Opponents of recreational marijuana say Nevada will be hit with “very serious unintended consequences” if the state does not tighten its regulations of the legal cannabis market.
Kevin Sabet, president of the national anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, hammered Nevada for what he called weak restrictions on marijuana edibles and concentrates, a lax tracking system and advertising rules that will increase the risks to public health.
“We think Nevada should be very, very concerned,” Sabet during a media teleconference Monday. “The cost of legalization will far outweigh the benefits for the residents of Nevada in the long run.”
Nevada officials noted that SAM opposed the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana and argued that Sabet’s criticisms reflect “a limited understanding of the law and how some of the regulatory provisions came to be.”
“The Governor has continuously called for a well-regulated, restricted and respected recreational marijuana industry in Nevada, and the Department has carried that charge every step of the way as we’ve implemented this program,” Tax Department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said.
Sabet repeated many of the arguments made by opponents of Nevada’s marijuana ballot measure and leaned heavily on examples from Colorado, where some officials have criticized the impacts of legal marijuana.
Colorado’s negative precedent
On July 19, the city leaders in Colorado Springs, Colorado, held a “secret meeting” with federal agents discussing the negative implications of legalized pot, according to KKTV 11 News.
Days later, a southern Colorado district attorney called marijuana the “gateway drug to homicide,” citing a Colorado Springs Police Department report that claimed a link between marijuana and eight of the city’s 22 murders in 2016.
Lax requirements on edibles and marijuana concentrates, which tend to contain significantly higher amounts of the high-inducing THC than the smoke variety, have led to more people having episodes of paranoia, Sabet said. He added this has also lead to a rise in children in Colorado becoming ill after mistakenly eating an edible.
Sabet lamented that weak tracking systems have allowed marijuana companies in Colorado to fuel the black market there.
Klapstein said the state has gone to great lengths to create the restricted market Sandoval wants. She specifically noted the governor’s marijuana task force, which included officials from law enforcement, public health, social services, public safety, local governments and the marijuana industry.
She noted that the state limits the amount of THC that can be purchased in marijuana concentrates and has regulations that make Nevada’s labeling requirements among the nation’s “strictest.”
“We take very seriously our responsibility to protect the health and safety of Nevada’s citizens, children and visitors,” Klapstein said. “We also understand that there are those who flat-out oppose marijuana, and that they are bound to take aim at our regulations, no matter how stringent they are.”
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1. A man went missing while swimming at Lake Mead Sunday. Two men were swimming near a boat at around 10:45 a.m. near Hoover Dam. The men began to struggle and volunteers rescued one man and one man went underwater. The investigation is ongoing.
2. Police have identified four suspects in a marijuana dispensary robbery Saturday. Semaj Brown, Cory Ervin, Willik Mosbey and Justin Raaymakers were all booked Saturday in connection with the robbery. Surveillance video shows four men robbing the dispensary around 4 a.m. Saturday and an officer fired at the men at 4:20 a.m. All men were arrested shortly after.
3. Prosecution mistakes allowed a known felon to walk free on robbery charges, and now authorities say the man has reoffended. Brian Wright was charged in a series of 2014 robberies but prosecutors failed to notify Wright of the witnesses testifying in his trial as Wright was representing himself. The prosecution was forced to make a deal with Wright which set him free. Prosecutors filed charges against Wright two months ago in connection with a January robbery. Prosecutors say they plan to file more charges.
Don Knight keeps a “hard times” stockpile in the basement of his turn-of-the-century bungalow in Elko, Nev.
Dozens of tightly sealed ammo cans are stacked in the corner, each packed with a handful of shotgun shells, a 2,000-calorie vacuum-sealed military food brick, a stash of water purifying tablets and a nugget of his favorite marijuana strain: Gorilla Glue #4.
“That’s the good stuff,” said Knight, a 32-year-old gold mine engineer.
Knight grew up in Elko, a would-be ghost town if not for the gold.
Elko sits in the middle of a whole lot of desert, flecked with green prairie and flanked by the stunning Ruby Mountains to the south.
Downtown has vibrant neon motel signs and the tallest taxidermied polar bear in the world, a 10-foot, 4-inch beast named “The White King,” that since 1957 has been stuck in a glass case in the smoky back gambling hall of the Commercial Hotel and Casino.
