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Advocates press case for legal recreational marijuana

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Mikayla Whitmore

Dispensary Team Lead for Reef Dispensaries Ella Wagge, 24, speaks with a reporter after a media conference at Thrive Medical Marijuana Dispensary in North Las Vegas on September 8, 2016.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 | 7 p.m.

Thrive Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Joe Brezny speaks during a media conference at Thrive Medical Marijuana Dispensary in North Las Vegas on September 8, 2016. On the left is Gustavo Darthenay and right stands Amanda Conner.. Launch slideshow »

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Nevada would create thousands of jobs, reduce black market sales and generate millions of tax dollars for education, representatives of an advocacy group said today.

Representatives of the Yes on Question 2 campaign — a reference to the November ballot initiative on recreational marijuana — cited a study from Las Vegas-based RCG Economics that concluded recreational marijuana would add more than 6,200 jobs in the first four years after legalization, including nearly 3,000 jobs outside the marijuana industry.

“To keep up with the demand, we’d see more security firms, attorneys, accountants, transportation companies and construction workers, among other jobs,” campaign spokesman Joe Brezny said at the Thrive Cannabis Marketplace dispensary in North Las Vegas. “This is an all-inclusive industry and benefits workers statewide.”

Also speaking at Thursday’s event was Thrive Director of Operations Gus D’Arthenay, who joined the dispensary when it opened earlier this year.

D’Arthenay, one of 50 employees at the North Las Vegas dispensary, said consumer demand for legalized adult-use marijuana would allow the dispensary and two cultivation facilities to double its staff to 100 employees in the next two years.

Ditto for Reef Dispensary Manager Ella Wagge, who said her North Las Vegas dispensary, located just over a mile east of Thrive on West Cheyenne Avenue, and cultivation grow house would expand from 125 employees to “as many as 300 or 400” within one year.

“We’re prepared for a big expansion if this passes,” Wagge said. “We’re extremely excited.”

D’Arthenay and Wagge were two of nearly two dozen Southern Nevada medical marijuana employees — from dispensary managers to cultivation facility growers to customer service workers — who attended the event in support of Question 2. Medical marijuana is already legal in Nevada.

Carina Robinson of Las Vegas turned to marijuana in 2014 while recovering from neck surgery. The 42-year-old said marijuana provided more pain relief than 17 medications she was prescribed after her surgery.

“It’s natural and it doesn’t have the nasty side effects,” she said.

Robinson, a manager at The Clinic, a dispensary at 4310 W. Flamingo Road, said she continues to use marijuana for her personal wellness.

“It helps you mellow out,” she said. “Unlike heavy alcohol and pill users, marijuana users don’t want to drive or be violent.”

ReLeaf employee Rachelnell Rivera, 23, who alternates between helping medical customers at the company’s dispensary on the Las Vegas Strip and cultivating plants at its growhouse, said she watched her chronically diabetic grandmother suffer for six years with an addiction to prescription drugs before the woman’s death in 2013. Rivera also worked as a licensed practical nurse, and found the same problems with many of the patients she cared for. She said her passion for marijuana came from a desire to improve lives and reduce pharmaceutical addictions.

Rivera said she believed marijuana should be recreationally available, so people can access it similar to over-the-counter medicine.

“When it becomes recreational, people will have that first option to take medical cannabis,” Rivera said. “There are a ton of ways to use this stuff.”

A July 26 poll from KNTV-TV and Rasmussen Reports found 50 percent of Nevadans were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, with 41 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided.

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