City postpones marijuana ordinance hearing for tribal compact talks

Winnemucca City Council members voted to postpone the marijuana ordinance hearings scheduled for Tuesday after receiving information from the Winnemucca Indian Colony regarding a proposed compact with the city.

City of Winnemucca Mayor Rich Stone and Attorney Kent Maher received information from the Winnemucca Indian Colony and Tribal Cannabis Consulting, indicating that the tribe is receptive to council’s concerns about having a cannabis grow facility and dispensary at the corner of Hanson Street and Highland Drive in Winnemucca, as discussed at previous city council meetings. 

Maher suggested that if the council is open to discussing a tribal compact, that the agenda items concerning cannabis ordinances be tabled as some of the proposed compact items could affect the city’s zoning but not ordinances. Maher said the tribe sent a list of 7-8 items for the council to review regarding a compact. 

There was limited information given at the meeting as to what specifically has been proposed regarding a compact, but Maher mentioned that the tribe would like to utilize the city water and sewer to the extent that it is available and that in response to the council’s resistance to the proposed location of facilities on tribal land, the tribe is considering the acquisition of private property in a commercial location within city limits and converting it to trust reservation land for facilities. 

“If they (Winnemucca Indian Colony) have the support of the municipality then that process happens relatively quickly,” said Maher. 

Councilman Jim Billingsley asked if the compact proposals are still asking the city to limit the cannabis market, and Stone said he thinks that the colony will only open one facility if only one is allowed, but if two licenses are permitted within the city, they plan to open two facilities. 

Stone said the colony may still put a dispensary at the previously planned location of Hanson Street and Highland Drive until the compact is decided upon, and then move it to its final destination if it is going to be in another location within the city. 

Stone said that the city has received requested documentation verifying that Judy Rojo is the appointed chairperson of the Winnemucca Indian Colony. 

Rojo is reported to have been appointed as the Winnemucca Indian Colony Chairperson by Judge Robert C. Jones and confirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Verification of this information was previously requested by the city as residents currently living on the Winnemucca Indian Colony land questioned whether Rojo had authorization to act on behalf of the colony. 

Council members voted on the matter, with all except Billingsley in favor of tabling the agenda item until the subcommittee has met and reviewed the compact proposal items. Billingsley has previously voiced concern about any agreement that limits a market or has the potential to allow one organization to monopolize an industry such as the cannabis facilities. 

The committee that will meet and review the compact proposal will consist of Councilwoman Theresa Mavity, Mayor Rich Stone, Councilman Jim Billingsley, City Manager/Engineer Alicia Heiser, Winnemucca Police Department Chief Bill Dalley and Humboldt County Senior Planning Technician Betty Lawrence. This is the same committee that previously recommended the city move forward with allowing cannabis facilities within city limits.

“I just think it’s important for us to hear everything, I’d hate for us not to be open-minded enough to not listen to everything at the table and then make our decisions,” said City Councilwoman Paige Brooks. “I do think it's important where it is, obviously there’s some that aren’t excited about it but it’s even less exciting if it's somewhere that’s not tasteful at all.” 

The next discussion and public hearing on the matter will tentatively be on the city council agenda for Tuesday, September 17, 2019 at 2:15 p.m. at Winnemucca City Hall, 90 W. 4th St. in the meeting room.