Midnight marijuana: Nevada celebrates first legal sales

A sense of jubilee was in the air midnight Saturday at Nevada marijuana dispensaries, and so too was the occasional whiff of the state's newest cash crop. 

Hundreds of Nevadans stood in line, waiting for the doors to open to two marijuana dispensaries in Reno -- Blüm and Sierra Wellness Connection -- some of the first dispensaries in the state to sell recreational marijuana.

Inside the dispensaries, "budtenders" took wads of cash in exchange for tightly sealed Ziploc bags containing everything from joints to gummies to oils.

At Sierra Wellness, within minutes they started running out of $1 bills, requiring a visit to a men's club down the street for more change. 

"Right at 12:01 a.m., they already have my transaction ready so that I can be the first in the state," said Todd Weatherhead, the first person in line at Sierra Wellness. 

Weatherhead, the cultivation and production manager at a local cultivation center, had been waiting in line since 4:20 p.m., he said.

The night was a dream come true since he's gone through a number of troubles -- including jail and a house raid -- because of his keenness for weed. He purchased a gram -- in the form of a joint -- of "Sour kush," which he plans to frame alongside his receipt. 

Nevada is the fifth state in the U.S. with stores selling marijuana for recreational purposes.

Those 21 and older with a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of pot. The millions of tourists who visit Las Vegas and other Nevada cities every year are expected to make nearly two of every three pot purchases.

"Everyone's excited, it's upbeat. Everyone's happy, giddy," said Troy White, 28, who was visiting from Boise, Idaho, and decided to "be part of history" on her way to Lake Tahoe by standing in line at Blum in Midtown Reno. 

The lines wrapped around the building with people that had been waiting at Blum since 2 p.m., but none seemed bothered by the hours-long wait time. White, as she approached the door, planned to buy some edibles and "have fun" up at the lake with her new purchase.  

Those standing in line were of all backgrounds. Some were in tie-dye, others in T-shirts with Teddy Bears smoking from a bong or cannabis leaves. A few wore suits and some looked like they had just left a day at the office. 

"Anyone got a hacky sack?" someone asked as another person played a bluesy riff on a harmonica in the winding line outside Sierra Wellness.

Harley bikers were in line along moms in flower dresses, and some people even came with family members.

Reno's Alisha White, 38, stood in the line at Sierra Wellness to show moral support for her brother and daughter even though she doesn't smoke. 

“My daughter started to have seizures two years ago,” she said. “I gave her some marijuana, and it helped her.

“Marijuana helps people in pain. I’ve watched it change people’s lives.”

Many of the middle-aged attendees expressed similar sentiments of feeling like they'd waited forever for July 1.  

"You always had to hide it," said Randy McCuster, 60, who's been smoking since the age of 13. "I smoked pot in the basement and it would come up out of the sink and my mom would stomp on the floor... She was something." 

Nevada is hardly the first state to legalize recreational marijuana; Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska preceded the Silver State.

However, Nevada has executed the fastest turnaround between a vote and sales, and certainly faster than the other states that voted to legalize in November, California, Maine and Massachusetts

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has budgeted $69 million in revenue from the industry in the next two years. Money from the 15% cultivation tax on all marijuana product in the state will go toward schools, and the 10% tax collected from recreational marijuana upon sale will go toward the state's rainy day fund. 

Those in line said they expected few changes in Nevada's culture, but Weatherhead said he hoped that the taxes collected would help the schools He also predicted one more change: More folks with munchies.  

"Taco Bells, McDonald's -- they're going to double their business in Nevada," he said.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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