Barring another setback (and there have a few), Nevada’s first medical cannabis dispensary is due to open today in Sparks.
Thanks to the nation’s most liberal reciprocity program, you don’t even have to live in the Silver State to buy green bud.
Silver State Relief – located in the town of Sparks, just northeast of Reno – is planning to begin serving patients at 10 a.m. Friday. The dispensary is far from the state’s tourism and population center of Las Vegas, but employees are bracing for a big crowd.
“We’re expecting it to be a little insane,” said Aron Swan, Silver State’s general manager. “We’re expecting 100-150 patients potentially on Friday. With as many calls and interest as we’re getting, we’re expecting a lot.”
Swan said that due to a lack of inventory, Silver State will be limiting customers to a half-ounce of flower at a time. The dispensary won’t have much in the way of product, with no edibles or extracts available, though it will have some pre-rolls for sale.
The initial inventory likely won’t last for long.
“We’re certain we’re going to run out in probably two weeks. Our own harvest won’t be ready for another 45-50 days,” Swan said.
Swan says sales will be limited on opening day to about 12-14 pounds of cannabis. There will be no edibles or extracts at this time but Silver State Relief will have pre-rolls for sale. Silver State Relief will be initially offering six strains: Girl Scout Cookies, Skunk #1, Ghost OG, Purple Kush, Blue Dream and THC Snow.
Silver State Relief sourced its plants from local card holders, who are allowed to grow plants for personal use. The dispensary has brought in about 200 plants from all over the state and eventually hopes to make dozens of strains available.
Silver State Relief had planned to open July 1 but had to push the date back because it couldn’t get lab testing results in time. Swan said the company received its results late Tuesday night and had enough time to plan for today’s opening.
In May, dispensary openings were dashed when First Security Bank of Nevada decided not to work with medical cannabis dispensaries because of compliance issues, setting off a mad scramble for banking services.
Voters first legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the state never established a formal system for growing and distributing it. Patients grew their own plants for personal use. That changed in 2013 when lawmakers approved a statewide system of dispensaries, growing facilities and labs. It has taken nearly two years to write rules, collect applications and award licenses.
Nevada law allows for 60 dispensaries statewide. Oregon, by comparison, has about 300.
In Nevada, medical cannabis is subject to a standard sales tax plus a 2 percent excise tax. Prices are expected to be on par with medical cannabis prices in other states.
Nevada law has one unique feature: a reciprocity program that honors out-of-state medical cannabis recommendations and allows non-Nevadans to purchase medical cannabis. Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire and Rhode Island recognize medical cannabis use by qualified patients from other states but do not allow non-residents to purchase cannabis at dispensaries.
To purchase medical cannabis in Nevada, out-of-state visitors must show their medical cannabis cards from their home state along with a government ID proving their 21 or older and sign an affidavit. Visitors will be limited to purchasing cannabis from one dispensary during their stay in Nevada. Public consumption is prohibited.
Medical cannabis reciprocity is widely seen as a soft lead-in to full-on cannabis tourism if recreational use is legalized in Nevada in 2016.
For the time being, local dispensaries are looking to the future, but mostly focusing on the present. Other medical marijuana businesses are set to open in quick succession throughout the end of 2015, with one dispensary in Reno opening as early as mid-August. For Silver State Relief, being the first medical marijuana dispensary to successfully open in Nevada has not been an easy feat. But all of the planning and preparation will have been worth it on the first day that customers walk through the door.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Swan said. “We don’t have anyone to gauge ourselves against, but it’s exciting as well.”
Meanwhile, the just-released report by the commission established by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to influence potential legalization initiatives ahead of his 2018 run for the governor’s office offers little on tourism.
Here is what the 93-page report says of tourism:
California is a tourism destination for visitors across the United States and from all over the world. Whether they are coming to see the Golden Gate, Half Dome or Hollywood, tourists enjoy the wonders of this state. Consideration should be given to the fact that some tourists will choose to consume cannabis. Proper guidance for tourists can help ensure safe and responsible consumption, prevent use on federal lands, and also prevent taking home a souvenir in violation of federal law.
There are complex issues related to on-site and off-site consumption of cannabis. This is illustrated by a concern in Colorado that the absence of legal places for novice consumers and tourists to smoke marijuana led many to consume edible marijuana products instead, which had stronger intoxication effects than they anticipated. Because of this unintended consequence, some have argued for on-site consumption as a way to provide more choices for responsible consumption.
In Sept. 2010, two months before California’s last legalization was defeated by voters, I asked the executive director of the Humboldt Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss cannabis tourism in the Emerald Triangle.
Here’s the response I received:
Mr. Murrieta: As pot is still illegal, I respectfully decline to discuss this with you. If pot is legalized in November, my board of directors will consider the bureau’s position on this potential tourism market, but not before.
Convention & Visitors Bureau
Our communication ceased there.