The eastern Nevada boomtown is one of the last Wild West holdouts, where betting and brothels thrive in a state built on vice.
But, as of Jan. 1, there’s a new — or at least newly legal — vice in town: marijuana. It’s not for sale in any stores since the town has a moratorium on both medical and recreational dispensaries, but weed thrives here in an underground market.
Fifty-four percent of Nevadans voted in the last election to legalize recreational marijuana, making it legal to possess, even in Elko County, where the same percent voted no.
It’s not a simple discussion in Elko. For many, getting stoned is a violation of faith, and for others it could lead to a failed drug test at work, or, worse, a slip-up on the job.
“It’s hard work,” Knight said of working in the gold mines. “People die.”
However, marijuana has taken root in this Western enclave in surprising ways. A new medicine, a new agriculture, a new kind of Marlboro man on the horizon.
Some even argue that there’s a new gold in this town, and it’s green.
The first time Knight smoked pot in high school, he threw $200 worth (he’d bought it for $5 from a clueless friend who’d stolen it from his brother) down the toilet because he became a paranoid mess.
While he didn’t abandon weed entirely, it was not until he returned from six years in the U.S. Army and worked as a whitewater rafting guide at a West Virginia summer camp run by an elder veteran and some hippies that he became a true advocate.
“They had every strain of marijuana that you can imagine, and that’s where I first tried that Gorilla Glue,” said Knight.
Knight is no hippie. He wears a “Make America Great Again” hat, campaigned for President Donald Trump and still hasn’t washed off the back of his truck where his friend wrote “Liberals Destroy America” in thick, blue paint.
But he credits hippies with the calm and spirituality that he found after his military service, something a lot of his comrades struggled to find.
“One of them would be sitting, plucking the banjo around the campfire, and you got one bowl that’s going round, when it lands on you, you gotta pack in some of your own stuff and keep passing it around. It was just an awesome experience,” Knight said.
Coming back to Elko was difficult since people are friendly, but mum, about Mary Jane.
“As far as marijuana goes here, just about everybody is pro-marijuana,” he said.
The problem for miners is, there’s much to be lost with just one puff. Random drug testing is frequent for those who pull off the physical labor.
“There’s a lot of money to be made, and I feel bad for the people that don’t work in the mining industry but live here because they struggle,” he said. “The rest of us can buy a brand new truck every few years, we can buy a $300,000 to $400,000 house and, you know, pay it off if we want in 10 years. We can have all the snowmobiles, motorcycles, jet skis, four-wheelers, everything that we want.”
Many of the newbies start out with a $50,000 salary, but a lot of folks start out with six-digit salaries, he said.
Some of the mines recently told their employees that they could use cannabis if they had medical marijuana cards, which used to cost about $100, but now cost about $50 now since recent legislation. In Knight’s crew alone, about a third of them went and bought cards after getting a physician’s recommendation, the equivalent to a prescription in the marijuana industry.
When mining officials realized how many of their employees had acquired cards, though, they also realized that cannabis can last in the system for a month, long after the high is gone.
They changed their minds. How would they know who was high and who wasn’t?
The last time Knight was actually able to smoke was more than a year ago when he double-snapped his ankle and heel trying to chase after a beaver during a hunt. He had three months off after surgery, so he figured he could smoke for two months, get clean in the last.
What’d he do? Drove through a McDonald’s and, when the cashier asked if he needed anything else, he asked for some pot. Fifteen minutes later he followed the the cashier back to his home where the teen’s mom sold Knight an ounce of marijuana.
“I took a deep breath, and I was in heaven,” Knight said.
It’s a hard life to be a cowboy, even harder to be a successful one in modern day.
In Elko, most of the heritage ranches have been sold off to mining tycoons who hire a handful of hands to maintain the property.
“We have 20 acres, and we wanted to work with horses, but it just doesn’t work like that anymore. If you’re not born into (ranching), or you don’t have money, then you gotta find something else,” said Terra White. “It’s one of the reasons we’re in this business.”
Terra and Josh White are high school sweethearts, born and raised in Elko. They have the only legal cannabis-related business in town.
“My ultimate goal is to be sitting next to other ranchers,” Josh said. “I might have fields of hemp instead of hay, but …”
“That’s agriculture,” Terra said, finishing her husband’s sentence.
