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Las Vegas Live: Adult-Use Cannabis Debuts in Nevada

Patrons wait in line shortly before the doors open at midnight at Essence Cannabis Dispensary on the Las Vegas Strip on Friday, June 30, 2017. Cannabis sales to adults 21 and over in Nevada began at midnight July 1. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

It’s July 1, 2017, and adult-use cannabis sales are legal in Nevada. The first retail sales to folks 21 and over kicked off across the state shortly after midnight on Saturday morning. Leafly has correspondents in Las Vegas covering the festivities, and we’ll be posting updates throughout the first day on Facebook and Twitter.

What’s Legal?

Glad you asked. The team at Leafly has put together a handy infographic to answer exactly that question.

Leafly Nevada legal cannabis guidelines
Click to enlarge. (Nick Ouellette/Leafly)

Read more over on our guide to what to expect in Nevada’s adult-use market.

Where to Buy?

In celebration of adult-use cannabis legalization in Nevada, and heading into July 4th holiday, many Las Vegas-area dispensaries are offering extended hours. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening at a few hotspots:

  • Reef Dispensaries’ location off the Strip is open 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. The shop has daytime festivities Saturday featuring a DJ, food trucks and, several vendors offering goods.
  • Essence Dispensary, at the north end of the Vegas drag, is keeping normal hours after its midnight launch. The shop opens at 10 a.m. and closes at midnight.
  • Jardin Premium Cannabis Dispensary, which is about five miles east of the Strip, is open 7 a.m. to midnight tonight, with an on-site DJ, food trucks, and a fireworks show. They go back to normal hours Sunday, and open 10 a.m. to midnight.
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  • Oasis Medical Cannabis, which might be in need of a name change soon—they sell to all adult customers!—is open 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. every day except Sunday, when they open at 8 a.m. and close at midnight.
  • Acres Cannabis has a “block party” going on today from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The dispensary will stay open to 3 a.m. Normal hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday.
  • The Apothecary Shoppe, over by the Palms casino and resort, is open 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. A staffer said the shop will have some July 4th specials hasn’t settled on specifics just yet.

Be safe and enjoy yourselves out there, Las Vegas. Congratulations!

The Scene On and Off the Strip

LAS VEGAS — The crowds at dispensaries around Las Vegas were smaller Saturday morning, but tourists and locals alike were still buzzing with excitement over Nevada’s launch of legal, adult-use cannabis.

“I found out about it five days before we came out here, and it’s added 50% more value to the trip,” Michael Meeks, who was in town from New Jersey, told Leafly.

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Meeks bought concentrates and edibles from Apothecary Shoppe, a dispensary across the street from the Palms hotel and casino, just off the main Vegas drag. He said he was concerned there wouldn’t be a place to smoke right now, with cannabis consumption banned in hotels and public spaces, but he was hopeful that would change in the future.

“I’m confident that it will be normalized,” Meeks said. “I’ve been to Amsterdam and seen what it’s like there. I think it will be similar in Las Vegas, where they’ll say not to smoke it but won’t enforce that.”

“I’m a medical patient and it’s an inconvenience right now, but the lines will eventually die down.”
Jami Nugent, Las Vegas resident

Some locals thought the casino ban on marijuana use could be a choke point for sales to tourists. Justin, a Lyft driver who declined to give his last name, said that he hoped there was a resolution to the problem soon.

“They need to figure that out,” he said. “I feel like casinos have a chance to big on that. They might be playing to the Republican side of things—lets be real—but money talks.”

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Among Las Vegas residents, especially medical marijuana patients, the delay caused by long lines turned some away from storefronts today. However, most seemed to view the setback as a minor inconvenience and were happy that adult-use cannabis was legal.

Legal sales have brought long lines like this one at The Reef Dispensary in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Legal sales have brought long lines like this one at The Reef Dispensary in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

“Overall it’s a good thing,” said Las Vegas resident Jami Nugent. “I’m a medical patient and it’s an inconvenience right now, but the lines will eventually die down.”

For dispensaries, the crush of customers was creating some headaches as they handled both increased sales volume and a new clientele not as well versed in what options were available to them.

