Medical marijuana: NuLeaf official talks plans for Incline Village dispensary
Incline Village community members share concerns with medical marijuana dispensary plans.
Visit mybpg.com to read more about the Berkeley Patients Group (through which NuLeaf is affiliated), which is considered the nation’s longest continuously operating medical cannabis dispensary.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza sat down with NuLeaf Chief Operating Officer Sean Luse this week to talk about the company’s plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Incline Village at 877 Tahoe Blvd.
Below is the full interview:
Margaret Moran: Can you tell me a bit about NuLeaf?
Luse: NuLeaf is a joint project with Berkeley Patients Group, a company I’ve been with for the last 10 years. We’re highly successful and well regarded operators in California, and we brought our expertise to Nevada. We’ve teamed up with upstanding members of the community here across the state from both Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada to really create what we feel is this ideal sort of dream team for this business. Our local partners have the community connections, the ties, the longstanding history here and the capital, and then we’ve brought in our operational expertise and our standing and our knowledge of the industry, and we brought that all together to form this new project in Nevada.
Moran: Why did NuLeaf decide to come to Northern Nevada?
Luse: I think it was a combination of the fact that some of our partners here in Nevada have deep ties to this community here in Washoe County. … They’ve grown up and lived here basically their entire lives, and so, they obviously care a lot about this community, know a lot about this community. As we were talking about where to site these businesses, this was at the top of their priority. Then there’s also an unserved community here. There are medical marijuana patients that live in Incline and live all around the lake that previously didn’t have access to this medicine. For us, that was our primary objective — to serve that underserved community.
As much as you (hear) the vocal opposition from people saying this is going to ruin Incline, we’re also getting communications, calls, emails saying, ‘… Finally someone is going to bring this to me. I don’t want to deal with a delivery service out of Truckee, or I don’t feel comfortable having them come to my house. I don’t want to have to drive over the pass when it’s snowing. I want this in Incline.’ Those people are certainly here. They’re not as vocal as the group opposing our efforts, but they’re here.
Moran: Why did NuLeaf select the 877 Tahoe Blvd. location? What criteria does that site meet?
Luse: We chose that location because of its transportation access. You can get there easily in your vehicle. You can even take a bus there. It’s got parking onsite, which is convenient for patients, as well as good for security. … One thing that we always feel really strongly about is to have good security measures and protocols. You’re best served with a standalone building. We didn’t want to be in a strip mall and have to shared walls and neighbors. … (Also) it meets all the state’s requirements in terms of being proper distance from sensitive uses. I think it’ll work well for the community.
Moran: Some concerns I’ve heard regarding that location is it’s close to an ice cream and toy shop, meaning youth might be exposed to marijuana. What response does NuLeaf have to those concerns?
Luse: The way that we will design and run this facility is children won’t be exposed to marijuana. You won’t see flashing pot leafs on the windows. In contrast, you walk by the liquor store down the block and you see BudLight signs and Budweiser signs and these big neon signs advertising those products, but that’s not the way that we’ll conduct business. We’ll be very discrete. … It’s going to blend right into the community.
When you couple that with our operating procedures, even if somebody did say, ‘Hey, this is a dispensary, and I’m curious,’ you don’t just get to walk right in. We’ll have security at the front door, checking IDs, making sure you’re a legitimate medical marijuana patient. So if some teenager or (non cardholder) comes on the property, they would immediately be directed off and sent on their way.
Moran: What security measures will be in place at the proposed dispensary?
Luse: The facility itself has multiple layers of security. We’ll have a very nicely designed wrought-iron fence around the property, so people aren’t just going to accidentally stroll on or drive through, if they shouldn’t be there. We’ll have a comprehensive security cameras all over — inside and outside that building — to keep an eye on things. There will be an alarm system on the building, and then we will have those trained and licensed security guards there.
Of course there’s steps that we take to secure our inventory. Even if you do come inside, it’s not just open bins and piles of medical marijuana. Things are controlled. They are in locked draws. They are in safes. They’re in metal cabinets. There’s a lot of controls there.
We will generally be patrolling and monitoring our parking lot. We’ll have staff out there, so if you don’t have a legitimate reason to be there, you won’t be there. We won’t have loitering, and we won’t have anyone doing anything outside the store. We definitely realize that our security doesn’t start at our front door; it starts outside — it starts in our parking lot, it starts on the block. …
(Also) it’s important to just look at the overall framework of what we’re operating in here. We’re operating in a very tightly regulated environment. We’ve been basically working two years now to go through the state’s vetting and application process and the whole regulatory process, so we have a lot of oversight from the state, from the county. We have a lot rules to follow. We have a lot to lose if we don’t follow those rules, so we have a lot of incentives to make sure we run a very tightly controlled operation, and we will.
