Incline dispensary set to open in May, reigniting community conversation around medical marijuana
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Three goals were scrawled in red marker on the dry-erase board. “Goal One: Build and maintain relationships during divisive political times.” Pam Rasmussen, the managing librarian at Incline Village Public Library, sat in a circle with attendees, reviewing conversational ground rules: no talking over one another, be respectful and stay on topic.
This was the first session of Tahoe Talks, a community forum intended to address pressing local issues. The inaugural meeting took place on Tuesday, April 12. The headliner: Medical marijuana.
Discourse surrounding medical marijuana has been a mixed bag in Incline Village. In the March 3 issue of the Eagle’s Eye, the staff editorial “Marijuana: The never-ending debate” cited “fear mongering” and misinformation as major hurdles to an informed community discussion.
With the NuLeaf medical dispensary set to open sometime in May, many in the community are expressing concern.
“Putting six thousand people at risk doesn’t seem like a good cost/risk balance,” said a Tahoe Talks attendee.
But what are the risks associated with medical marijuana use or the presence of a certified dispensary? To understand the issue, the Eagle’s Eye will speak with dispensary employees and owners, patients, advocates, critics and community members.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Nevada in 2000, but self-cultivation was the name of the game until 2013, when the Nevada Legislature passed NRS 453A, allowing for a state-wide medical marijuana industry to emerge.
The first step of this process included a 10-day application period for potential medical marijuana establishments.
Five hundred and nineteen applications were received, and 372 made the (provisional) final cut, with 55 of these establishments licensed to become dispensaries.
Currently the state of Nevada is home to 21 operational dispensaries, 17 of which reside in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson.
Northern Nevada has three operational dispensaries at present, with NuLeaf Dispensary in Incline Village on track to be fourth.
Eli Scislowicz began working for the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), parent company to NuLeaf, in 2007 while earning a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at UC Berkeley. With almost 10 years of experience in the business, Scislowicz is set to become General Manager of Incline’s newest dispensary.
Scislowicz attended the conversation at the Incline Village Public Library, and discussed NuLeaf’s priority for “harm reduction.”
“I’ve learned the value of reaching out to the community,” Scislowicz said.
Safety measures at Incline’s new dispensary will include child-safe exit bags that include the patient’s name, extra security and an additional “waiting” room where patrons will undergo extra measures of identity verification.
In Berkeley, community concerns included traffic congestion and litter.
“We made a lot of efforts to mitigate that,” said Scislowicz. Security guards regularly picked up litter in the surrounding neighborhood in addition to their security detail.
In spite of their intentions, the medical marijuana industry, including BPG, faces tremendous business risks. Federal lawsuits, banking issues and stigmatization create a series of hurdles.
Scislowicz calls the criminalization of medical marijuana a “severe injustice” and feels that the black-market monopoly over marijuana jeopardizes patient health and community well being.
“There’s no quality assurance in the black market,” said Scislowicz.
From seed-to-sale, a common industry term, cannabis grown for medical purposes is meticulously monitored, and dispensaries have the ability to recall product at any time if they receive information from the producer or if a patient has a bad reaction.
Still, other community members cited concerns including the potential dangers of marijuana eatables— candies, baked goods and other food products that contain marijuana— the potential for an uptick in community use, particularly with Incline’s youth population, and marijuana “tourism,” where trips are planned around attaining the drug, particularly for residents of states where medical marijuana is not legalized.
In our May 5 issue, the Eagle’s Eye will take a closer look at community concerns, the overwhelming amount of scientific data both implicating and exonerating cannabis and some of the historical high-points surrounding drug culture and criminalization.