Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 | 5:30 p.m.
The Las Vegas City Council voted 6-0 Wednesday to deny a special use permit for a marijuana dispensary on Sahara and Forte Apache that was previously approved by the Las Vegas Planning Commission and recommended for approval by the planning department.
The application generated controversy in the Ward 2 neighborhood from residents, who said they felt the location was too close to schools, homes and areas where children congregate. Although the location is commercially zoned and meets the city’s distance requirements for marijuana dispensaries, Ward 2 Councilwoman Victoria Seaman sided with opponents, saying a dispensary wouldn’t be “harmonious” with the neighborhood.
Dozens of Ward 2 residents on both sides of the debate attended the council meeting to express their points of view. While the majority of speakers said they were concerned that a dispensary could increase crime, homelessness, traffic and intoxication, those in support of it disputed those claims.
“Dispensaries are monitored. They have security. It’s done safely in a safe environment,” said Ward 2 resident and retired Metro Police Lt. Blake Quackenbush. “That is the way we’re going to be able to do away with crime related to narcotics.”
The dispensary would have been the first one located in Ward 2. Other dispensaries in Las Vegas are clustered in older, centrally located areas of town, according to a map provided by the city.
Some opponents of the dispensary said they were concerned about marijuana’s impacts on children. In contrast, resident Carly Bradshaw, who spoke in favor of the application, said she didn’t think a dispensary would be detrimental to the health or well-being of her young child.
“I think this is more of a land issue than a marijuana issue. It’s already been legal,” Bradshaw said.
Both Seaman and a handful of opponents said that while they aren’t against marijuana, they believe the location is not suitable for a dispensary. Others said they felt a dispensary would affect their property values and that homeowners should have a right to keep them out of their neighborhoods.
“Why are we, who are so invested in our community, not allowed to preserve its character?” said resident Frances Abbott.
Representing dispensary applicant Nevada CRT LLC, Scot Rutledge said the proposed location was not too close to schools or places of worship as defined under state and local law. Would-be dispensary operator Cultivate, which already runs a dispensary on Spring Valley Road, serves customers who live in Ward 2 and who would like to see a dispensary closer to home, Rutledge said.
But Seaman, who told residents via her email newsletter to attend the meeting and “voice your concerns,” accused Rutledge and Cultivate general manager Matthew McClure of “targeting” individuals who supported the dispensary to come speak in favor of it. She said the official comments she received from residents via email and at town hall meetings showed overwhelming opposition to the proposal.
“You both were at the town hall. You saw the opposition,” she said. “If you had folks that you were targeting, they didn’t show up to the meetings.”
Rutledge requested that the council delay the vote to allow the applicant to continue meeting with neighbors in order to find a compromise solution. Councilors did not entertain the request.
Other than Seaman, only Ward 1 Councilman Brian Knudsen commented on the debate. Saying he was sympathetic to residents’ concerns, he also challenged statements made about the neighborhood being too “family-friendly” for a dispensary. Other neighborhoods in which dispensaries have opened, including in his ward, are also near residences and children, he said.
“I just want to make it very clear that there’s families and children in Wards 1, 3 and 5. There’s often this sentiment (that) we’re comfortable with dispensaries in Wards 1, 3 and 5, but we’re not comfortable with it in our backyards,” Knudsen said.