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City of Henderson considers one-year ban on recreational marijuana businesses

The Henderson City Council is proposing a one-year ban on all commercial activity related to recreational marijuana, as officials weigh concerns about zoning and public health.

The moratorium would focus on the application, licensing and operation of recreational marijuana establishments and the cultivation, manufacturing, production, testing, transportation and sale of recreational marijuana. Council members, who are also considering a six-month ban, will likely address the issue at their Jan. 17 meeting and vote at their Feb. 7 meeting.

“We want to make sure that these businesses are not next to schools or day cares,” Councilwoman Gerri Schroder said. “We are also waiting to see what the Legislature will do. Having this amount of time to plan everything will allow us to get our ducks in a row, so to speak.”

Recreational marijuana became legal Sunday in Nevada for adults 21 years and older, following the approval of Question 2 in November’s election. However, users cannot purchase it yet because stores aren’t allowed to sell recreational marijuana for at least several months.

Under Question 2, the state has until Jan. 1, 2018, to create regulations before it accepts license applications for recreational dispensaries. A shorter ban might also be approved as the city waits for the state to determine regulations.

“I think a six-month moratorium is more appropriate and will give us enough time to listen to the public’s concerns,” Councilwoman Debra March said. “We’re still discussing the length of time.”

The proposal appeared on Tuesday’s council agenda, but was withdrawn before the meeting.

Armen Yemenidjian, CEO of Essence Cannabis Dispensary, a medical marijuana dispensary and treatment facility, said he does not understand the reasoning behind the moratorium, although he will respect the council’s decision.

“The moratorium will allow Henderson residents the inconvenience of driving an extra mile or two to the next nearby dispensary that offers recreational cannabis,” Yemenidjian said. “Henderson could potentially lose out on a tremendous amount of tax dollars. All it’s doing is shifting consumer behavior in tax dollars from the city of Henderson to unincorporated Clark County or Las Vegas.

“We’ve seen a lot of dispensary owners running businesses in a very professional manner with no incidents, so I don’t know what will be achieved by doing this.”

The city has issued 15 business licenses for medical marijuana establishments — five dispensaries, six cultivation facilities, three production facilities and one cultivation and production facility.

City spokesman David Cherry said, “There is still some internal discussion over the language of the bill, but no changes have been finalized.”

Public comments on the moratorium are scheduled before the city council meeting Feb. 7.

Although six-month moratoriums on recreational marijuana have been placed in several cities across the nation — including in Maine, Ohio and Florida— bans lasting one year are less common.

City officials in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas say they are not considering plans to pass similar moratoriums related to recreational marijuana.

Henderson has taken its time crafting regulations for marijuana businesses. In 2014, the city approved a six-month moratorium on applications for the construction or operation of medical marijuana businesses.

“City officials want to take into account the same level of due diligence as applied to medical marijuana,” Cherry said.

Contact Sandy Lopez at slopez@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4686. Follow @JournalismSandy on Twitter.

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