“We’ve been able to handle the rush, but there are more non-locals and nonmedical customers who don’t know what they want,” said Armen Yemenidjian, the owner of Essence Cannabis Dispensary, who operates the only marijuana storefront on the Strip. “Because people are new to this, they’re asking a lot of questions, so transactions are taking a lot longer. We’re still working out a process.”

While daytime crowds were a bit smaller on Saturday, long lines of customers kept budtenders scrambling. Here, shortly after midnight, staff members at The Reef Dispensary attend to patrons shortly after the beginning of legal, adult-use sales. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
While daytime crowds were a bit smaller on Saturday, long lines of customers kept budtenders scrambling. Here, shortly after midnight, staff members at The Reef Dispensary attend to patrons shortly after the beginning of legal, adult-use sales.
(Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Yemenidjian said he’s increased staffing at storefronts and set up more point-of-sale systems to accommodate the new clientele. The store on the Strip, for example, has scaled up from five points of sale to 21. He said he has a total of around 180 employees now that work or provide operational support to his cultivation site and two dispensaries.

While some have voiced concerns about supply—there’s an who can distribute cannabis—Yemenidjian said he didn’t anticipate it being an issue.

“We won’t run out weed,” he said. “Right now we’re just”—he paused—“tired.”

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Adult-Use Sales Launch Friday Night in Nevada

LAS VEGAS — There’s a new form of legal entertainment in a city already known for its wide selection of attractions.

“No seeds, no stems, no sticks. This is pure bud.”
Sen. Tick Segerblom

Adult-use cannabis was available for purchase in Las Vegas at one minute past midnight July 1, and crowds of locals and tourist gathered outside dispensaries in the city to be some of the first to buy a pre-rolled joint or an ounce of Blue Dream. At A Reef Dispensaries location a short way off the Strip, the atmosphere was festive as Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom was first in line to buy recreational product.

Segerblom joked after the sale was final that this wasn’t the same marijuana he grew up with.

“When I was doing this back in the 60s, it didn’t look like this,” he said. “No seeds, no stems, no sticks. This is pure bud.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, Nevada's legalization champion, inspects his purchase a few minutes past midnight. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), Nevada’s legalization champion, inspects his purchase a few minutes past midnight. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Outside Reef, a line stretched around the block as a DJ played and cannabis enthusiasts cheered a fireworks display. The crowd seemed mostly made up of locals, but there were out-of-towners here as well.

Beth Ann Krug was in Las Vegas for a family reunion when she heard a news report about sales starting up. The Florida resident was thrilled to be in the crowd and said she’s been a longtime medical cannabis patient who uses it to help with her Parkinson’s symptoms. “I have Parkinson’s and it helps keep the tremors at bay,” she said.

Sniff jars containing cannabis samples allow customers to smell the terpenes at Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Sniff jars containing cannabis samples allow customers to smell the terpenes at Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Not everyone was enthused about the scene early Saturday morning, however. Chris, who declined to give his last name, arrived late at Reef on a skull-emblazoned Harley Davidson and said the crowds and commercialization turned him off.

“I use (marijuana) as medicine and this is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t care if people want to smoke, but this shouldn’t happpen.” Chris said he expected things to die down a bit once the novelty of adult-use sales faded.

Customer Anthony Ramsey, left, of Las Vegas, receives guidance from staff member Aly Bessey at Oasis Medical Cannabis early Saturday morning. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Customer Anthony Ramsey, left, of Las Vegas, receives guidance from staff member Aly Bessey at Oasis Medical Cannabis early Saturday morning. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Most locals were excited, however, both about the adult access to cannabis and the prospect that the industry would become another keystone in the Las Vegas tourism industry.

“For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not, because I would have smoked either way, but now I can just go into a shop,” said Zach Prekop, a Las Vegas resident. “And now that it’s legal, it’s more accepted and people can try it out without feeling like they’re doing something wrong. I think it’s going to be another tourist attraction.”

Retailers had plenty of product on hand, including these infused edibles at Essence Cannabis in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Retailers had plenty of product on hand, including these infused edibles at Essence in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Taxi drivers, always an integral source for a reporter, weren’t sure many tourists yet knew about the state’s launch of the adult-use market.

