It wasn’t long ago that simple possession of cannabis was a felony on both the Las Vegas strip and in downtown Reno. Recent decades have brought rapid changes in attitudes toward cannabis in the silver state. These societal changes peaked when, In November 2016, Nevadans voted to legalize recreational cannabis. The ballot question was overwhelmingly popular in Clark County (Las Vegas), which was no surprise. What was a surprise, was that Question 2 won two rural counties and won Washoe County (Reno) by almost eight points in a year with high voter turnout. This signaled that not only had attitudes changed in Clark County, but the in Nevada as a whole. While other cities have been lauded as pot destinations in the past, Reno is cannabis’ biggest little secret of tomorrow.
Several other states legalized recreational cannabis on the same day as Nevada, however, Nevada is alone among those states with an active (and thriving) recreational cannabis industry. Nevada is also the only state to come online after the Senate confirmation of Attorney General and notorious pot adversary Jeff Sessions. Despite the Attorney General’s loudest bellows, Nevada policymakers pushed forward with recreational cannabis, alone but undeterred. As a result, the industry in Nevada is currently employing thousands of people in jobs that start with living wages and can quickly grow into very lucrative careers. Owners of dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities in Nevada have been good neighbors and have added value to adjoining real estate and wholeheartedly have joined our community. While other states and municipalities in similar situations seem to be fumbling the ball, the Reno area has a willingness to embrace the industry and the decision is already paying off.
Northern Nevada has over three hundred days of sunshine if the great outdoors is your thing. The Olympics were hosted at Lake Tahoe and the skiing, snowboarding and hiking at the lake are world class. If you like sports we have a Triple-A Baseball team (Reno Aces), a USL soccer team (1868 FC), an NBA D-League team (Bighorns) and all the college sports you can handle at the University of Nevada. We also have big resorts and casinos that host some of the world’s best restaurants, spas and concert venues, and of course limitless gaming options.
The state of Nevada has a sterling reputation regulating vice. The state is famous for the success of our gaming industry but the state also has a long and successful history of regulating prostitution and combat sports when other states refused. The Nevada MMJ system in place prior to recreational legalization is quickly being viewed as a success story to be looked at by other states looking to regulate the industry. Recreational cannabis is a natural fit for a state that has a happy habit of converting faux pas into massive industries.
The easiest way to look at the success of the industry is revenue coming into the state. Nevada has a 15 percent tax on cultivators and a 10 percent retail tax applied to the consumer at the point of sale. The first month of legalization brought in just shy of four million dollars and appears to be on pace to raise over 120 million dollars over two years. An additional $6.5 million has been raised from license and application fees.
These revenue numbers show that Reno is on pace to be the next big pot destination. While other places have stood out as travel destinations in the past, Reno is the canna-destination of tomorrow. We have a long history of embracing tourists and willing and able to accommodate cannabis users that want to share our natural beauty and endless amenities for a few days or weeks. Stay tuned for more good things to come out of the biggest little city.
Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung is a Democrat that represents Reno, Sparks and unincorporated Washoe County, NV