Ne­vada recre­ational pot shops open up

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Regina Gar­cia Cano and John Locher

LAS VE­GAS» Cheers and long lines of tourists and lo­cals alike greeted the first day of sales of recre­ational mar­i­juana on Satur­day as Ne­vada be­came the fifth state with stores sell­ing pot to the pub­lic in a mar­ket that is ex­pected to out­pace all oth­ers in the U.S. thanks to the mil­lions of vis­i­tors who flock to Las Ve­gas each year.

Vet­eran con­sumers, first­timers, twenty-some­things and re­tirees were among those who de­fied triple-digit tem­per­a­tures be­fore they made it into stores across the Las Ve­gas area, some of which opened shortly after mid­night and later pro­vided free wa­ter, live mu­sic, valet park­ing and cov­eted pro­mo­tions on their valu­able prod­uct. Ea­ger em­ploy­ees guided cus­tomers and an­swered ques­tions from prod­uct po­tency to Ne­vada’s con­sump­tion reg­u­la­tions.

Min­nesota res­i­dent Edgar Rosas Lorenzo on Satur­day flew with his fam­ily to Sin City for his sis­ter’s wed­ding. But even be­fore he checked in to his ho­tel, he stopped at a dis­pen­sary on the Las Ve­gas Strip.

Lorenzo, 21, said he learned of the le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational mar­i­juana in Ne­vada while he was at the air­port wait­ing for his flight to depart. He drove with his sis­ter and soon-to-be brother-in-law from the rental car fa­cil­ity in Las Ve­gas straight to the dis­pen­sary. They waited in line about 40 min­utes be­fore he could buy one-eighth of an ounce of mar­i­juana and hemp wraps.

“It was worth the wait. I’m go­ing to come get some more to­mor­row,” Lorenzo said after pay­ing about $60 in cash at Essence dis­pen­sary. “It helps me sleep. I get back pain. I have a slipped disk.”

Some dis­pen­saries took to so­cial me­dia to spread the word or tried to draw in buy­ers with spe­cial events. Some gave away free mar­i­juana to their first 100 cus­tomers, and at least one en­tered buy­ers into a raf­fle for free pot for a year.

Those 21 and older with a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of pot. Tourists are ex­pected to make nearly two of ev­ery three recre­ational pot pur­chases in Ne­vada. But peo­ple can only use the drug in a pri­vate home as it re­mains il­le­gal to con­sume it in pub­lic, in­clud­ing the Las Ve­gas Strip, ho­tels and casino floors. Vi­o­la­tors face a $600 fine.

“I have yet to fig­ure that out,” Lorenzo said of where he will smoke the weed he got at the Essence dis­pen­sary, which along with oth­ers had stacks of pam­phlets stat­ing the reg­u­la­tions in ev­ery check­out station.

Mean­while, Kristin De­neal got in line out­side a pot shop at 5:45 a.m., after a dif­fer­ent store that opened at mid­night closed be­fore she could make a pur­chase. She brought a fold­ing chair and sat by the door, strik­ing con­ver­sa­tions with the se­cu­rity guard and oth­ers as the line con­tin­ued to grow be­fore doors opened at 9 a.m.

De­neal, a Las Ve­gas res­i­dent, said she is elated at be­ing able to legally buy the drug that for decades she has had to buy through ac­quain­tances. Smok­ing mar­i­juana helps her cope with health con­di­tions while also work­ing a stress­ful job at a bank, she said.

“It looks like they have enough stuff for ev­ery­one, it’s just a ques­tion of get­ting through the door,” De­neal, 57, said.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, one of the main pro­po­nents of mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion in Ne­vada, made the first pur­chase at The Source dis­pen­sary at a strip mall. De­neal and oth­ers fol­lowed. An hour after the door opened, at least 80 trans­ac­tions had been recorded.

Some fa­cil­i­ties are in strip malls, while oth­ers, in stereo­typ­i­cal Las Ve­gas fash­ion, are in neigh­bor­hoods shared by strip clubs. Some dis­pen­saries have ATMs in­side be­cause they only ac­cept cash trans­ac­tions for mar­i­juana.

Lorenzo im­me­di­ately posted pho­tos of his stash on Snapchat. His friends have said they’re jeal­ous and asked where he bought the prod­ucts, he said. Lorenzo said he will plan an­other trip to Ve­gas specif­i­cally to be able to legally pur­chase mar­i­juana, not to visit the city’s world fa­mous casi­nos.

“We just got here ... In­stead of look­ing around in Ve­gas, I’m in a dis­pen­sary,” he said.

Recre­ational mar­i­juana sales be­gan shortly after mid­night, just months after vot­ers ap­proved le­gal­iza­tion in Novem­ber, mark­ing the fastest turn­around from the bal­lot box to re­tail sales in the coun­try.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Cus­tomers line up out­side Essence Ve­gas Cannabis Dis­pen­sary as they wait for the mid­night start of recre­ational mar­i­juana sales in Las Ve­gas.

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