’m not going to support it.”
Coffin said he respected Anthony’s objections but said that those were cases of abuse of marijuana, and anything can be abused, including alcohol and prescription drugs.
Tarkanian opposed it for similar reasons, saying it will open the door for recreational marijuana.
Ross voted for it but said that he was losing patience with the issue and there were more important issues to deal with such as jobs, texting and bullying. “Government in general wastes too much time,” he said.
Barlow, who said he had been an undecided vote, said he traveled to Arizona and Colorado to research the issue, and it changed his views. “I had a completely different perception, but I have a newfound respect for how this actually has helped a lot of patients. I had a stereotype about who was going to be inside the facility, but I was gravely wrong. There were senior citizens who’d had cancer for many years.”
Goodman said a sister with medical issues has been helped by medical marijuana. However, she said, “I think it behooves each one of us to be totally educated on issues. The council needs to ask wisely. We have a huge responsibility not to put our tails between our legs and just do what other states are doing.”
But she also wanted to keep the option open to allowing dispensaries. After a vote in which it was clear she was on the losing side, Goodman asked for another vote and switched her vote, saying she was pleased to see the moratorium gave staff time to finish writing regulations.
She urged the audience to lobby the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of dangerous drugs so that medical marijuana won’t be a felony, as it currently is.
Her husband’s professional career was representing people charged with crimes, including mobsters. She described a criminal element in providing medical marijuana, saying there are “people in the black market who are raping our people, passing off bad marijuana, the criminal element.”
Public workshops on zoning and licensing issues will be held on March 26 and April 1, with ordinances introduced in May.
Contact reporter Jane Ann Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0275.