To them, pot is not only a respectable product, it’s a worthy investment.
Terra smoked her first joint with Josh. A few years later, they were not yet 21 and honeymooning on a nearby mountain marsh with a bag of weed in a boat.
They don’t look like stoners, although, among friends, Josh is known as the Cannabis Cowboy.
He stands tall, a lanky dude with a wide-brim, sweat- and dust-stained straw hat, bright blue Wrangler jeans and a button-up plaid long sleeve. Sometimes he wears shark-skin boots with a green pot leaf stitched on the shank.
“So you sit in the saddle for 16 hours, and the day still has two to three hours, there you go,” Josh said, sucking on a fat roll after a long day. “And I sleep like a baby and I wake up at 4:30 in the a.m. and do it all over again.”
Terra has a black polo with green embroidery on her chest reading Cannabis Consulting.
“I can’t wear this shirt anywhere. If I go to the grocery store, I’ll be there for five hours and my milk’s going to go bad,” Terra said, explaining that everyone is more curious than they like to admit.
The Whites don’t sell any cannabis products; they only offer medical marijuana card services — a business that they started because Josh’s late father couldn’t get cannabis when he was dying of cancer.
“I’ve had police officers, doctors, attorneys, there’s no class that’s above wanting this. There’s no kids with their hats backward coming into the office,” Josh said.
They opened shop a year and a half ago, despite raised eyebrows considering that the city council in 2015 set a moratorium against medical marijuana dispensaries.
“I was told to start a successful business you need to find a hole. Well, we found a hole,” said Josh.
They have about 300 patients. Every month, a doctor drives four hours one-way from Reno to write recommendations.
Because Cannabis Consulting can’t sell the product, some clients go all the way to Reno for their medicine; others simply use their cards as a safety net and grow their own, or buy their neighbors’ illegally. One Reno dispensary delivers to the area.
The “cannabis couple,” however, is working with the local Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone — with the eventual blessing of tribal council elders — to open a dual medical and recreational marijuana dispensary.
The tribe would own the operation since Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in early June signed into law a bill that allows the state and tribes to create compacts for new marijuana establishments, both medical and recreational. The Whites would help run it.
So far, they have the blessing of tribal chairman David Decker, but it’s been difficult getting the council on board, despite Josh’s prediction that the tribe could make $3.5 million off the business in a year. The young entrepreneurs are hopeful.
“I’ve had ranchers that I grew up with and idolized saying, ‘You’re onto something, kid, stick with it,'” said Josh.
Some locals like the pot scene as is: homegrown.
Even though Marcus Connor found himself in jail less than five minutes into 2017 for smoking pot in public, he says living in a weed-legal world has been awesome.
“I made it about 17 seconds into the New Year without handcuffs,” said Connor, who was so thrilled (and wasted) at midnight on New Year’s — when recreational marijuana became legal in Nevada — that he failed to see the cop standing next to him when he lit up a joint outside a bar in town called Cowboys.
Even so, for Connor, a 23-year-old traveling airport electrician who only stays in town because he has two children in the area, Elko is the best version he has ever known it to be. He still hates it, but it’s better, he said.
The cops have calmed down, the neighbors too, and the general stigma has slipped away.
“I don’t think the cops care anymore. They just wanted to make a statement (during the arrest) – do it in your house privately,” he said.
Which is exactly what everyone is doing. In a trailer park just outside town, Connor’s is one of 13 homes that have closet crops.
Past his home’s entryway, past the psychedelic wall hangings and a coffee table barely visible under a collection of bongs, pipes and a Ziploc filled with bud, a barren white room with a fan and a couple of lights contains a handful of young plants shivering in the artificial breeze.
Since legalizing recreational marijuana, it’s kosher in the Silver State for anyone 21 and over to grow up to six plants, with a 12-plant limit per household.
Anyone living in a metro area is out of luck since the law also prohibits anyone within 25 miles of a dispensary from growing, but Elko’s dispensary moratorium allows pretty much anyone to cultivate a healthy mini-crop.
“If you have a dispensary here, then other people can’t grow. Then you have to go to the dispensary,” said Connor’s roommate, Steve “Steve-O” Eaves, who worked briefly at a marijuana farm in California.
Neither Connor nor Eaves want a dispensary.
