A month after Nevada commenced recreational cannabis sales, the world-famous Lake Tahoe region now counts itself among the nation’s legal cannabis markets, with sales beginning Aug. 5.
The lake’s only medical cannabis dispensary on the Nevada side, NuLeaf, transitioned to adult-use sales and the day-one opening resulted in massive lines around the building.
“The launch went amazing, it was great,” said NuLeaf’s COO Sean Luse. “It was a historic occasion in Lake Tahoe. We had so much demand, there were hundreds of people lined up around the block.”
According to Luse, the lines are still going strong this week, but are a bit more bearable than the big kickoff.
“It basically hasn’t stopped with the lines yet,” Luse said of the recent sales. “It has calmed down some since the first day on Saturday and the wait times aren’t nearly as long as they were then. It varied, but I’d say a lot of people were waiting in the range of 45 minutes on Saturday.”
The love of the locals has proven strong for NuLeaf, but the reach of opening its doors to all adults had people driving in from all over. Luse believes NuLeaf is tapping into that unmet California demand in addition to the demand of Nevada residents and the regular tourists that are there around the lake.
“There’s a lot of people driving up from Sacramento and other northern California areas that have never been to a legal weed store and just wanted to check it out,” he said.
While Tahoe known for its winters and famously hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, there is also plenty of hype in the summer. In fact, according to the South Lake Tourism statistics, the highest number of hotel rooms rented tends to always be in July. Getting the doors open allows NuLeaf to provide for the second half of the summer wave.
Back in June, we spoke with NuLeaf about the commencement of recreational sales at their Las Vegas location. At the time, plans for Incline Village were a bit hazier and thus the conversation steered away from it. Instead Luse discussed what the rapid transition to adult-use sales has looked like in Nevada.
“Things have really developed quickly there,” he said. “When we first started this licensing process there about two years ago there was a lot of opposition and it seemed really difficult.”
Luse said they didn’t even know if we were going to get the medical marijuana dispensary in Tahoe approved at the local level.
“So it’s been telling I think about how smooth things have gone and how we’ve been able to really win the trust of that community,” he said. “But, we are at a point where in the last couple months the adult-use ordinance and licensing process sped along really quickly. I do think we’ve seen the community come around.”
The more family-centric tourism of the mountains is quite a far cry from being a block off the Vegas Strip, but Luse told us there are plenty of similarities to America’s two newest recreational pot markets.
“There is definitely a different profile of the consumers there, but fundamentally it’s been the same, just a little more buttoned up than the pool parties and stuff like that you see in Vegas. And we have seen more local residents in Tahoe as opposed to Vegas. It is very tourist heavy for us in Vegas, but there is certainly a fair amount of tourists in Tahoe too.”
NuLeaf’s launch on Aug. 3 was bigger than sales on 420, traditionally one of the busier days of the year for the industry as a whole.
As for the pot the long time pros wanted to assure folks they weren’t messing around with the launch day selections. The wares on display included a gassy Snakeeyes OG, Cadillac Purps and a Pure Haze. Luse wasn’t sure on genetics but said the Haze had a piney Jack-esque nose to it that would turn the clock back for any true enthusiast.
Despite the success of opening day, Luse told us of work was left to be done.
“I guess what I’m trying to get through to everybody is how easy convenient safe and anonymous buying legal marijuana in Nevada is,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people that haven’t done it before that think it’s going to be difficult or you got to register or get on some list, but it’s not. Truthfully and simply you just need to show your ID and be 21 plus, just like going to the bar. The budtenders will figure out what you need and away you go.”
Ross Rebagliati won the gold medal in the Men’s Snowboarding Slalom at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Not long after, Rebagliati was stripped of his medal after Olympic officials detected THC in his system. He attributed the failure to secondhand smoke. Since then the World Anti Doping Association has raised the THC threshold to only detect people actually using in competition.
We’d heard upscale mountain towns in the past could be tough on pot and asked Rebagliati what it was like to see the transition to today’s legal sales in a lot of America’s great mountain towns in Colorado and now Lake Tahoe. Rebagliati has been active in cannabis for 20 years and incorporated his company Ross’ Gold in Canada five years ago.
“It’s a dream come true,” Rebagliati said. “Colorado always had a strong cannabis culture. I remember competing at Breckenridge back in the early ’90s. Colorado has always had dank nugs and you could always find a little something from someone. Now you’re just able to be yourself and be free and not have to worry about getting busted. It’s a lot of weight off regular people’s shoulders. mothers and fathers trying to do the best they can do.”
Rebagliati said for a lot of those people, including himself, cannabis is a regular part of family life and a huge part of being healthy.
TELL US, are you excited to see recreational cannabis sales begin in Tahoe?