BENSON — In a 6-1 vote, the Benson City Council adopted ordinance 608, which calls for prohibition of a recreational marijuana facility in Benson.
The issue will be coming back before council at a March 8 work session for further discussion.
“We have a lot of work to do on the regulatory end of this, and further details will follow,” said Mayor Joe Konrad in an interview following the meeting. “By voting for the ordinance we’re giving the city more time to discuss standards that need to be in place.”
Konrad, who supports a recreational marijuana facility in Benson, cast the "no" vote.
“Banning the establishment of a legally permitted business venture is the definition of government overreach,” Konrad said in a statement prior to the vote.
He argued that a recreational marijuana facility would not jeopardize public safety, nor would it interfere with the city’s ability to provide essential services.
He also pointed to revenue generated by Benson’s 3.5 percent sales tax that would come through the sale of marijuana products. Konrad reminded the council that prohibiting recreational marijuana facilities in Benson would not eliminate the possession or consumption of marijuana in the city.
When Councilmember Lupe Diaz questioned what would happen if council took no action, City Planner Michelle Johnson explained that the adoption of the ordinance prohibits recreational marijuana facilities in Benson, which protects the city from the establishment of a marijuana facility through a special use permit process.
“If this doesn’t pass, that means that somebody could come into the city of Benson tomorrow and say they want to start a recreational marijuana facility,” she said. “They would go through the conditional use process through the planning and zoning commission. It would not come before the city council.”
In addition, there would be no specific regulations in place for that person.
Johnson reminded the council it will have another opportunity to discuss the prohibition, as well as standards of where they would want to locate recreational and medical facilities at a future meeting.
All standards for recreational marijuana facilities also apply to medical facilities, she explained.
“If any standards are created, and some are already drafted — that’s what you’ll be seeing at the next meeting — they will apply to both, should you decide to allow both a medical and recreational (facility),” Johnson said.
By taking no action Monday, recreational marijuana facilities would be legal in Benson, an issue that concerned Councilmember Nick Maldonado, who pushed for a vote.
“As it now stands, we have to vote to prohibit it (recreational marijuana), otherwise anyone can come in and request a facility,” he said.