At the stroke midnight July 1, Nevada became the fifth state in the nation to legally sell recreational cannabis. Opening day sales for the combined recreational and medical market were five times larger than an average medical sales day. Dispensaries that previously saw 100 patients on a good day are now averaging more than 300 consumers a day.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a longtime legalization supporter, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman both purchased pot products on July 1. (The+Source offers a strain named after the senator called Segerblom Haze.) Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions ignored the Vegas green rush, despite giving a speech in Sin City.

As an early gesture to get the alcohol industry on board with the Question 2 legalization campaign, liquor wholesalers were guaranteed licenses in cannabis distribution. After the initiative passed in November, alcohol companies were slow to get on board, belatedly filing a lawsuit to protect their distribution rights and creating a bottleneck in the supply chain.

On July 10, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval declared a “statement of emergency” as stores began to run low on supplies. Media outlets dubbed it “the Great Legal Weed Shortage of 2017.” The L.A. Times teased, “Nevada has a drug problem: Shops are running out of marijuana.” Eventually, emergency licensing measures were enacted allowing stores to self-supply as the alcohol distributors readied to make deliveries from cultivation facilities to shops.

Dwindling supplies and higher costs are worrying patients. Some claim prices have doubled, while others say they’re already returning to the black market. In addition, if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary, Nevada patients who received their cards after 2013 lost their cultivation rights as a result of the legalization vote. The rule, euphemistically called a “25-mile halo,” basically means the entire population of Clark County no longer can legally grow marijuana.

Another of Nevada’s urgent cannabis issues is social consumption. You can’t encourage 40 million tourists to come buy cannabis and not give them anywhere to consume it. Sen. Segerblom assures that social consumption is provided for in the new law, that local jurisdictions will be able to establish licenses and permits for private events or clubs and build from there. Segerblom doesn’t expect it to take long, noting, “The demand is through the roof.”

Clearly, pot tourists are converging on the Silver State. Websites are offering dispensary maps and weed guides, sales are surging, and consumers are adjusting to the longer lines and “prohibition pricing.”

Las Vegas NORML executive director Chris Thompson is confident the high prices will be short-lived. “They’re working through the opening gate,” he explains. “Anywhere that legalization has opened up, the prices are high at first until they work out the market.”

Three years after legal sales began in Colorado, ounces of flower there regularly now sell for $99. Eventually, the same will happen in Nevada, only sooner due to the rapid implementation of Question 2.

About Mikel Weisser

State director of Arizona NORML and writer for Freedom Leaf. He helped draft Prop 205, Arizona’s legalization initiative in 2016.

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