In a special meeting Monday, June 21, the Union County Board of County Commissioners held the first reading of an ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries and another for the consumption or smoking of medical marijuana in public places.

The majority of the first reading was based on determining the price of the license. Originally set for the same price as a liquor license, $25,000, the commissioners believed it to be too low.

“I talked to the mayor of Beresford,” Chairman Milton Ustad said. “In talking to him, I think $25,000 is too low. Because if we put that too low and the cities are higher, it’s just going to drive people out into the county. That’s my opinion.”

The commissioners discussed setting the license at $100,000 with an annual renewal fee of $25,000.

Ustad asked Union County State’s Attorney Jerry Miller what would happen if something wasn’t in place.

Miller said, from his understanding, that if a county or a city has nothing in place, the South Dakota Department of Health will issue a license based on when the applications are filed.

“I just don’t want Clay County to come in and say it [the license] is only $10,000 and we miss out on it all,” commissioner Mike Dailey said. “I don’t know what it’s going to do for us, tax-wise.”

Miller said for the county it would be the regular 4.5 percent sales tax.

Commissioner Rich Headid stated that it should be set at least $100,000 because there will be more crime. And if there’s more crime in the county, then they will need to hire more deputies which could easily cost the county $100,000 between vehicle, equipment and the deputy’s salary.

“Crime is going to go up,” Headid said. “We [Headid and commissioner Kevin Joffer] know that and everyone should know that. If there’s one [dispensary] whether it’s in a city or in the county, crime’s going up.”

“As well as abuse,” Joffer added.

“This will increase areas of our budget,” Headid said. “You may not see it in the first six months or a year, but you’ll see it in the future.”

Miller determined the commissioners rationale for setting the price at $100,000 was public safety, staying consistent with the costs of other licenses that are being sold by the cities in the area and the perceived amount of revenue that the facilities will bring. He said he believed them to be rational reasonings to set the price.

“I’d rather control my destiny than let them [the state] do it,” Joffer said, “if they’re giving us this opportunity to do it. Because there’d be too much politics in trying to come to the determination on the amount it should be. If we have the opportunity to control our own destiny, we should do it.”

The commissioners held the first reading for a license fee of $100,000 with an annual renewal fee of $25,000.

Seeing no issues with the second ordinance on the consumption and smoking of medical marijuana in public places, they held the first reading.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.