(David McNew/Getty Images)
Understand that Las Vegas is not the town it claims to be.
If you’re an adult in Las Vegas, you can do almost anything. On the strip, you can smoke, drink, and gamble. Drive an hour in one direction, and you can fire heavy weapons, legally. Drive an hour in another direction, and you can pay for sex, legally. But if what helps you relax is a prescribed dose of medicinal marijuana, you’re out of luck.
Despite being legalized over 15 years ago in Nevada, medicinal marijuana is still largely unavailable. There’s plenty of demand; the issue is supply. Opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas is nearly as difficult as breaking ground on a new casino. Applicants need to attend countless hearings and have enough money to prove opening a storefront to be viable, a powerful attorney, state and city approvals, and zero demerits that could compromise their perceived integrity. A couple city council connections help, too.
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The spectacular gamble of Desert Aire Wellness
The five women who are now establishing Desert Aire Wellness — what could be the first all-women-run marijuana dispensary in the state — had none of that. They met less than a year ago at City Hall public forums, each driven to launch the business for their own personal reasons. In order to compete for a highly coveted license, they needed a seat at the table, and to do that, they needed to come together and put down all their chips.
In June 2014, the women wrote a $100,000 check to local lawyer Jay Brown. He was out of their price range, but he was and is one of the city’s most respected attorneys, a close friend of local and national politicians alike. That’s who they needed: someone known for spending dozens of hours — in the matter of dispensary applications, nearly twice that of any other lawyer — lobbying for his clients in the crucial local votes. They were convinced Jay Brown, and Jay Brown alone, would give them their best shot at a dispensary license.
Jay Brown, on the other hand, was less convinced. Susan Lera, one of the company’s founders, recently recalled Brown’s final words before they handed him the check: “He looked at us and said, ‘Ladies, you have a …Read More