Nevada border town won’t block recreational marijuana sales

Posted at 4:57 PM, Jun 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-29 17:37:23-04

MESQUITE, Nev. — When recreational marijuana sales begin in Nevada on Saturday, Mesquite will have the closest dispensary to Utah.

Now, the border town will not block sales at its lone dispensary after a divided council took up the issue on Tuesday night.

"I am personally against recreational marijuana and have actually spoken against medical in the way it was implemented," Mesquite City Councilman David Ballweg said, introducing a resolution to put a moratorium on sales.

Ballweg told his colleagues on the council he wanted to buy time for Mesquite to get taxes and regulatory ordinances in place.

"The city has no way to regulate or control our ordinances right now," he said.

The moratorium would have halted sales at Mesquite's lone dispensary, Deep Roots Harvest. FOX 13 visited the facility earlier this year as the community contemplated allowing recreational sales.

An employee at Deep Roots Harvest shows West Wendover City Council members how they harvest marijuana for their products. The faces of the employees have been blurred at the request of the company. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Right now, Deep Roots Harvest sells medicinal marijuana but has said it would like to sell recreational cannabis products.

Ballweg's resolution brought strong pushback from other members of the Mesquite City Council.

"I think this resolution is clearly a smokescreen!" said Councilman George Rapson. "It's a delay tactic. It's presented by someone who's fundamentally against marijuana."

While others expressed concerns about recreational marijuana, they acknowledged that Nevada voters approved it last year. Blocking sales would harm a business that generated $2.5 million last year.

"As a pro-business councilman, I'm actually embarrassed this is on the agenda," said Councilman Rich Green.

Deep Roots Harvest's attorney, Neal Tomlinson, urged the council to reject the resolution and allow sales to move forward.

"You're dealing with upstanding community members who are paying taxes, who have 70 employees, who are contributing to the community," he said.

Cheeba Chews are manufactured inside Deep Roots Harvest in Mesquite, Nevada. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Tomlinson argued that regulated, recreational sales through Mesquite's lone dispensary would avoid a black market in the community.

In public comment, Mesquite residents were clearly divided. Some worried about marijuana smoke in the casinos. Others worried about people being hurt in the Virgin River Gorge, which is a pipeline from St. George to Mesquite.

"You have people coming from Utah," said one man. "These people are going to buy their products here and they're going to take it back to Utah? That's a felony there."

Another man criticized the council for not addressing recreational marijuana ordinances earlier.

"You've done nothing and that's why we're at this point," he said.

One woman said it would specifically harm Deep Roots Harvest, which contributes to Mesquite's economy.

"Do we want to stop one of our local businesses from succeeding?" she asked.

Marijuana being harvested at Deep Roots Harvest in Mesquite, NV. (Photo by Eric Weseman, FOX 13 News)

Ballweg's moratorium failed when the council refused to give his motion to pass it a second. Mesquite Mayor Allan Litman took a deep breath after the resolution failed and audibly exhaled.

"Okay," he said, before moving on to other council business.

Tomlinson said in an email to FOX 13 on Wednesday that Deep Roots Harvest is awaiting approval from the Nevada Department of Taxation before it can begin sales. That could happen at any point this week.

West Wendover, Nevada, is contemplating allowing medical and recreational marijuana sales. The city council there voted unanimously to begin an ordinance drafting process with a final vote expected later in the summer.

The Utah Department of Public Safety has said it will not be planning any special enforcement as recreational sales begin in Nevada, but highway patrol troopers will always be looking for signs of impairment among any drivers in Utah.

UPDATE: Deep Roots Harvest has been approved for a recreational marijuana sales license. The company indicated in a Twitter post it intended to begin sales on Saturday.