A divided city council voted to effectively reject recreational marijuana sales, only to have the mayor abruptly veto that decision.
It was a surprise twist on an already dramatic council meeting, leaving the future of recreational cannabis sales on the Utah-Nevada border in limbo.
The West Wendover City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to not consider an ordinance that would expand marijuana to allow for recreational sales in the community. It came after lengthy public comment, mostly opposed to recreational marijuana. Some residents worried about the impact to crime, their youth, and their primary industry, casinos.
FOX 13 first reported last year on West Wendover’s consideration of recreational marijuana sales. Council members traveled to Mesquite to tour a dispensary there after Nevada voters approved recreational marijuana in 2016.
The West Wendover City Council originally voted last year to allow medical marijuana, with the potential to expand its ordinance for recreational marijuana.
Since then, the council has deliberated heavily over whether to allow it to happen. The casino border town’s attraction to Utahns has not been lost of them. West Wendover is a 90 minute drive from Salt Lake City.
Mayor Daniel Corona has been a longtime proponent of recreational marijuana sales, arguing it could be an economic boon to the community that is 5,000 population during the week and more than 20,000 on weekends (mostly Utahns).
But council members appeared largely uneasy with the idea of recreational marijuana. Councilman John Hanson said he was comfortable with medical cannabis, but felt the decision to allow recreational sales was being “fast-tracked.”
Councilman Jerry Anderson agreed.
“I don’t feel I can support instant recreational marijuana,” he said.
Councilman Nick Flores expressed concerns about the impact that West Wendover’s decision would have on its neighbor, Wendover, Utah.
The dispensary with the lone license to sell cannabis in West Wendover, Deep Roots Harvest, told the council its intention is to provide medical marijuana first. However, they did express some concerns that with finite licensing, they could lose out permanently on recreational sales.
“That window may close and it may never open again,” Deep Roots Harvest’s attorney, Neal Tomlinson, told the council.
After the council’s vote, Deep Roots Harvest declined to comment on its plans. Mayor Corona called a recess and then returned, walking over to the city attorney before sitting down in his chair and reconvening the meeting.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use this,” he told the crowd, announcing his veto of the council’s vote.
The veto effectively leaves the issue of recreational marijuana sales in West Wendover up in the air but keeps the potential for it alive in the future. Mayor Corona said he would not be pushing the issue so hard in the future, but would leave it up to the city council to decide when it wants to reconsider it.
“We can take a breather and so I’ve told the council I’m going to back off and let them do their own process,” he told FOX 13 after the meeting. “If they want to bring it back up, they’ll bring it back up. But I wanted to leave that door open.”
The mayor said he did not know when it would return for discussion. Councilman Izzy Gutierrez said he believed it would come up again, but could not say when.
“My belief is the door is never closed if you can keep striving for what you believe in,” he said. “Especially when the voters in our area voted for it.”