They say you shouldn’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Now, we’re not advising our readers to get stoned, but it might be worth it to see what a legal cannabis dispensary looks like – and how it operates – before forming an opinion.
Several months ago, in anticipation of a vote like the one that the Brick Township council will make tonight on a full-on ban of recreational sales, we arranged for a tour of a legal, recreational cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas, and met with its marketing officer. As you can see in the attached video, legal cannabis dispensaries in open markets such as Las Vegas often require significant investment. At Reef Dispensary, where we had our tour, the interior looks more like an Apple store than a stereotypical head shot or cigar store. Nobody was hanging around outside the two times we visited – once during the day and once at night – and access rules are strict. Only those age 21 and over are allowed inside, and the business scans a copy of the driver’s license of everyone who comes in.
Employees are also subject to tight restrictions. Background checks are performed, some of the employees are members of major unions, and each employee must check in and out at a secured door. When Shorebeat’s reporter and photographer stepped inside, we had to check in as well, and we quickly met a drug-sniffing dog that ensures nothing comes in or outside of the facility that is illegal or stolen. The security staff is made up almost exclusively of military veterans and former police officers. There have been no reported breaches at the location, though there was an incident last year at another dispensary in North Las Vegas when a customer fired two shots after being kicked out of the store. No one was injured.
Reef is owned by Tryke Companies, a major player in the recreational cannabis marketplace. Its location a few blocks away from major casinos like Bally’s, Harrah’s and the Bellagio make it an in-demand and increasingly-integral part of the strip’s culture.
“This is really becoming people’s first stop in Vegas,” said Mike Pizzo, who handles Reef’s digital marketing. “People come from the airport right here, browse and make their way to their hotels.”
The brightly-lit store offers cannabis flower, cartridges to use in vaporizer pens, plus edibles ranging from cookies to gummy bears. There’s even a frequent customer discount plus a free gift for those celebrating their birthdays in Las Vegas.
Brick’s proposed ordinance would ban any cannabis sales outright. In Las Vegas, sales are allowed, but are strictly regulated through zoning ordinances to create specific sectors where dispensaries are allowed. The zoning ordinance was revised in 2014 to allow the businesses to operate in a special zone off Las Vegas Boulevard within city limits, but just behind the line of casinos. Clark County, which controls the bulk of Las Vegas Boulevard and is technically outside of the city limits, adopted an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries.
Last summer, a new player in the market pledged to invest $7.8 million in a new dispensary complex near the strip called Planet 13, will be a high-end lounge in anticipation of a new law which will allow such businesses to operate. Existing businesses have drawn celebrities – including stoner icon Snoop Dogg – to spin records and entertain patrons.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt any community that legalizes,” said Pizzo. “I actually think it’s going to help.”
Brick Mayor John Ducey has previously soured on hosting cannabis dispensaries in town, adding that he does not believe the tax incentives for municipalities are worth it, though he did once say he would favor a public referendum.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of having any stores in town selling recreational [marijuana], Ducey told Shorebeat. “The 2 percent tax is a joke. I don’t think it makes sense for Brick, especially with the tax at 2 percent.”
The township council will take its vote at Tuesday night’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex. The meeting is likely to bring scores of residents on both sides of the issue to the formal public hearing that must take place before the council conducts its final vote.
Now, it’s your turn to vote. Does Brick want recreational dispensaries banned from town? Cast your “ballot” below.