Monday, July 15 2013 6:55 PM EDT2013-07-15 22:55:09 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- Twelve years after Nevada voters approved medical marijuana, the state is finally getting the mechanisms in place to sell it. By the time the dispensaries open in the Silver State, the numberMore>>
Twelve years after Nevada voters approved medical marijuana, the state is finally getting the mechanisms in place to sell it.More>>
LAS VEGAS -- For the first time in Nevada, legal marijuana dispensaries could open at a shopping complex in Las Vegas valley neighborhoods.
Nevada voters supported medical marijuana a decade ago, but federal raids and state law prevented patients from getting their medicine.
A law passed by the state Legislature this year – and modeled after Arizona's medical pot laws -- will allow 40 dispensaries to open in Clark County, setting up a land rush as business people stake out their claim over the next few months to be the first pot shops in town.
Organix of Arizona is the state's first legal marijuana dispensary.
"You can open these, you can touch them, you can smell them, you can do whatever you want," Organix owner Bill Myer said as he showed off his wares. "That's pretty fresh."
The buds certainly smell fresh, and so does the entire business model for these medical marijuana pioneers.
A former Wall Street broker, Myer brought Nevada lawmakers to his marijuana dispensary and convinced them to pass a law nearly identical to Arizona's.
Myer toured the I-Team around his shop before it opened for the day. On a typical day, Organix of Arizona sees 100 card-carrying patients.
Those patients are starting to get more choices.
"A greeter would hit their (gate card) on this," medical marijuana patient Steve White said. "It will release a magnet and you'll hear that heavy unlock. They come in to this open area here."
Reporter: "This looks more like some sort of Bed Bath and Beyond, or maybe even a bank or something."
White: "We use the Bed Bath and Beyond, Origins, Apple sort of feel."
It's a glaring difference from Nevada's former marijuana dispensaries.
Operating without the protection of state law, many Las Vegas dispensaries became the targets of federal raids.
"We wanted to avoid the head shop image and the city of Tempe would not … they wouldn't go for anything like that," White said.
In addition to keeping distance from schools and churches, Arizona cities also demand dispensaries keep their marijuana inside bank level vaults after hours.
But to keep customers familiar with marijuana street names, dispensaries still use bud names from pot's more colorful past.
"I'll give you a good example, Green Crush," White said. "It is known in the illegal market as green crack. I am not going to allow a patient to come in here and say we give them crack."
There's a science behind each marijuana bud. Some are better for cancer patients while others are better for pain treatment.
Kurt Ross with the somewhat fittingly named Von Dank Group is building a chain of indoor marijuana farms.
As open and customer-friendly as dispensaries are, the marijuana cultivation operations are run in fortified buildings hidden in industrial parks.
"There was some drive-thrus where people would literally take their car and drive it through to get access to where they thought they could get some property," Ross said.
To stop that, the front doors need to be blocked and made sure there's only one entry and exit point.
Where the hoods are now will be rows of marijuana plants in a setting soon looking more like a laboratory than the illegal grow houses once found all over Las Vegas.
Reporter: "This stamp here was very hard to get. Reviewed for code compliance. Very hard to get."
Ross: "Very difficult. It took us almost 32 weeks."
Medical marijuana was once sold exclusively by enthusiasts, living an underground culture that often violated the law, but with different laws, so are those selling medical marijuana.
Sellers now speak the language of business and look the role, too. Time will tell just how profitable this business will become.
The new state law reads that up to 40 medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed in Clark County and one for each southern Nevada rural county.
It will be up to each city to decide which neighborhoods those dispensaries will be allowed to set up shop. Marijuana business owners expect to open in Las Vegas next April.
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