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Is Nevada's Cannabis Industry Mainstream?

A man prunes a marijuana plant at a cannabis growing center.
Paul Boger
KUNR Public Radio
A Sierra Well employee tends to hundreds of marijuana plants at the company's cultivation facility in Reno.

Nevada has brought in close to $200 million from recreational cannabis sales over the last three years. While it may seem the industry has become more mainstream across the state, there are still questions about its future. KUNR's Paul Boger spoke to The Nevada Independent's Michelle Rindels, who recently wrote a series diving into the state's legal weed market.

“I think there was maybe more of an expectation it'd be more of a homegrown industry with local faces,” Rindels said. “I mean, it was for a bit, but now you've got a lot of professionals that are in this industry and are kind of taking the reins... just because of the super high barriers for entry. You had to have a ton of cash on hand to even get in, and you had to demonstrate all this community service or previous tax payments to the state. It just was a system that kind of favored wealthy business people that had already been established and wasn't just for this hopeful entrepreneur.” 

Rindels said part of that may be due to the high cost associated with keeping up with regulations.

“I think it's shown itself to be a lot more challenging than some people thought,” she said. “The fact that Nevada limits the amount of licenses can really make or break a business. Then you've got these more professional companies, [and] it's kind of a dog-eat-dog world out there where not everybody is going to survive. Some folks are going to get bought out and acquired and just not really be able to compete with these super professional companies.”

There has also been a move within the cannabis industry toward a more corporate structure, but Rindels said there are still significant systemic issues with that goal.

“I think some of these big corporations are planning to take over and have multi-state chains [with a] hundred-plus locations, almost like any old retail chain,” she said, “ I think some folks are dreaming of that. Obviously, there's a lot of barriers. You can't move cannabis from Nevada to any other state. These barriers on interstate commerce are stunting that growth.”

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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