Keeping Up With the Dispensary Sweepstakes

Medical Marijuana Story

On October 28 & 29, the Las Vegas City Council held approval hearings for over four dozen medical marijuana business applicants. The participants had been preparing themselves for months but, on Tuesday morning, Councilman Steven Ross felt the need to explain something: “The public … is afraid of a green-headed dragon breathing fire,” he said, “They think crime will increase. These people are benign. They are patients.”

Balancing neighborhood wants and business needs is always tricky, and granting the City of Las Vegas’ permits for medical marijuana dispensaries, production and cultivation facilities requires a delicate touch. Overall, the process was smooth, even boring, as groups of business representatives made their presentations, answered council questions and heard public concerns. Objections were low-key, aside from a home-school mom leading a group of two-dozen senior citizens, at least one of whom became agitated enough to shout “Loser!” at a medical marijuana patient. Councilman Ross had to tell everyone to chill out.

Out of the 37 dispensary applicants, 27 were approved and 10 denied. Overall, the City of Las Vegas only has 12 dispensary licenses available. Next week the state will release their approved applicants list, after which the city will enter another round of approvals to winnow it down to the final dozen.

Some big names could be found amongst both the winners and the losers. There was a thumbs-up for Golden Wellness, which has ubiquitous Downtown entrepreneur Michel Cornthwaite on its board. At Acres Medical, Vegas restaurateurs Michael and Jenna Morton are the CEO and VP, respectively. Jenna opened her spiel with “I hope you’re all familiar with the guacamole at La Comida,” though we doubt that a fondness for Mexican food had anything to do with the Council’s approval.

The team from Paradise Wellness/Las Vegas Releaf also got the nod, with lawyer Ed Bernstein as CEO, UNLV professor Frank Gard Jameson as CFO and mayoral spawn Ross Goodman as a board member. Both Bernstein and Jameson got into the medical marijuana field as a response to seeing how much the drug helped members of their families cope with illness. It was a reason we would hear again from a number of applicants. One surprise rejection was Nuleaf, who are Vegas-based but owned by California’s Berkeley Patients Group, one of California’s oldest and largest dispensaries, although they did receive approval for their cultivation facilities.

Overall, there were nine applicants for cultivation (growing) permits, of which three were approved, three denied and three tabled. For the three production (processing, packing, etc.) facilities, one was denied and two were tabled. The “tabled” is due to an inconsistency between city and state laws about cultivation facilities: One says they must be located in stand-alone buildings, the other says they don’t, and until the two statues can be brought into alignment, applications from businesses in attached buildings are being held. There are currently no limits on the amount of cultivation/production permits that can be issued.


Vegas Seven