ELKO, Nev. — Marijuana may be legal in Nevada, but don’t expect dispensaries to join casinos among Jackpot’s illegal-in-Idaho tourist draws.
A majority of voters in Elko County, as in most of the state’s more Republican counties, voted against the legalization initiative that passed with 54 percent of the statewide vote last November. And county commissioners decided in early September to ban marijuana dispensaries outside of the county’s four incorporated cities.
“The incorporated cities can have a dispensary, but Elko County was awarded two licenses by the state and Elko County voted not to utilize those two in rural areas,” Commissioner Cliff Elkund told the Times-News. “The incorporated cities, that’s their decision.”
State law limits Elko and other counties with fewer than 55,000 people to two dispensaries each. Jackpot is not incorporated; the county’s four incorporated cities are Elko, Carlin, West Wendover and Wells. West Wendover, near the border with pot-unfriendly Utah, is attempting to approve an ordinance to allow a dispensary.
The other cities haven’t made any decisions yet, Elkund said. The closest of those cities to the Idaho border, Wells, is about an hour and 45 minutes’ drive from Twin Falls but an hour-and a half closer than Huntington, Ore., the nearest place where recreational marijuana is currently sold legally. Twin Falls County has not yet seen a noticeable increase in marijuana arrests due to the change in Nevada’s law, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Lori Stewart said.
And even those cities won’t have recreational dispensaries until November 2018 at the earliest, said Stephanie Klapstein, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Taxation, which is in charge of the licensing. Until then, the closest recreational dispensaries in Nevada are the ones in the Reno area.
“The way the ballot initiative was written, only existing medical marijuana establishments can apply for recreational licenses for the first 18 months of the program,” she said. “There are currently no medical marijuana dispensaries in Elko County, so no one there is eligible to apply for a recreational store license until that 18-month mark.”
The ban on rural dispensaries passed 3-2. According to the Elko Daily Free Press, Zack Wood of Jackpot showed up at the meeting with a petition signed by about 60 residents who wanted recreational marijuana establishments in the border town.
“There is no money coming into that town,” Wood told commissioners, adding that it might create jobs and bring funding for community development. “We want this ... Think about all the money that we can bring in.”