Nevada prepares to usher in new chapter for marijuana industry

Marijuana suppliers in Las Vegas are racing to stock dispensary shelves just days out from the July 1 start of recreational sales (Nathan O'Neal | KSNV)

At Las Vegas ReLeaf Dispensary at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, general manager Lissa Lawatsch takes me into the vault: racks full of marijuana product, waiting to be sold.

Is it enough for a few weeks, I asked?

"This is going to get us through, we're thinking, six days. This is not going to get us through the next few weeks," Lawatsch told News 3.

On Friday morning, it was the calm before the storm at this dispensary and the 36 others in the valley taking part in the "early start" program, which allows medical marijuana establishments to sell recreational marijuana, while Nevada's recreational industry gets it footing.

Recreational sales begin at midnight. Las Vegas ReLeaf has hired extra security in anticipation of a rush in business.

"We're really looking for our bottom lines to almost triple, or even four times, at this point," Lawatsch says.

For the marijuana industry, recreational could be like hitting the lottery, with an annual economic impact, according to supporters, of more than a billion dollars. Until California comes online next year, Nevada, experts say, could be the largest recreational market.

Around 60-percent of the business is expected to come from tourists; the other 40-percent is expected to come from locals.

Tourists hoping to light up, however, at Nevada's highly regulated casino-hotels will be sorely disappointed.

Because possession of marijuana, in the eyes of the federal government, is still a crime, it is expressly forbidden at Nevada resorts.

"Use of marijuana is prohibited at all MGM Resorts properties notwithstanding approval of recreational use in Nevada," said the biggest gaming company on the Strip, echoing comments made by other properties.

In November, Nevada voters approved Question Two, which allowed adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

In Las Vegas, that privilege only extends to your home or your yard. If you rent, you need to check with your landlord to see if it's okay.

On Friday night at Las Vegas ReLeaf, a familiar face will be behind the counter; former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will sell the first recreational product. His son, Ross, is a partner in the business.

"Nevada is always at the front," Goodman told News 3. "We're leaders in everything and it's looking like marijuana is here to stay."

Goodman, a famous fan of Bombay Sapphire gin, told me he's never tried marijuana because it could have cost him his law license. But now that's it's legal, he says he may have an eye on an edible product or two. He's not a fan of smoking.

Maybe he also hit on the next big thing?

"How would you like a gin-infused, or marijuana infused with gin," Goodman told News 3. "I think that's one of the great ideas of all-time.”

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