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Will Elko County's First Marijuana Dispensary Be In Jackpot?

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Elko County Commissioners will consider allowing Jackpot to open the county’s first marijuana dispensary as the local economy tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackpot is a company town. The economy runs on people who come – and stay – to gamble.

But the coronavirus pandemic closed the town’s multiple casinos for months and even when they reopened in June, they’ve been operating at half capacity due to state restrictions.

“Nevada was built on gambling, sex, drugs, you name it, that’s what Nevada was all about before and I think we can make a comeback,” said Teresa Hugill, chair of the town’s advisory board.

She’s also a backer of bringing in a marijuana dispensary to help diversify the economy.

Hugill said she doesn’t personally use the drug, but if it helps drive business throughout Jackpot, she’s on board.

“I just don’t want to see this town be a ghost town,” she said, noting that her kids have graduated from Jackpot schools and she has a lot of good memories associated with the area.

Marijuana dispensaries have been big business in Ontario, Oregon, which has raked in $1.1 million since the city's first location opened last July, though it's much closer to larger cities than Jackpot.

The proposed ordinance would ban marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county aside from Jackpot.

Since Jackpot isn't an incorporated town, Elko County Commissioners have the final say over whether a dispensary license will be issued –something it hasn’t done despite Nevada legalizing marijuana in 2016.

The town has been in talks with state officials about incorporation, but at least 1,000 people must live there to do so. Right now, between 750-800 people live in Jackpot, Hugill said, down from about 1,200 in 2010.

Other businesses have expressed interest in opening up in the town should a dispensary be licensed, she said.

Commissioners will take up the proposal at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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