Winnemucca City Council members said they would not entertain a compact that allows the tribe exclusive rights to a marijuana dispensary.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, representatives of the Winnemucca Indian Colony met with the city council to discuss a proposed marijuana compact between the tribe and city. Council members tabled the item due to concerns regarding verification of tribe representation, exclusivity, and the possibility of a cultivation facility at the top of Hanson Street and Highland Drive near a park and residential homes.
The tribe was represented by Winnemucca Indian Colony Chairwoman Judy Rojo, tribe lobbyist Joe Dice of Dice LLC., Attorney Norberto Cisneros, partner at Maddox | Isaacson | Cisneros LLP Law Firm representing the tribe, and Tribal Cannabis Consulting President Cassandra Dittus.
Dittus and her company have partnered with the tribe to establish the plans and create a sustainable marijuana establishment, as well as create economic development for the tribe to pursue other business ventures. Tribal Cannabis Consulting has represented a handful of tribes throughout Nevada in establishing marijuana facilities and inter-governmental tribe compacts regarding the facilities.
In the compact proposed with the City of Winnemucca, the Winnemucca Indian Colony presented an agreement in which the Winnemucca Indian Colony would pay the city 3% on all sales of retail marijuana in the form of a PILT (payment in lieu of taxes).
Within the agreement, it reads that the tribe and/or its Tribal Enterprises may exclusively sell marijuana products in Indian Country pursuant to the Winnemucca Indian Colony Marijuana Code (WICMC) and the compact. The drafted agreement states that the city would agree to not license another dispensary in the City of Winnemucca during the term of the compact.
The initial compact agreement is for five years, with an automatic renewal of the same unless either party notifies the other in writing no later than 120 days prior to the expiration of the current compact. The compact also states the city can terminate the contract with 60 days prior written notice that the tribe is in default if the city determines that the tribe is not abiding by the laws and agreement.
City council members expressed concern initially with Rojo as there has been some confusion regarding who is the chairperson of the tribe. Mayor Rich Stone said he was concerned because he had received two different names when calling to confirm that Rojo was the chairperson of the tribe. Stone said he was told by the regional Bureau of Indian Affairs in Phoenix and by the Nevada Legislative Bureau that Tom Wasson was the chairperson and told by the Nevada agency in Sparks that Rojo was the chairperson. Rojo said she is the chairperson and was elected in 2016 and again in 2018 for another term. Individuals in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting also questioned Rojo’s validity as chairperson.
Council members, the mayor and city legal representative Kent Maher agreed that in order to possibly enter into any kind of agreement with the tribe, proper documentation would need to be provided and verified that states Rojo as the tribe’s chairperson.
Regarding the compact, Dice presented to the council stating that the tribe doesn’t necessarily want a cultivation facility and that cultivation facilities create an odor. He said that in the compact the tribe agrees to opt-out of cultivation. However, they noted that if the city allows other facilities, cultivation (a growing facility) would be needed and is tentatively planned for the same location as the dispensary.
“Right now tribal cultivations are the largest in the state of Nevada. If they have to compete against a state store that has cultivation then they have to have a cultivation facility,” said Dittus. “There’s a lot of reasons for the compact that isn’t a few hundred thousand dollars and cultivation, it’s a community and paying for an Indian health clinic and police department.”
Dice stated that Dittus now owns a home in Winnemucca and that the goal is that people living on the colony are going to be able to dial 911 and law enforcement is going to show up right away, rather than waiting hours. He also said the money is being pledged to go to the colony.
Dittus said her company signs an agreement with the tribe to help build the business and trains the tribe to be self-sufficient. She said the longest agreement they have with a tribe is four years and that tribe has had a store open for two years.
Representatives told city council members that the compact presented was a “boilerplate” to open the door between attorneys to negotiate language in the compact. Council members expressed concern with both the location of the planned facility — especially regarding a cultivation facility — and also the proposal that the tribe would have exclusive rights to have a dispensary in Winnemucca.
Dice said that with one facility, the price would stay stable and there would not be excessive promotion and advertisement, nor a rush to establish a large-scale cultivation facility. He said that when there is market competition it creates a “race to the bottom”, meaning prices can drop 30 – 40% in one year.
Councilman Mike Owens stated that he has always opposed any kind of marijuana facility, but is especially concerned with one in a location where kids walk to school every day and right across the street from residential areas.
Dice said the tribe doesn’t have any other land that’s appropriate for a facility and that the tribe has never intended to place a facility on the residential land near Lay Street. He noted that the piece of land near Walmart does not have sufficient water resources.
Councilwoman Paige Brooks made the motion to table the conversation regarding the agreement to allow the attorneys to talk and find out more information regarding what can or cannot be negotiated in the compact, especially if it means a growing facility could be avoided in the area.
Councilmen Vince Mendiola and Jim Billingsley, along with Mayor Rich Stone stated strong opposition against having a facility that has a monopoly in one area.
“I’m like the mayor and Vince, I have a real problem making somebody have a monopoly in the City of Winnemucca. When people buy property, they should be able to do what they want with that property,” said Billingsley. “I hope if you get a dispensary everything goes well, but I don’t think it should come at the expense of excluding someone also doing that.”
Councilwoman Theresa Mavity said that the ability to regulate a state facility, as well as the Winnemucca Police Department enforcement, were some of the most impactful factors in the council’s research committee’s recommendation to council regarding marijuana and the allowance of state facilities within city limits.
“I don’t love their location, we always knew that could happen and likely still will. I don’t think I have any interest in entering into a compact,” said Mavity.
Cisneros told council members that although he has been advised that the exclusion clause in the compact is important, he has not been directed that it is a deal-breaker.
At the end of the meeting, council members voted unanimously to table the agenda item to allow both the city and tribe attorneys to work in negotiations with the compact to understand all that can be negotiated. The motion included the stipulation that there would not be an exclusive agreement where the tribe is the only entity that can have a dispensary in Winnemucca.