While a Reno dispensary currently will deliver product to Elko, it’s priced at about $300 an ounce, whereas Connor and Eaves can get theirs on the black market for between $200 and $250 — evidence that the black market may not be as easy to suffocate as lobbyists and politicians have claimed.
“Some people around here sell it for $60,” Eaves said with contempt, noting that it undermines those putting in the work in the industry.
While the black market is not for the purists who want the best quality kush, the unregulated market seems fitting for Elko, where a libertarian lifestyle resonates.
Connor said, in a crass way, that it’s kinda like masturbation.
“You can do it at home, but you can’t do it here,” Connor said.
Everything in the front room of Konda Wakley’s double-wide trailer has a story.
The cowskin rug on the floor, she and her husband skinned from her own cow. The faded saddle was ridden by her grandfather when he left his Idaho home at 15, on his own, to be a trapper and cowboy.
The white vase on the table traveled cross-country in a pioneer wagon when her triple-great grandmother migrated from the Southeast as one of the first converts to Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.
Wakley still is a devout Mormon, evident by the Bible verses painted on her walls and the porcelain replicas of Mormon temples from across the country.
“Anything that stimulates our brain, we shouldn’t. Anything that clouds our judgment. ‘Cause a lot of things happen when our judgment is clouded, a lot of regrets can happen,” said Wakley, who admits with slight guilt that she indulges in Pepsi even though she’s not supposed to drink caffeinated beverages.
Although she has never smoked pot in her life, she has another admission: She believes in the healing powers of cannabis oils.
For several years, Wakley has suffered from arthritis, severe depression and fibromyalgia.
“If you watch a science fiction movie where things pop out of people’s bodies, that’s how it feels – it’s all across my neck, down my spine, down my tailbone and across and then down to my knees. It feels like someone is taking a chisel to my spine,” Wakley said.
She doesn’t allow herself to take anything with marijuana’s psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. Instead she uses creams or cannabis oils, which ease her pain but don’t alter her frame of mind.
“My friends are totally supportive of me, even if I use THC. I had a friend offer to grow it for me, and she’s very LDS — very LDS — but I have a lot of friends that believe in natural healing. They believe that God gave us plants to use. There’s no plant out there that’s not given for a reason,” Wakley said.
Her choice to use cannabis oils has not been easy, not only because she’s conservative, Christian and abides by the law, but because she has been met with judgment.
“I actually had a doctor’s assistant tell me, ‘You’ll be glad when you can get off this and be a good, upstanding citizen of the community again,'” said Wakley, who’s fostered 150 children over the years, many of them coming from homes of alcohol or drug abuse.
She teaches all of her children to abstain from drugs and alcohol, though she also believes in forgiveness and understanding, and honesty. Her children know the reason she uses oils, and that she maintains all of her faculties when using them.
Cannabis oils have been the only effective medicine, a treatment that she began a year ago after she suffered a horrific seizure. Enough was enough. She began tapering herself off of opioid medications, bought a medical marijuana card and started using the oils.
“The government says there’s other ways to treat it, but I’ve tried it. I’ve been to Utah, been all over – the things the government’s approved don’t work for me,” she said.
She drives nearly 10 hours round-trip every month to get the creams and oils from a dispensary in Reno. Her friend accompanies her and keeps her awake on the drive.
Although she still has acute pain and “days where suicide looks good,” she’s better off than a year ago.
While public support for marijuana grows across the country, ambiguity surrounding marijuana laws in Washington, D.C., has provided an opportunity for online distributors. But it has also put consumers in a tricky spot.
The District’s recreational marijuana law, a voter-approved ballot initiative passed in 2014, legalized the possession, cultivation and gifting of certain amounts of recreational marijuana, but not the selling of it. Initiative 71’s framework left open the question of where people would get the recreational pot that they are allowed to possess.
Local politicians and the D.C. Department of Health have argued in favor of fully legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana, but Congress has prevented the District from moving forward by restricting its funding.That funding remains in question as Congress debates spending bills for the next fiscal year. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a nonvoting member of the U.S. House, has been lobbying lawmakers to lift the regulations.
In the meantime, some D.C. distributors have found a way to thrive.
