News that recreational marijuana sales could begin in Los Angeles as early as next month was greeted warmly by leaders in Nevada’s weed industry on Wednesday.
Legal recreational sales in L.A. would more likely benefit the pot industry here than hurt it, advocates said.
“It’s mostly positive. We’ve heard from a lot of people who hadn’t used cannabis for 20 years, 40 years since college. But now that it’s legal, they’re giving it a shot again,” said Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association and owner of The+Source dispensary in Las Vegas and Henderson. “There are millions of those people in California, so if they reengage with cannabis in California, there’s a greater chance they’ll buy products when they’re in Nevada.”
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to legalize recreational pot sales starting Jan. 1, more than one year after California residents approved Proposition 64, an initiative to permit recreational use. Similar to Nevada, governments of individual counties and municipalities in California must also approve ordinances for recreational pot sales to begin in local jurisdictions.
About 27 percent of Las Vegas’ 42.9 million annual tourists are from Southern California, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Both Jolley and owner Armen Yemenidjian of Essence Cannabis Dispensary said at least 10 to 15 percent of their combined medical and recreational marijuana customers also hail from there.
California’s large illegal market for pot has made the plant easily available for decades, Yemenidjian said. Those who wish to illegally smuggle the plant across state lines when visiting Nevada already do so, he said.
“People will purchase recreationally there, but they’ll still purchase here,” Yemenidjian said. “Just like some people bring their own alcohol to Vegas and other people purchase alcohol in Vegas. It’s just a matter of preference, and I think a rising tide does raise all boats.”
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who has championed legislation for marijuana, said the novelty of using marijuana in Las Vegas will always make the valley’s pot scene a draw for tourists.
While legal weed shoppers may no longer need to travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas solely for legal pot, Segerblom said Las Vegas’ goal to model its industry after Amsterdam — with pot lounges — will also separate the valley from other marijuana destinations.
“We’ve learned from gambling that even while more states have allowed gambling, it hasn’t come back to hurt Nevada,” Segerblom said. “We just want to make sure we’re always the gold standard for marijuana, and it’s always the best place to come use and enjoy the plant.”