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I don’t want to cause any panic, but let’s look at some numbers. Nevada has approximately 2.9 million residents. Of those residents, 27,953 hold medical marijuana identification cards. That’s almost ten people-per-thousand who have medical access to cannabis. To be honest, I thought this number would be larger. In November 2016, 1.1 million Nevadans turned […]

 In Opinion

I don’t want to cause any panic, but let’s look at some numbers.

Nevada has approximately 2.9 million residents. Of those residents, 27,953 hold medical marijuana identification cards. That’s almost ten people-per-thousand who have medical access to cannabis. To be honest, I thought this number would be larger.

In November 2016, 1.1 million Nevadans turned out to vote on Question 2, which allows for recreational cannabis sales. Of those 1.1 million voters, 602,400 of them cast for the legislative initiative. To be honest, I also thought this number would be larger.

These are more than six-hundred thousand assumed customers living in the state.

Last year, 42,936,109 tourists visited Las Vegas. As of August 2016, one-in-eight Americans claim that they use marijuana. That’s 13% of the United States’ population … or 5,581,694 tourists who will descend on Las Vegas’ dispensaries like a pack of slavering hyenas.

At a glance:

27,952 MMJ patients vs. 6,184,094 potential rec users (tourists + residents who voted yes on Question 2).

That enormous potential customer base will be hard for businesses to ignore.        

And what happens July 1st, when recreational sales start? If we divide the 5,581,694 potential annual cannabis tourists by 12 months, that’s 725,620 recreational purchasers just in July. Don’t forget about the 602,400 people who voted yes on Question 2, the group of assumed local purchasers.

Projections for July:

The same 27,952 MMJ patients will be up against 1,328,020 possible recreational customers.

The question on every patient’s mind: Will there be enough medicine to go around?

The answer isn’t clearly available. Some dispensaries are in a better position than others, especially those with the ability to produce their own stock. Joseph, store manager at Silver Sage Wellness: “We’ve always been patient-focused, and that won’t change just because we also sell to rec users. We’re taking the initiative and putting steps in place to provide the best patient experience possible. We’re fortunate to have a cultivation license and are confident we’ll be able to meet our patients’ needs as well as our recreational users’ needs.”

Matt Gardiner, VP of Shango Las Vegas, has been mulling over the problem of a potential cannabis shortage: “Las Vegas is like nothing else. Colorado, Washington, and other rec states are experiencing an increase in canna-tourism, but Vegas is already one of the most visited cities in the world. We just don’t know what to expect. Things are moving so quickly now that it’s inevitable that some places will run short on product.”

Inevitably bringing us back to the primary concern medical marijuana patients have, that they’ll suffer from a rec-driven shortage.

Conversations I’ve had with other industry professionals reflect Gardiner and Joseph’s sentiments, particularly when it comes to patient services. Expect dispensaries to cater to their medical patients to the best of their ability, but don’t expect them to sit on product for medical patients. This definitely applies to specialty products like edibles, extracts, and topicals, which are on the rise among all users. Some patients can’t or don’t smoke flowers, and these specialty products are their only treatment option. Gardiner is also making plans to ensure patient services aren’t interrupted: “Rec exists because of what was laid out by medical patients. We at Shango will do everything we can to make sure our medical patients get the products they need.”

While more Nevada cultivation operations are on the way, the questions on everyone’s mind are: Have the limited number of growers produced enough crop for recreational rollout? And, do they have enough in pre-production to sustain the state going forward?

It’s impossible to answer this question right now. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens come July 1st. Although, looking at other recreational states as a guide, medical marijuana patients are in danger of losing out to recreational users, and dispensaries are fueling this problem. Oregon recently divided dispensary oversight between two separate organizations. Medical cannabis is overseen by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) oversees recreational cannabis. Dispensaries can hold a license by one or the other agency, but not both in the same location. Larger dispensary chains can hold both licenses and operate individual sites respectively, but single-location businesses are forced to choose between selling medical or recreational cannabis. Guess which one they’re choosing?

As it stands now, Nevada has no such restrictions and dispensaries can sell recreational and medical cannabis in the same location. But Nevada has no experience in recreational sales, and could very well turn to other state’s examples of regulation and oversight. Especially with the confusion over who will be the official cannabis distributors in Nevada.  The job was offered to currently licensed liquor distributors, who temporarily passed on the invitation. Stephanie Siverston, spokesperson for the Department of Taxation and CFO at Lee’s Discount Liquor: “We haven’t picked a side one way or the other. We’re waiting to get some guidance and information from the state and everyone involved in it to find out how it’s going to be structured. We’re interested in learning more about it.” In other words, we’ll wait a year or so and then do what other states have done.

It seems nobody knows what to do right now and everyone is scared of making a mistake, so they do nothing. Much of this fear comes from the fact that cannabis is still federally illegal, making support industry professionals nervous.

The whole cannabis industry is watching Las Vegas right now. There’s never been another rec rollout with the tourist potential our city offers. One thing’s for sure, July 1st will see long lines pouring out of every dispensary across the city. It’ll make the local news. It’ll make the national news. It’ll go viral. Things might get a little hectic over this summer, but everything will be fine once Nevada canna-businesses hit their stride.

If you’re a medical marijuana patient worried about a cannabis shortage, check out these helpful tips on how you can protect yourself.

  1. Buy in quantity. As a medical patient, you can purchase up to 2.5oz. of cannabis every two weeks (or the equivalent in edibles/extracts). If you think you may be affected by a medicine shortage during recreational rollout, stock up now.
  2. Reserve your order online. After July 1, you can expect dispensaries to be much busier with recreational purchasers. Beat the rush by ordering online. As a patient, you can have your medicine delivered, thereby avoiding the crowds.
  3. Get your preferred products now. If there’s a particular strain or delivery system that treats your symptoms best, stock up on that product before July 1. Stocking up is especially applicable if you use tinctures, edibles, or extracts. Expect for these specialty products to sell out quickly (specialty meaning anything other than flower.)
  4. Make friends with your budtender. Introduce yourself to your budtenders, who are a great source of information and can tell you about current and future product stock.
  5. Check the menus first, especially if you’re looking for a particular product or strain. Dispensaries use online services to let their customers know what’s currently in stock. Checking menus before going to a dispensary will save you time and frustration.




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