LeafedIn, an app that provides a map of cannabis distributors, has seen an exponential increase in D.C. users this summer. John Khainson, one of the founders of LeafedIn, points out another trend in the current market: “We have seen an increasing amount of female users. This is a great indicator since the marijuana industry has been male-dominated for decades.”
D.C. blogger and weed connoisseur Joe Tierney, also known as the Gentleman Toker, says young entrepreneurs are increasingly taking advantage of the law’s gray areas around “gifting” to promote their startups. They’ll sell food or clothes along with a marijuana “bonus.”
“The cool thing about Initiative 71 is that it’s created this power dynamic where brands can get recognition through cannabis,” he says. “Businesses like District of C and Pink Fox have really grown their art and fashion lines directly through this self-managedsystem.”
To be clear, selling weed still isn’t legal in D.C., says Kate Bell, a member of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.
“Let’s say you were running a sandwich shop and you decide as a promotion that for your hundredth customer, you were going to gift them a free bag of cannabis. That would be legal because you’re clearly not selling the cannabis. It’s a one-time unexpected thing, and you’re selling your product at a reasonable price,” she says. “But the idea that you can sell a $150 bottle of juice with ‘free cannabis’ isn’t legal. It’s clear people aren’t paying for the juice.”
The confusion isn’t just about distribution. Consumers are running into their own gray areas. Bell stresses that one of the reasons legalization advocates like herself are pushing for broader legalization is because of a disparity between property owners and renters. People who rent their homes are more likely to run into issues with their landlord and may even be evicted. Tenants who possess marijuana may hesitate to file apartment complaints for fear of retribution.
Bell also worries about the continued racial disparities in public-consumption arrests; D.C. bars consumption of marijuana in public spaces and on federal property.
“One of the purposes of legalization was to address some of the discriminatory practices predominantly targeting African-Americans,” she says. Decriminalizing marijuana made the number of arrests go down, but there are still disparities. “Before the Initiative, 91 percent of public consumption arrests reported by police were African-American. It’s gone down to about 85 percent, which still isn’t good.”
As public support for marijuana has reached a record high, more states are jumping on the legalization bandwagon. On July 1, Nevada became the fifth state to allow the recreational use of cannabis.
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced an amendment that prevents the government from impeding medical marijuana laws in individual states and D.C. That was in defiance of a request by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization.
Financial restrictions to the District’s marijuana laws remain under consideration for the 2018 fiscal year.
But for now, D.C. distributors continue operating in the gray areas of Initiative 71. Nikolas Schiller, one of the law’s authors, says the success of those distributors shows the economic opportunities that are possible if Congress lets D.C. establish a regulated marijuana market.
“It’s disappointing that Congress is continuing the prohibition by not letting us move forward,” he says. “They’re denying D.C. residents jobs, they’re denying the D.C. government millions of dollars in tax revenue, and they’re denying a lot of people the opportunity to get into the ground level of an industry that is poised to make billions of dollars for the country.”
1. A police officer opened fire early yesterday. Police say it happened about 4:20 a.m. when three men with crowbars robbed a medical dispensary. No one was injured. Police say they have four men in custody including their getaway driver.
2. North Korea has test-fired another missile. Now, experts say the United States is in striking range. The wide area includes Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The U.S. Military confirms the missile flew for about 45 minutes, but experts say they don’t know how accurate the missile will be.
3. And a big story special to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Former journalist-turned-activist who shined a light on the Las Vegas tunnel culture is leaving town. Since Matthew O’Brien started his journey underground 2002, he’s published a book and founded a nonprofit to help people living in tunnels. Find the story in today’s paper and online at reviewjournal.com.
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RENO, Nev. (AP) —
A medical marijuana patient is asking the Nevada Supreme Court to reconsider its refusal to end mandatory state registration and fees for medical pot cards now that marijuana is legal statewide for recreational use.
The southern Nevada man is a migraine-suffer identified in court papers only as John Doe. He accuses the state of discriminating against medicinal pot users by regulating them more strictly than their recreational counterparts.
Las Vegas attorney Jacob Hafter filed a petition for rehearing on his behalf late Thursday. He characterizes the justices as “cowardly” for side-stepping questions about health care rights in their ruling Tuesday denying Doe’s appeal.
Hafter says forcing medical pot card holders to register with the state is a violation of their constitutional rights against self-incrimination given that the U.S. government still considers pot illegal.