Nevada’s recreational pot launch explained

Nevada marijuana
SOURCE: AP Photo Laura Rauch

The state of Nevada’s recreational cannabis industry is set to launch at midnight Saturday, six months ahead of the schedule approved by voters in November.

Medical cannabis dispensaries in Reno and Las Vegas, which are newly classified as dual medical-recreational cannabis stores, will open their doors at midnight Saturday to serve both recreational and medical customers for the first time – thanks to a down-to-the-wire compromise signed last week by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“We’re going to see a gradual end of the black market,” said Leslie Bocskor, a Las Vegas investment banker who founded the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s going to be the best rollout, with the best-quality cannabis in the best regulatory framework that we’ve seen yet in the world.”

“Recreational weed in Las Vegas is going to change the game,” said Berner, the San Francisco rapper and cannabis entrepreneur whose hand-picked Exotikz brand of connoisseur-grade cannabis is sold in Nevada dispensaries.

“It’s recreational in Denver and Seattle but not everyone goes to those places,” Berner said. “Everyone goes to Las Vegas, whether you’re getting married or going to a birthday party. With recreational weed, Las Vegas is going to be one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.”

Nevada regulators anticipate tourists will account for 63 percent of recreational cannabis sales. Here’s everything you and 50 million other tourists need to know about recreational cannabis in Nevada starting at 12:00 a.m. Saturday, July 1, 2017.

nevada marijuana
The Mynt Cannabis Dispensary in downtown Reno, Nev. is one of at least four medical marijuana dispensaries in Reno ready to start selling marijuana for recreational use on Saturday, July 1. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File)

Early Start

As approved by voters in a statewide ballot initiative in 2016, recreational cannabis sales were not officially scheduled to start until 2018. Then lawmakers realized a year-long period in which there was no place to purchase cannabis without a medical recommendation gave black-market drug cartels an edge. Early implementation was proposed. An emergency order signed by the governor last Friday and adopted by the Department of Taxation on Monday allows medical dispensaries to sell existing on-hand supplies of medical cannabis products to recreational customers.

Fewer than 50 Retail Outlets Statewide

In Northern Nevada, four dispensaries within the city of Reno intend to sell recreational cannabis Saturday. Seven other dispensaries — in Sparks, Sun Valley, Carson City and Incline Village — will delay recreational sales due to a county moratorium on recreational cannabis business permits. In Southern Nevada, about 40 Las Vegas medical cannabis dispensaries, just over half of the total in town, are currently licensed for recreational sales. Dispensaries will operate separate lines for recreational and medical customers. All consumers must show valid government identification proving they age 21 or older.

Click here for a list of Las Vegas dispensaries. These Reno dispensaries are licensed for recreational cannabis: MYNT Cannabis (opening at midnight), Sierra Wellness (opening at midnight), Blum (opening at midnight)and The Dispensary (opening 8 a.m.).

Medical Priviledges

Qualified medical cannabis patients can go to any shop in the state. When medical cannabis sales began in Nevada in 2015, the state instituted a unique program that honors medical cannabis recommendations from other states, allowing visitors from Alaska to Florida to purchase medical cannabis at Nevada dispensaries. Known as ‘reciprocity’, the program remains in effect alongside recreational sales. Out-of-state medical cannabis consumers must show verifiable medical cannabis cards or doctor’s recommendations and valid government identification. Reciprocity consumers do not have to pay Nevada’s 10 percent recreational cannabis excise tax, just the local sales tax.

Legal Cannabis Limits

● Recreational: Adults age 21 and over may, with proper ID, purchase one ounce of cannabis flowers, 3.5 grams of concentrates and a total amount of edibles containing 3,500 mg of active THC daily.

● Medical: Adults age 21 and over may, with proper ID and verifiable medical recommendations, purchase 2.5 ounces of cannabis flowers, 5.6 grams of concentrates and a total amount of edibles containing 5,600 mg of active THC every 14 days.

