The Las Vegas cannabis industry is revered as the Gold Standard of cannabis legalization. From the outside looking in, you can’t help but agree. For those enthralled in this community, however, it’s more plated-gold than the real thing. The state could be doing more for the money-making industry, especially as COVID has brought a complete stop to the city’s revenue. Regardless, we still fight for the same privileges of our counterparts while trying to create an industry that truly caters to the consumers it profits from. Luckily for Las Vegas, some cannabis activists are looking to solve the problems at the source.
The Las Vegas Chamber of Cannabis held their first meeting early in October to connect cannabis pundits with those running for various positions. From judges to County Commissioner, The Den hosted the event to create a conversation around key issues in the local cannabis industry. As it’s said, we enter local politics as a result of being unhappily married. Let’s hope the chamber can fix this plated-gold matrimony. The Chamber of Cannabis, by Tina Ulman, Dani Baranowski, Shelby Stanley, and Ashley Ciliberti is a non-profit dedicated to uniting the cannabis industry and fostering more inclusivity. Their first meeting aimed to solve issues by interacting with those who have a direct effect on not only the industry, but the community as well.
Las Vegas VS. Everybody Else
When it comes to the unfinished work of cannabis legalization, there isn’t one specific area at fault. Most of it stems from the War on Drugs; but, the situation has gotten much more complicated as states have chosen to legalize recreationally or medically. As cannabis continues to be a conversation-starter and political prop, let’s look at all the ways the Chamber of Cannabis and others are trying to finish that work.
So, back to that ‘Gold-Standard’. Despite the accolades, did you know that Las Vegas isn’t even one of the top five cannabis markets in the country? With upwards of 42 million tourists visiting a month, dispensaries that resemble Apple Stores, and over 600 million in annual sales coming in, you’d think the opposite. So, where exactly does “gold-standard” come in?
The state still deems public consumption illegal and refuses to allow lounges despite its heavy tourism and obvious need. Entry to the industry can cost prospective employees upward of $300 annually; entrepreneurs can expect cost in the hundreds of thousands -if not millions. Additionally, those with previous cannabis charges are completely barred from the industry that profits from their misfortune. Let’s not even get started on issues once you enter the industry. While the state has done a few things right, in comparison to other states, they’ve got a ton of things wrong. One important point is local perspectives of power towards cannabis. We may be blue but work starts here. One candidate at the meeting said something that’s easily forgotten in these instances:
“Local elections matter. These Clark County Commissioner races, Assembly races, Senate races, these are the people making decisions that will affect your everyday life directly! This is where justice and injustice begins in the system. You have to start at the bottom!”-Belinda T. Harris, Department 3 Justice of the Peace
Diversity In Thought
A lot of cannabis’ problems are a result of local politics. For example, let’s look at other state’s cannabis legislation compared to Nevada. Among the states that legalized cannabis, most provide aid toward the aftermath of the War on Drugs. Many even offer assistance to those with previous charges who wish to enter the legal industry. Even states that have legalized since Nevada have done more to lower barriers of entry both financially and culturally. While some can argue that to be a good or a bad thing for business, it’s still something worth discussing at the lower level.
The blue and red side of the argument is what gets the most attention. The polarization of the two seems to be the driving force in American politics. Considering the facts underneath it all, the dialogue is a healthy one. The Chamber of Cannabis seems to embrace the diversity in thought for the betterment of cannabis as a whole. Last October, a socially-distant stage held seats for pro-cannabis candidates, regardless of other beliefs or party. Because, at the end of the day, party is irrelevant. Commitment to positive cannabis reform is what matters most.
“I feel the people should think as they please and do as they like.”-Dan Gilliam, Department 24 Judicial District Judge candidate, at Chamber of Cannabis meeting
The meeting brought more visibility to the industry and the repercussions of cannabis on a legislative level. Family court candidates shined a light on the ways cannabis is used against people as well as ways to navigate it in court. Cannabis advocates dating back to the 90s gave their reasons for running, ranging from bias in the courtroom to personal experience with outdated laws. Meanwhile, cannabis professionals educated them on our own hangups and hardships. Contrasting the previous narrative of ‘tough on crime and drugs’ these candidates were focused on life experience and community outreach to get the job done properly. In the end,cannabis isn’t a one party concern nor is it a problem that one party can solely remedy. Bipartisanship is what solves the problem. The Chamber of Cannabis is on a tandem track to make that known to all.
A Chat With The Chamber of Cannabis
All the local cannabis problems that the Gold-Standard state may have weren’t all solved in one night. Regardless, the conversation around consumption lounges, pardoning cannabis offenses, job options, and even agent cards was started with those who have the power to effect change at the root. The political machine can seem intimidating, especially for voices in a niche industry. However, at the end of the day, a voice can still stand out and grow louder as others listen.
Helping others listen is the president of the Chamber of Cannabis, Tina Ulman. I talked more with Tina about the future of cannabis, as well as ways to use your voice for cannabis.
How do you feel about the current cannabis laws in Las Vegas?
The current cannabis laws still need improvement in Nevada. The voters voted for it to be legal in the 2016 election and our legislatures need to look at the needs of the consumers and the industry and improve the regulation around it. Unfortunately, many just don’t know enough about cannabis and that’s where we can come in to be a resource.
What do you think can improve?
The top 2 matters that need to be improved are full decriminalization with sealed records at no cost and a fair licencing process for social consumption lounges and permits. Consumers need somewhere to go so they are not criminalized for smoking in public. This will also create new commerce opportunities and tax revenue for the state which we desperately need now that all the money in the Rainy Day Fund has been exhausted due for COVID relief.
If you could share any insight to newly legal states (medical or recreational), what would it be?
Build relationships with other like minded people in the industry and community so you are aligned and moving as a unit whenever possible. You need to break every stigma and stereotype possible! Not only is it the best feeling ever but, it will gain trust amongst the people and government officials who are anti-cannabis.
In a world where everyone is being talked at and not talked to when it comes to politics and legislation, how do you suggest the cannabis community get involved?
It can start with a simple phone call and meeting with your representative. I was fortunate to meet with mine almost 2 years ago. We have been in close communication ever since on what we need his support on to move regulation forward. Lawmakers don’t have all the answers; and, if you have one that is truly working for their constituents, they will listen to what you have to say. So don’t be afraid to take the first step and reach out to them!
Even as the presidential election gives its projections, don’t let local politics be overshadowed. Especially in the case of cannabis. We want to make this a happy marriage, not a forced one! Educate yourself on the new legislators in your state and use your voice for cannabis. To get involved, check out the Chamber and all of the resources they offer; to not only individuals but cannabis businesses too. Make sure to follow the Chamber of Cannabis for more details on their next meeting of the minds. And always, follow Culture & Cannabis for the latest in cannabis culture.