“Not many people are aware of it yet,” said a cabby Friday, who asked that his name not be published. “We have a ton of people coming in for the holiday weekend, and no one seemed to know they could buy it.”

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Segerblom said cannabis was becoming just another feature of Las Vegas.

“It’s a legally recognized form of entertainment, and we’re the entertainment capital of the world,” he said. “People come here, get a good hotel room, go out to a good restaurant, go to a good concert, and come here to buy the best marijuana in the world.”

Sen. Tick Segerblom Gets in on the Action

In Las Vegas, just before the clock struck 12, state Sen. Tick Segerblom, Nevada’s legalization champion, posted this picture from the ground:

And here we are just after midnight, at Reef:

Here’s a look at what’s expected from legal cannabis in Nevada:

Where Can I Consume?

Only in a private home, including yards and porches. While it may be legal to stroll down parts of the Las Vegas Strip with your favorite adult beverage, the same doesn’t apply to cannabis. It’s prohibited in casinos, bars, restaurants, parks, concerts and on U.S. property, from national forests to federally subsidized housing.

While anyone who is 21 with a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of cannabis or one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates, using it in public can lead to a $600 ticket for a first offense.

Dawn Weir, center left, interviews customer Candace Foshee, center right, for a cannabis-themed radio show while customers wait in line behind them at The Reef Dispensary. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Dawn Weir, center left, interviews customer Candace Foshee, center right, for a cannabis-themed radio show while customers wait in line behind them at The Reef Dispensary. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

What’s the Big Deal?

Industry experts predict Nevada’s market will be the nation’s biggest, at least until California plans to begin recreational sales in January.

Nevada sales should eventually exceed those in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state because of the more than 42 million tourists who annually visit Las Vegas. Regulators anticipate 63 percent of customers will be tourists.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like what Nevada is going to look like just because of the sheer volume of tourism in the state,” said Nancy Whiteman, co-owner of the Colorado-based Wana Brands, which makes edible products.

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However, it’s not clear how many people know cannabis is about to be legal. The law bans marijuana advertising on radio, TV or any other medium where 30 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be younger than 21.

Customer Marilyn Uldricks laughs while speaking to the news media after making a purchase shortly after legal sales began early Saturday morning. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)
Customer Marilyn Uldricks laughs while speaking to the news media after making a purchase shortly after legal sales began early Saturday morning. (Ronda Churchill for Leafly)

Why Do Hotel-Casinos Ban Cannabis?

State gambling regulators have directed casinos to abide by federal law, which outlaws the drug. That means tourists will have a hard time finding a place to use it legally despite being the biggest expected piece of the market.

It’s one reason Whiteman and others think edibles will be most popular with visitors, who can eat the goodies almost anywhere without attracting attention, including casino floors where cigarettes are allowed but cannabis consumption is not.

Could That Change?

Legislation to establish marijuana clubs and other places to smoke cannabis failed this spring but will be revisited by lawmakers in 2019. State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a leader of the legalization push, anticipates worldwide advertising urging tourists to “come to Nevada and smoke pot — so we must provide a place to do so.”

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One Denver-based entrepreneur already has set up cannabis-friendly condos just off the Las Vegas Strip that allow cannabis smoking but not cigarettes. There’s also a “Cannabus” tour that offers riders a peek inside dispensaries, a grow facility and a swag bag filled with rolling papers and other gifts.

Buyers Beware?

The drug’s potency is higher than the marijuana sold on the streets a couple of decades ago. Edibles are a concern because the effects can sneak up on newbies, who may take too much without realizing they are slowly getting high.

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All packaged edibles, from gummies to brownies, must carry labels warning that the intoxicating effects may be delayed for two hours or more and that users should initially eat a small amount.

How Are Police Preparing?

Some departments have been giving officers additional training on determining who might be impaired.

“It changes the dynamics of what we have to enforce and what we don’t in terms of marijuana,” Deputy Reno Police Chief Tom Robinson said. Previously, “police officers have been told to aggressively enforce marijuana laws. Now, we’ve got to change our stance, which isn’t a big deal, it’s just a mindset shift for our personnel.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.