A city that is world famous for its late night lifestyles, fine dining, lavish resorts, and for being the epicenter of legal gambling, Las Vegas, Nevada is finally forging ahead with its long overdue medical marijuana program. Although voters in Nevada approved medical marijuana in 2000, it has taken more than 15 years for the state and local cities to implement regulations to allow commercial cultivation and dispensaries. In the past year and a half, 60 licenses have been issued and more than a dozen grow facilities, processing centers and dispensaries have opened for business across Nevada, with several in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Being a desert oasis nicknamed ‘Sin City’ for its rather liberal approaches to gambling and adult entertainment, Las Vegas is a fitting location for cannabis culture to thrive, and an obviously lucrative marketplace for an array of canna-business. Many industry insiders and analysists predict the Nevada marijuana market, post recreational legalization, could be worth upward of $100 million dollars per year.
One unique factor sets Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular, aside from any other medical marijuana market; the state provides reciprocity to qualified patients from ANY legal medical marijuana state, with CBD-only states as an exception. Patients from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, or any other state with a regulated medical marijuana program may show their patient registration card (or certificate) and a valid government-issued ID to dispensary staff, and be able to purchase legal flower, vaporizers, concentrates and/or edibles. While no dispensary is open on the strip because of zoning laws, there are a few stores nearby and a handful of others spread throughout the valley who are eager to provide Las Vegas’ 40 million + annual visitors with an alternative enjoyment and means of relaxation in a city that is otherwise quite busy and sometimes overwhelming. To date, no other state is offering reciprocity for non-resident medical marijuana patients.
While Las Vegas is a widely recognized tourist destination, to many locals, the city is on the brink of redefining its place in America as one of the fastest growing economies and a more affordable living alternative for millennials seeking the excitement and glamour of LA or Miami. The city is also gaining popularity with technology professionals and retirees, in addition to its historically working class population. The city is home to a number of mega-casino resorts and bills itself as the entertainment capital of the world, but Las Vegas is no mega-city by any means, boasting a little more than 2 million people in the metropolitan area, Las Vegas is a small city that knows how to do big things. As the city moves to become the next pot boom town, the workforce is ready to take on regulated marijuana, as many casino and service-sector workers are familiar with working in highly secure and compliance-intensive settings. The new medical marijuana industry and hopefully soon-to-be recreational marijuana industry is likely to create thousands of new jobs in the Vegas valley.
While sales are actually off to a slow start and many stores are struggling to open, as a result of complex local permitting schemes and limited advertising; as word-of-mouth spreads and the market matures, Las Vegas will have a long future ahead with legal marijuana. Nevada was the first state in the nation to qualify a full legalization initiative for the 2016 general election ballot, Initiative Petition 1, with polling showing strong early support. The effort is being led by veteran political strategists, Joe Brezny and Sean Sincalir who have worked for both top Democrats and Republicans, and are prepared to wage a multimillion-dollar campaign battle against the powerful casino mogul Sheldon Adelson who has aggressively opposed legalization and donated millions of dollars to anti-legalization campaigns.
With a rich history filled with mob terror stories, corruption, and a harsh iron grip on drug prohibition, Las Vegas has come a long way and will continue to be an up and coming marijuana marketplace. With full-legalization pending in the year ahead, the city could easily take attention away from current pot-centers like Denver and Seattle and become the next big tourism destination for patients and ganja-lovers alike. Can you imagine a dispensary on the top floor of your favorite strip hotel? How about a smoking lounge sponsored by Wiz Khalifa? Or Snoop Dogg? The mantra ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ could have a whole new meaning for travelers in the future, likely to indulge in a toke or two on their next vacation before returning to their suburbanite homes across America; and legal marijuana in Las Vegas may have a whole new meaning to locals, who must work hard to meet consumer demand and produce top-notch strains to cash in big on the next pot boom town!