Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 | 1:55 p.m.
If everything goes according to plan, Joe Lamarca will sell the first buds of medical marijuana from his dispensary in the southwest valley on Jan. 12.
But after more than a year of planning, navigating the convoluted application process and complying with countless regulations, Lamarca said he’s learned not to take anything for granted.
“I’m afraid to relax because if the past is any judge, something will go wrong between now and when we open in January,” he said. “Only when I get the key and let the first patients in will I feel relieved.”
Lamarca is among a group of entrepreneurs looking to grow the medical marijuana industry in Las Vegas.
His company, Euphoria Wellness, which Lamarca co-owns with several other investors, was chosen this month to receive one of 40 coveted state licenses to operate a dispensary in Clark County.
The journey that led Lamarca to a nondescript strip mall near Jones Boulevard and Robindale Road started in 2013, shortly after the state Legislature passed a law setting up a system of dispensaries and growing, production and testing facilities to make medical marijuana more accessible to patients.
Lamarca, who founded a chain of salons and day spas before selling the business in 2013, engaged numerous experts to help prepare applications that eventually grew to more than 10,000 pages.
He said he struggled to find a location for the dispensary because of opposition from neighbors, nearby businesses and even the banks that held mortgages for many of the shopping centers he investigated.
After finding an agreeable landlord — neighbors include a Japanese restaurant, a sports bar and a dental office — Lamarca and his partners had to wait months to find out whether they would get a license.
Euphoria Wellness won state approval earlier this month and was approved by the Clark County Commission in June, giving Lamarca the green light to begin construction and prepare to open.
During an open house today at the under-construction dispensary, Lamarca said he expects Euphoria Wellness to be among the first — if not the first — dispensaries to open in the valley.
The building is being turned into what Lamarca called an “impenetrable fortress,” with security features meant to deter thieves, who have targeted dispensaries in other states.
The features include bullet-proof glass in the front windows, a full-size safe and security cameras that offer a view of the building from every angle. The dispensary will employ about 30 people, Lamarca said.
Perhaps the biggest threat to the company’s January opening is finding a supply of medical marijuana to sell. Euphoria Wellness also has licenses to grow marijuana and produce marijuana-infused edibles at an off-site location, but it will be months before the first crop is harvested.
In the meantime, Euphoria Wellness plans to sell marijuana acquired from patients who were already legally growing marijuana for personal use. Before it can be sold, the marijuana must be tested in approved laboratories also in the process of opening.