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August 25, 2019

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Las Vegas pot advocacy group urges U.S. to follow Canada’s legalization lead

Canadian Legalization Celebration

Steve Marcus

John Laub, left, president of the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association, makes a toast at the Cheba Hut restaurant during a celebration of Canada’s marijuana legalization Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada Wednesday.

Canadian Legalization Celebration

Canadian flags are displayed at the Cheba Hut restaurant during a celebration of Canada's marijuana legalization Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada Wednesday. Launch slideshow »

A mega marijuana bud prop dropped in Toronto Wednesday morning as a symbolic start to federal recreational marijuana legalization in Canada. In other parts of the country, eager weed buyers lined up by the hundreds outside the now-legal pot stores to buy the plant.

In Las Vegas, a group of industry professionals, some with ties to Canada’s legal industry, sat at a pot-themed sandwich shop and consumed menu items like Silver Haze, Kush and Dank to celebrate the day.

“It’s a very international expansion,” said Kurt Keating, director of operations for Marapharm, a pot investment company based in Kelowna, British Columbia. “And that’s going to continue.”

Canada on Wednesday became the first developed country to legalize the plant and only the second worldwide besides Uruguay. The country’s government passed legislation for nationwide legalization back in June, and the legalization went into effect with festivities across the nation. The Las Vegas representatives, celebrating at Cheba Hut, said they hoped the U.S. is next. While only eight states currently allow legal consumption of cannabis for recreational use, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug under U.S. federal law.

As business owners wait for the U.S. to legalize the plant, they’re doing the best they can with opportunities provided by legal pot in Canada.

Keating’s company, which plans to open cultivation facilities of 5,000 and 65,000 square feet in Apex in North Las Vegas, is one of many businesses with ties to the U.S. northern neighbor to make their way to Nevada in recent months. As the Canadian Stock Exchange has paved the way for marijuana companies to go public, increased access to capital has allowed those businesses to expand into marijuana-legal U.S. states. Other examples of public companies on the CSE to operate in Nevada include MedMen, Planet 13, Terra Tech and DigiPath.

Keating said the access to capital has allowed Marapharm to get a “head start” in building its brand.

“We’re really focused on U.S. markets where we can be sustainable,” he said. “We like Las Vegas because of the way they’ve handled licensing as well as the potential with so many tourists and the fact that the state requires fair market value for wholesale of marijuana to dispensaries.”

Similarly, Nick Lemoine, spokesman for Toronto-based Kiff Cannabis, said he expects legalization up north to “trickle down” to the U.S. and Nevada. The cultivation company serves over 30 dispensaries in the valley.

A Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf outlined in the center instead of the traditional maple leaf hung from the rafters at Cheba Hut on Wednesday. John Laub, the president of the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association, handed out miniature flags that were waived during a toast to the country. Laub said, in regards to marijuana, the United States should follow Canada’s lead.

He argued that recreational pot would benefit medical patients as research on the plant, currently banned federally, would better enlighten scientists and the public on the plant’s medical properties.

“Once we get off Schedule I, we can start doing clinical trials and research that has long been blocked,” Laub said. “We have the support here and the polls are in our favor. Let’s make it happen.”