Tuesday, March 31, 2015 | 8:34 p.m.
The display cases are in place and the bulletproof glass has been installed. There’s even a rack with shirts and hats for sale. The only thing missing from Las Vegas’s first medical marijuana dispensary is the bud.
Euphoria Wellness hosted an open house tonight to provide community leaders and potential customers a sneak peek at what its owners hope will be the first dispensary in Southern Nevada to begin selling medical marijuana to patients under a state law passed in 2013.
The dispensary will undergo a review by state and county inspectors Friday before sending its product to a testing laboratory to have it certified for sale to customers, co-owner Joe Lamarca said. Because the large-scale cultivation facilities that will grow the marijuana have not yet begun operating, Euphoria Wellness plans to buy marijuana from medical cardholders who were allowed to grow for personal use under the state’s existing legal framework.
Lamarca said the dispensary should be open to patients by the end of April, possibly sooner if everything goes according to plan.
Its launch will mark a turning point 15 years in the making for the state’s medical marijuana industry. Until now, medical marijuana cardholders have had to grow their own plants or acquire them from other cardholders.
Voters legalized the drug for medicinal use in 2000, but state lawmakers didn't set up a system to allow growing facilities and dispensaries to provide the product to patients through retail outlets until 2013.
Since then, prospective medical marijuana businesses have gone through a lengthy application and approval process involving city, county and state regulators. Lamarca estimates that his group spent about $1 million in fees for attorneys, consultants and licensing, plus the cost of renovating the Euphoria Wellness storefront, which is located near Jones Boulevard and Robindale Road.
The store resembles a high-security pharmacy, with bulletproof glass separating the waiting room from the main lobby where patients will be able to sniff and examine — but not smoke — different strains of cannabis.
Lamarca compared the building to a safe and called the secure room at the back of the dispensary where the marijuana will be stored as a “safe within a safe.”
“Could you get in? Sure — if you had a bomb,” he said.
With the opening of the dispensary, Lamarca said patients will have access to safe, high quality product without having to grow it themselves.
The store is expected to employ 16 people when it opens and its staff will eventually grow to 24, he said. More than 1,000 people applied for the 16 open positions, Lamarca said.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak complimented the facility, saying it seemed to meet all the standards commissioners considered when doling out 40 dispensary licenses this summer.
“It’s impressive,” Sisolak said. “The accessibility is great. There’s lots of parking. There’s security (guards) to help people get in and out.”