The Ely Times

Mayor Melody VanCamp vetoed the decision three days after the Ely City Council had agreed to enter into a interstate compact with the Ely Shoshone Tribe for the sale of marijuana.

This was a topic that was on the city council for several months leading up to this decision.

The first time the Ely Shoshone Tribe approached the council and the Mayor was June 8, when Cassandra Dittus and Joe Dice with the Tribal Cannabis Consulting Firm introduced the idea of going into a compact with the Ely Shoshone Tribe pertaining to medical and recreational marijuana sales, distribution and growing.

This was going to be an opportunity for the city to bring in tax monies without doing a whole lot of work. The Tribal Store is in the county, not the city. So, having two stores in this small of a town would decrease the tax revenue.

Dice said “It’s the city’s opportunity to opt out and share in the revenue.”

This also meant that if the City agreed to something like this, that would preclude the city from obtaining a license of it’s own.

With the passing of Question 2 back in November, the law only allows two dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana.

At the time of this meeting, Councilman Bruce Setterstrom mentioned that there were two other businesses that were interested in coming to Ely.

Setterstrom moved to have the agenda item tabled so further research could be completed by the city.

Then July came around, and a new prospect interested in bringing the sale of marijuana to Ely was put on the agenda for the July 13 meeting.

VanCamp placed the item on the agenda for possible action and discussion for a request by Troy McElroy, who was requesting support from the City  of Ely so he could obtain a medical marijuana dispensary permit from the State of Nevada to open and operate a medical dispensary.

McElroy currently resides in Oregon but noted that they were in the works of buying a building, purchasing a home and relocating back to Ely. McElroy lived in Ely several years ago and has been in the industry for seven years.

Councilman Kurt Carson moved to give McElroy a letter of support to obtain a medical dispensary permit from the state and a medical marijuana and recreational grow license and distributor license in the City of Ely. The motion carried unanimously.

Now fast forward to Sept. 14, the Ely Shoshone Tribe returns to the Ely City Council to to approve the request to enter into a Interstate Compact with the Ely Shoshone Tribe.

This compact would allow the Tribe to sell marijuana within city limits and have a possible location for placement of marijuana sales in the incorporated limits.

Councilwoman Jolene Gardner questioned “what about the other guy?” City Attorney Charles Odgers explained that if the Tribe places a dispensary on Tribal Land, it has no effect on the application, but if the city enters into a compact, the compact would be for five years, making the tribe the sole provider in the county for a period of five years.

Councilman Ernest Flangas has been very vocal about his dislike for any sort of a marijuana dispensary businesses in the City of Ely.

Flangas said “I’m totally against the idea because medical marijuana should be dispensed by a doctor, and picked up at a drug store. The State of Nevada is not prepared for the outcome of recreational marijuana and the City is not prepared with regulations.”

Flangas asked for this item to be tabled once again.  Carson was concerned with where McElroy was at with this permit especially since the City had sent a letter of support. The agenda item was tabled once again.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 28, Dice and Dittus returned to the city council meeting for the third time in hopes that the Council would enter into a compact with the Tribe.

Dice noted to the council that the tribe has a compact and they’re opening, it’s a matter of where. For over an hour, the council and Dice went back and forth with several questions on locations, length of the agreement, what all it would mean for the city.

Carson still was very reserved on wanting to approve the compact,  Councilman Tony DeFelice noted to the council that the city had a lot to gain from this, and it being uncertain where McElroy was with obtaining his permit from the state, it would be a wise choice to enter into the compact.

DeFelice made a motion to enter into the compact with the Ely Shoshone Tribe. Flangas, tried to abstain during the vote, but not having any real reason to he was told he had to vote.

Flangas and Carson voted against it, leaving Gardner, DeFelice and Hanson carrying the motion 3-2 with their votes.

The mayors decision was due to her consulting with legal counsel and speaking with several people in the community and coming to the decision that entering into a contract with the Ely Shoshone Tribe would provide a monopoly for one company for five years.

She felt this was unfair for businesses who may want to locate to Ely and compete for customers of both the medical and recreational programs.

She also stated that she felt that this compact does not encourage new businesses rather it prevents new businesses from entering the market with the City of Ely, including stifling employment and competition.

Although the mayor did include that non-tribal businesses are required to purchase a building, or lease a building,   which would increase property taxes it was mentioned in a previous city council meeting by Dice that the Ely Shoshone Tribe was looking at different properties in the City of Ely to purchase or lease.

The mayor’s last concern was the federal government could come in and shut down the business since although marijuana is legal in the state of Nevada, it still remains illegal at the federal level.

Dispensaries across the state of Nevada sold $27.1 million in marijuana in Nevada in July alone. That’s almost double what both Colorado and Oregon sold in their first months.

Nevada made $10.2 million off the industry during the first month of sales in July according to the Nevada Department of Taxation. Gov. Sandoval projected that the state could pull in approximately $100 million over the next two fiscal years from both taxes and fees.

The city tax percentage received from the tribe with the compact would have been 3%. The percentage they will receive from a state license entity is .8%, but by not entering into the compact the potential revenue would now be divided into two entities, one state, one tribal. The city would only receive the .8% from the city licensed entity.

The big question is what happens now? Will White Pine County ever have a dispensary? Is the Ely Shoshone Tribe going to enter into a interstate compact with White Pine County?

Several attempts were made to the Ely Shoshone Tribe for comment but no calls have been returned. The Ely Shoshone Tribe has not opened their location and there is no projected timeline for McElroy on the status of his permit.