By a split vote of 2-2, County Commissioners did not approve the ordinance amending the Lincoln County Code during a poorly attended public hearing June 2 regarding the prohibition of Medical Marijuana establishments as a matter of land use throughout the unincorporated areas of Lincoln County.

Commissioner Paul Mathews was absent. Commissioner Donohue and Phillips voted in favor, Commissioners Higbee and Katschke voted against.

Instead, the board will look again at the draft copy of the ordinance for a moratorium that had been previously prepared by District Attorney Daniel Hooge. Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Nevada. County Sheriff Kerry Lee said it is illegal as well to drive while under the influence of medical marijuana. “Even with a medical card, does not give the person the right to drive while under the influence,” he said.

Only about five people were at the Commissioner chambers to speak in opposition to the ordinance, and only one or two spoke in favor of the ordinance.

After a long discussion, Commissioner Katschke said he did not favor the ordinance as it was written, because he believed since SV374 Section 10.5 went into effect April 1, 2014, requiring the establishment medical marijuana establishments located in every county in accordance with local ordinances regarding land use, if Lincoln Country made an outright ban, “the state would just come along and put one in anyway.”

A moratorium, he believes, will give the County up to six months, and possibly longer, to study the issue more completely.

Doug Lamoreaux of Hiko said he did not think such a facility was needed in Lincoln County. “I feel we are close enough to Las Vegas that if there is somebody that needs a prescription filled by a medical marijuana facility they can travel to Las Vegas. “If a doctor here wants to prescribe to have it, they can go to Las Vegas to have it filled,” he said.

Diane and Thomas DeVuono of Caliente spoke in opposition to the ordinance, and presented a few cases of people of whom they are acquainted who have a need for medical marijuana and cannot go to Las Vegas as often as is needed, or not without great expense.

Mrs. DeVuono said she felt a moratorium on the question was a wiser path to follow at this time. “This gives the people of Lincoln County an opportunity to read the ordinance, make their decision, and be able to come to the County Commission with that ordinance in their hand, read the NRS Statutes, and the County section, and then bring their presentation to you before you make that decision.”

She questioned, “Is it not harder to undo an ordinance, than have a moratorium? We can watch in Clark County and the other counties and see what they do, and then go from there. We need to give the people of the county the opportunity to explore this ordinance before it is passed.”

Thomas DeVuono said he felt that while the issue right now is medical marijuana, in five years, the issue will be recreational marijuana. He felt the stringent rules implemented in Clark County for growing and dispensing medical marijuana could be applied to Lincoln County. He said he was also concerned about tax money that would be lost if a local ban were imposed. “I am afraid when this thing gets rolling, there is a lot of tax revenue we are going to lose.”

He explained, “It’s not just from pot, there are a lot of other uses of marijuana in oils, tinctures, resins, and other different forms that are in use and are approved by the FDA. Heads up. If there is a lot of money down the road here, are we going to turn our back on it?”

Jim Toreson of Rachel, spoke in support of having a growing and dispensing facility in the county because it would be a way to provide jobs for people

As a land developer, Toreson would like to see a facility built in Rachel that would be tightly controlled and licensed, with heavy security, “under control from seed to sale.”

He said, “The one we want to build would actually be underground, because of climate control.”  But he did not elaborate further on the plans.

Laura Oslund of Pahrump, who represents the Nye, Lincoln, and Esmeralda Communities Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, spoke in favor of the ordinance and said all the states that currently have medical marijuana are all in disarray, and California has been fighting with it since 1998. “It is not being securely regulated in any of the states that currently are providing it,” she said. “I think putting a prohibition instead of a moratorium is your smart move. You don’t have a large enough number of people who have the cards to go to grow houses or dispensaries,” she said.

She also cautioned it would not be a good use of the land, and it will up to the County to fund solutions for whatever problems may arise, until it becomes so out of hand the federal government would have to step in.

Dr. Katschke, a pharmacist, admitted there is great value for some people who have the need of the drug, and it was his suggestion to have a moratorium and study the question further.

District Attorney Hooge said after six months, an extension could be applied for if desired.