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Las Vegas Businesses Growing Around Medical Marijuana

The first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state of Nevada in Sparks.
Associated Press

The first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state of Nevada in Sparks.

Nevadans voted overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana in 2000, but it took 15 years for the first dispensary to open. In the year since, though, the industry has made up for lost time.

Today the state has 22 dispensaries, the bulk in Southern Nevada. More than 15,000 Nevadans have been issued medical marijuana cards, and of them, 10,000 live in Clark County.

Those number have not been lost on those looking to build businesses around this growing industry and reach those thousands of medical marijuana patients.

The one-year anniversary of Las Vegas-based Elevate Nevada magazine is full of ads, including many from companies such as car dealers and restaurants that have nothing to do with marijuana.

Guy Bertuzzi is the publisher of Elevate Nevada magazine. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that his publication was the first medical marijuana magazine in the country to feature ads from from car dealerships and restaurants.

As for the stigma that once surrounded marijuana, Bertuzzi believes it has eroded, some what.

“People don’t even realize that it is preventative medicine but they still see it as reefer madness," he said, "They think it is a hallucinogenic, when it’s not.”

Jo Cato is a longtime public relations and government affairs consultant, but next month, her magazine Pulse will hit stands.

Cato said, like Elevate Nevada, Pulse will focus on the medical benefits of marijuana. However, the publication will focus specifically on the African-American and Hispanic communities in Southern Nevada.

“I felt that having the information for them from a trusted voice in the community that they will use the publication for information,” Cato said.

She said her magazine has received a lot of support from advertisers.

“A lot of advertisers believed in our publication and have come on board for our inaugural issue next month,” Cato said.

Both Bertuzzi and Cato believe if adult use of recreational marijuana is approved in November, it won't change their content, but it will improve their businesses because growers, distributors and dispensaries will have more money.

Former assemblyman Pat Hickey doesn't disagree that there is certainly business to come from legalized and regulated recreational marijuana, but he thinks it will hurt jobs in Nevada.

He said that in Colorado and Washington companies from technology firms to construction companies are struggling to find people who can pass a drug test. According to Hickey, companies are having to go out of state to find workers.

“I don’t think it is plus,” he said.

Hickey is also worried that the state will not have the time it needs to establish all the rules and regulations for legalized recreational use.

“The state is ill prepared to go down this road this quickly,” he said.


Guy Bertuzzi, publisher, Elevate magazine;  Jo Cato, public relations and government affairs consultant, Pulse, publisher

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.