While Supplies Last

Dispensaries serving recreational customers are hoping their stockpiles of cannabis will last into August, about the time alcohol distributors are expected to get cannabis-distribution licenses. “We have our own growing and manufacturing facility and we have been stocking up,” said Scott Dunseath, co-owner of MYNT Cannabis, the only dispensary located in downtown Reno. “Our bowls are as full as they can be. We’re getting a lot of calls from Vegas to fill their shelves.”

Edibles Limits

Included in the emergency order allowing early-start recreational cannabis sales is a limit on edibles containing more than 10 mg of cannabis’ main active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), per serving and 100 mg of THC per unit. That means edibles like the popular 300 mg Kynd chocolate bar (scored into ten, 30 mg servings) may only be purchased by medical consumers. One standard dose of cannabis is ten mg in Colorado. Doctors recommend novice users start with 2.5 mg and wait two hours before taking more.

Where to Legally Consume

Cannabis use is legal in Nevada only in private residences, in private buildings or on private property with landlord’s permission. Smoking on federal land is prohibited. Public smoking offenses are punishable by a $600 fine.

How About Hotels?

Cannabis is not legal in hotels, rental cars or in public. “Despite the fact that recreational marijuana will soon be legal to smoke in Nevada, smoking is not allowed at any Nevada hotel either on property or in the rooms,” read an email from the public relations agency representing Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort.

Berner said his recent stay at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas came with complications.

“I spent like $3,000 a night on the room. I lit up a joint. Immediately a knock on the door, people with ear plugs. I’m like, ‘Whoa, it’s medical. It’s legal. I have a card for this.’ They’re like, ‘You can’t smoke here. Get it off the property.’ That tripped me out because usually when I’m in the Cosmopolitan they’re cool with it. When I’m in the Venitian I’m cool. I’m really not a drinker, I’m not really a nightclub dude. I like to get stoned and work in my room and that wasn’t happening at the time. I’ve had good experiences. I’ve had butlers come in and bring food and hit the joint.”

Pot + Brothels = Bust

Cannabis and prostitution are both legal in Nevada but the twain can’t legally meet; never mind that many claim cannabis is an aphrodisiac. A bill that would have authorized smoking and vaping lounges in Nevada businesses stalled in the state Legislature last month. Meanwhile, a bill that would have legalized cannabis-infused massages, was vetoed by the governor. Too bad. As Hof brothel longtime employee Sable Renae said, “I use edibles to control Celiac Disease and would love to offer massage with infused oils.” Still, one could theoretically consume an edible hours prior to arriving at a house of assignation.

High-End Supplies

The San Francisco rap sensation and pot mogul Berner partnered with The Jungle Boys growers on Exotikz, connoisseur-grade cannabis. Exotikz’s highly aromatic, potent varieties(currently Girl Scout Cookies, Platinum GS Cookies and Sunset Sherbert) are sold exclusively in Nevada at Reef dispensaries, at $60 per eighth. Caveat: Reef’s Sparks and Sun Valley dispensaries won’t begin recreational sales until at least August but medical cannabis sales of Exotikz continues at those locations.

Political Pot

Las Vegas’ Euphoria Wellness has released the varietal “Segerblom Haze”, an energetic hybrid named for Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom, a pro-cannabis Las Vegas Democrat. Segerblom Haze is also sold just off Las Vegas The Strip at Reef, where Segerblom is scheduled to be the first recreational customer to be served shortly after midnight, accompanied by rooftop fireworks. On The Strip, Essence will throw a midnight bash featuring invited dignitaries and celebrities.

Silver State Souvenirs

What’s grown and processed in Nevada, stays in Nevada. It’s illegal to transport cannabis — flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures, creams, transdermal patches and suppositories — across state lines, even if you have a doctor’s note to use it. The ban applies to planes, trains, buses and automobiles. Greyhound and MegaBus drivers explicitly mention pot among their pre-departure on-board no-nos. Amtrak has become well-known for searches conducted by Drug Enforcement Administration agents.