After Nevada’s first few days of legal recreational cannabis, both dispensaries owners and customers are enjoying the end of prohibition in the state.
“I just couldn’t believe the day has come and that’s it’s finally real,” said Nicholas Hatheway, a medical cannabis patient. “The lines are longer, and the products are probably going to run out faster, but I’m not greedy. I think everyone deserves this.”
An estimated $3 million worth of recreational cannabis was sold within the first four days. While Colorado, Oregon and Washington had much higher sales in their first days of legalization, cannabis business owners in Nevada were expecting much less.
“We had a higher demand than everybody initially thought,” said Riana Durrett, director of the Nevada Dispensary Association. “It shows this market really exists.”
Restocking depleted inventory is one of the most significant concerns facing Nevada dispensaries. In the fine print of the state’s new cannabis laws is a regulation that only allows liquor distributors the right to transport cannabis. After these distributors showed little interest in becoming cannabis distributors, state officials allowed other distribution companies the same opportunity.
Apparently, the liquor distributors had a change of heart. In response, the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada decided to sue the Nevada Department of Taxation so they alone would have the right to distribute cannabis in the state. A judge ruled in favor of the alcohol distributors last month, giving these distributors the sole right to distribute cannabis, whether they take advantage of the opportunity or not.
“It is important to emphasize that nothing in the order prohibits the marijuana industry from starting — the state can simply license the alcohol distributors and let them get to work,” said Kevin Benson, a lawyer representing the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada. “That is, of course, what we would like to see happen.”
Unfortunately, no licenses have been granted to any distributors at this time, and dispensaries owner are nervous about their supply. “I think they’d like to do it; they’re just not ready,” said Andrew Jolley, CEO of The Source, a dispensary company with locations in the Las Vegas area. “We hope we have sufficient supply to last a few days or weeks until the distributors are able to come online to supply us.”
According to Stephanie Klapstein, a spokesperson for the Department of Taxation, the licensing process is still moving forward. “We expect to have some distributors licensed within the next three weeks or so,” she said.
But three weeks of waiting might leave dispensaries without products to sell. To keep the initial momentum of legalization going, the state is allowing dispensaries to use inventory designated for medical cannabis patients for recreational customers.
“It’s already affected business, not being able to re-stock,” said Jeff Grossman, owner of The Dispensary in Reno. “This is the game we play, but at least they let us play.”
Nevada joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska as the fifth state that has legalized recreational cannabis. Adults 21 and over can now purchase cannabis at dispensaries in Nevada, whether they are state residents or not.
Nevada’s largest industry is tourism, and business owners are wondering how legal cannabis will exist within that industry. Scot Rutledge, an activist who worked on the campaign to legalize cannabis last fall, believes private cannabis clubs could be a reality in certain parts of the state.
“In Las Vegas, you have strip clubs, so you’ll have consumption clubs,” he said. “It’s not the exact same thing, but it’s a similar model.”
Dispensary owners noticed a large amount of customers from other states within the first few days of sales, which may be a sign that Nevada may be a destination for cannabis tourism.