Medical Marijuana: Coming to a Downtown Corner Near You

Medical Marijuana map

Las Vegas may resemble a glittering monolith in those sparkly aerial shots on TV shows, but it’s actually more like a puzzle whose pieces make a whole. There are few better examples of this than the process of rolling out legalized medical marijuana, as Clark County rushes in and Boulder City opts out while Henderson dithers. The City of Las Vegas recently finished taking applications for dispensary/facility licenses, the first step in bringing medical marijuana to Downtown Las Vegas.

The city has 12 dispensary licenses available, but no limit on cultivation facilities. About four dozen organizations have applied either as dispensaries, cultivation/production or a combination of the three. Proposed facilities are relatively spread out (see map above, or visit this link), though there are clusters on industrial stretches of Highland and Western Avenues, as well as on Gass and Hoover off Las Vegas Blvd, near Arts District highrises. The most centrally-located would be next to Hogs & Heifers on Third Street.

Among the applicants are Acres Medical LLC, headed by local power couple Michael and Jenna Morton of La Comida and N9NE Restaurant group. Another familiar name is TV lawyer Ed Bernstein, who has partnered with mayoral son Ross Goodman on Las Vegas Releaf—a dispensary that would be felicitously situated between a Subway and a McDonald’s on Sahara (down the street from Desert Aire, who lucked into a 420 E. Sahara address). Another proposed facility with ties to local politics is Boulevard Medical, which has former state Senator and Clark County Commissioner Mark James on board.

NuVeda recently received a permit to operate in Pahrump, and wants to open a Las Vegas operation as well; they’ve already had neighborhood meet-and-greets and recruited Bunnyfish Studios to renovate their Third Street building. Medmen, which has also gotten a license in unincorporated Clark County, is affiliated with one of the new wave of cannabis consulting firms that help set up dispensary and cultivation businesses.

Of course, the hundreds of pages of paperwork and thousands of dollars in consulting and application fees are just the beginning. Next, applicants face the zoning board for land-use permits, and those who survive that process will go before the City Council on a date to be determined. The dozen license recipients will be chosen during the City Council meeting—in a rather American Idol-like process, each application will be gone over several times, with a few applicants cut each “round” until the final 12 are left—and will also need state approval.

“We are a highly regulated state and I believe we will be a model for how to do it well,” says County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who was on the approval board for unincorporated Clark County. “Finally getting a legal, safe way for people to get their medicine will be good for them and the community.”

Arts District residents seem to agree, at least according to an online poll conducted by the 18b Neighborhood Association. Curtis Walker, the group’s social media manager, says 79% of neighborhood residents indicated they support the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the area. It’s far better for patients to go “to neighbors for tested and pure products,” says Walker, rather than “dealers who aren’t contributing locally to the economy.”

The licensing may seem slow, but it’s just one step in an even more glacial process. Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the legislature actually created the laws allowing patients to access it. It’s taken most of 2014 to develop facilities and, if bureaucracy and Mother Nature cooperate, license holders should be able to obtain their medicine from Downtown dispensaries in early 2015.

Vegas Seven