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May 23, 2019

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Las Vegas dispensaries ready for marijuana’s version of ‘Black Friday’

Marijuana Dispensary Bus Tour

Steve Marcus

Alyssa Justino helps Michael Brousseau as he shops at Exhale Nevada dispensary during a dispensary bus tour sponsored by the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association Friday, April 20, 2018.

Marijuana Dispensary Bus Tour

An exterior view of the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace during a dispensary bus tour sponsored by the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association Friday, April 20, 2018. Launch slideshow »

With April 20 — 420 if you’re so inclined — just days away, Mike Pizzo surveyed the scene at Reef Dispensaries on Western Avenue.

To a first-time customer, it might have seemed like a busy afternoon, with people coming and going, peppering staff with questions and grooving to Donald Glover’s R&B hit “Redbone” on the sound system. To Pizzo, it was the calm before the storm.

“Tuesday is actually our slowest day,” said Pizzo, marketing content manager for Reef’s parent firm, Tryke Companies. “This is kind of chill, but it’s going to be crazy on Saturday.”

That’s because Saturday is the unofficial 420 marijuana holiday, a day when weed aficionados celebrate all things cannabis.

Valley dispensaries, which started serving up legal recreational marijuana in July 2017, are expected to be slammed. “The line was out the door last year,” Pizzo noted.

It is “definitely the Black Friday of the industry,” said Armen Yemenidjian, CEO of Essence Cannabis Dispensaries. “It also pays homage to the culture that has moved the cannabis industry forward for the past couple of decades. 420 has been adopted by the mainstream and used as a symbol for cannabis.”

The exact origin of 420 is a bit fuzzy.

Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, said many people believe it was a code used by some police departments to denote marijuana possession.

Another popular story revolves around a group of pot-smoking California teens — the Waldos crew — in the 1970s who would meet at 4:20 p.m. to search for a legendary abandoned marijuana crop and later used 420 as slang for getting high.

Regardless of the origin, it is now “one of the biggest days in the cannabis industry,” said Tiffany Hoven, director of operations for the Grove dispensary.

“Even my mother knows what 420 is, and she’s never smoked a joint in her life,” Hoven said. “A wide variety of people are dropping the negative stigma of marijuana and celebrating 420 in this counterculture holiday.”

As one might imagine, most dispensaries are offering specials and deals to mark the day. Through Saturday, Essence is offering Desert Grown Farms half-ounces for $50 and two-for-one deals on Wyld gummies.

MedMen’s Paradise Road store will be open for 24 hours straight on Saturday and will offer 30 percent off on all items from midnight until 10 a.m.

On the west side of Las Vegas, the Source dispensary will host a mini block party with specials and live entertainment at its South Rainbow Boulevard store.

Hoven said the Grove doesn’t make an outrageous profit from 420, but the marketing reach of the holiday is worth its weight in Diamond Dust OG.

“My Las Vegas store sales are almost 90 percent tourism based,” Hoven said. “We mark down everything in our store, especially our own in-house products, but we probably give away more than we actually make on 420 because we’re celebrating this cannabis culture with our customers. What we’re doing is asking customers to join in on this beautiful cannabis holiday.”

On Saturday, the Grove dispensary on South Swenson Street — it is also celebrating its three-year anniversary — will have raffles, giveaways, food and music. The store is open around the clock.

Even some non-marijuana businesses are getting in on the action. On Saturday, ride-hailing service Lyft, in conjunction with Essence, will offer $4.20 off a ride anywhere in Las Vegas. Customers must use the code “RIDESMART420.”

With pushes by more and more states to legalize recreational marijuana — and 10 legal states already reaping the tax revenue benefits — social acceptance of pot is evolving.

It “has snowballed and become an avalanche,” Yemenidjian said. “I would not have thought five years ago that we would have come to the point where we’re having legitimate conversations about cannabis legalization at the federal level. I believe we’re at a point now where Donald Trump will be the last U.S. president to oppose cannabis.”