Nevada is one of four states that passed a voter-initiated law to legalize cannabis in the November 2016 election – and though cannabis is legal to have and use in all four states, Nevada is the first to allow sales of the plant. While the other three states will spend the next year to year and a half hashing out the details of legal sales, Nevada spent the last few months of their legislative session preparing for early sales in hopes of collecting tax revenue as soon as possible.
Similar to how Oregon rolled out their legal cannabis sales, Nevada is allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell their excess marijuana to adults 21 and older starting July 1. There were two main reasons for the quick jump to legal sales – one being that estimated revenue from the industry was already being factored into the state’s budget. The other reason is a combination of getting a head start on ending illegal sales and also because it will likely have a big impact on tourism.
Many dispensaries decided to celebrate the start of the newly legal sales by opening their doors at midnight – and the crowds are expected to be big, especially near the Las Vegas Strip. There are currently about 40 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state that have gained approval to sell cannabis to recreational customers as well as their current patients.
Reef Dispensaries, a dispensary just outside of the Las Vegas strip, plans to celebrate with a fireworks show before their midnight opening – and they have a very important player in the legalization process as their first customer of the evening. Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom has been an advocate for legalization since the beginning and was a key player in helping get the law passed last November. As a “thank you” of sorts, a strain has been named after him, Segerblom Haze, and he was finally able to buy some for himself overnight.
While getting sales rolled out finally is extremely exciting, there are still a few issues that need to be worked through before things will be sustainable long-term. For one, until the issue of who will be able to hold a distributor’s license to get cannabis from cultivators to dispensaries is figured out there could be problems. The original law gives those licenses to alcohol wholesalers for the first 18 months, but with little response from the industry, lawmakers created temporary regulations for license holders outside the alcohol industry. Only then did alcohol wholesalers finally show interest, challenging the lawmakers in court and winning.
Currently, with no one licensed to distribute cannabis, there could end up being a shortage before dispensaries are able to get product that is from the recreational market. Medical marijuana can only be sold to recreational customers until the current supply runs out – so many shops have tried to ensure that they have enough on-hand to keep them in supply until the end of July. Hopefully, by then, there will be an agreement between legislators and alcohol wholesalers in place to keep things running.
Another big issue for cannabis consumers in Nevada is the fact that it is only legal to consume cannabis in a private residence. This means people who rent and people who are visiting won’t have a place to go and consume their newly legally bought marijuana. Unfortunately, legislation that would have allowed cannabis lounges did not make it through before the end of the legislative season, leaving it up to individual counties and cities for the time being.
Add this to the fact that due to federal law, cannabis cannot be consumed in bars or casinos, and you can expect people to be sneaking around and consuming more edibles than actually smoking or vaping. Cannabis clubs and lounges are something of a controversial subject in states that have legalized cannabis. On one hand, you need to offer a place for people to gather socially and to enjoy their bud if they are traveling (especially if that is one of the reasons they chose to visit that state). On the other hand, these businesses need to be regulated and governed to ensure a safe environment. So far, only Denver, Colorado, has made any progress towards legalizing establishments where cannabis use is legal.
Regardless of the fact that there are still some bumps in the road to work out, Nevada is now officially the fifth state to make legal sales of cannabis available to residents 21-years-old and older. Over the next few weeks they are sure to see a large number of people going out to buy cannabis – and many of them just because now they can. It will be at least a couple of months before we really have an idea of how regular cannabis sales in the state are going to look, but chances are they will exceed expectations just has it has in the four states where cannabis sales are already legal.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]