Moran: Some are concerned such business will attract crime … such as theft due to it being a cash business, and loitering — what will NuLeaf do to ensure security?
Luse: I think that our experience really shows us that we have the opposite effect. When you have a well run business with good security features with cameras and a security guard, you really act as a deterrent, not an attractant. You don’t attract crime — you deter crime. What we’ve seen in other communities is that the surrounding businesses really benefit from our presence and our activity.
Moran: Others have questioned NuLeaf’s decision to place a dispensary in Incline, versus a larger city such as Reno and Carson City, where there may be greater need. Why does NuLeaf see a need here?
Luse: If you wanted to make the most money and have the highest grossing store, you would probably put it right in downtown Reno next to the convention center and ball park, but we’re not primarily motivated for money. NuLeaf has been doing this for more than 15 years. We do this because we believe in medical marijuana, and we believe that people have the right to access it.
There is a community here of people who need this medicine, and we believe that access should be local. Just like no one wants to drive over to Reno to go to the pharmacy; they don’t want to drive to Reno to go to their dispensary. … Obviously, this isn’t the biggest community of patients here, but they certainly exist, and we believe there’s enough to sustain our small store.
Moran: Can you provide a rough estimate of the number of people you anticipate to use the store?
Luse: It’s tough to say because the state (cardholder) numbers break down by county, but they don’t get so specific as this jurisdiction. I would say my estimates are roughly characterized as hundreds. … It’s not easy to get a medical marijuana card in Nevada. You have to go through a fairly rigorous process of getting an appointment with a doctor who will sign off on it, then sending your paperwork into the state. That all costs money, too.
A lot of people I think have been waiting to actually have a source, and now that dispensaries are starting to open, you are seeing those (cardholder) numbers grow pretty aggressively. … So I do think that there are people who are sort of on the sidelines just waiting for it to actually be accessible, and then they’ll try this treatment option.
Moran: Will cardholders from other states be accepted, since Lake Tahoe is a destination area?
Luse: Yes, Nevada does allow for reciprocity, so if you have the authorization in another state, you can use it here.
Moran: Do you hope that allowance will supplement or add to the dispensary’s client base?
Luse: We’re not counting on it, but obviously if you’re here visiting and you need medical marijuana, we’re going to be happy to provide it. Yet I don’t think that we’re going to be a tourist destination. Someone is not going to plan their trip or drive hours or fly here because there is a medical marijuana dispensary.
Moran: Who does NuLeaf hope to help/serve in the community?
Luse: On a daily basis in our dispensaries we see people who are helped immensely by medical cannabis. It’s really a wide variety of aliments that are treated. We certainly see a lot of people getting symptom relief from cancer treatment, the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation. It deals with nausea and lack of appetite. We’re seeing a growing field of application of CBD (cannabidiol), which is one particular chemical within marijuana. CBD has been shown to be really great for inflammation and seizure disorders. … It’s really a wide variety.
I think the thing to remember (is) that these are all people who are working with a physician who agrees and signs off that yes, this is a treatment you should try. It’s not just (done) willy-nilly. … It’s definitely a process. You have to work closely with a doctor to get this authorization, so it’s going to the right people that need it.
Moran: Another concern is the shop will negatively impact home values and the general character of the community. How does NuLeaf respond to such concerns?
Luse: I think we have a very good looking piece of property that’s going to fit in with this mountain town and really look like it should. (It’ll) look like high quality, look classy, look clean and well put-together. I don’t think we are going to change the character in any way. Our goal is to really blend in and embody that Tahoe character.
In terms of property values, I don’t think there is any basis for that. I have never heard that claim made by any research or any Realtor associations. I think in this day and age when you have a (voting) population that supports medical marijuana like it does in Incline, like it does in Nevada, people aren’t going to consider it a black mark on this community that there’s a dispensary. Ultimately, if you are not looking for it, you’re not even going to know its (here) because we don’t have that blatant in-you-face style. Most people will probably never know we exist unless they need to know.
Moran: What is NuLeaf doing to prepare 877 Tahoe Blvd. for the dispensary, and what remains/needs to be done to open?
Luse: We’re involved in our buildout phase right now. We have our building permits, and we’re in there on a regular basis doing the improvements to the facility. Basically, for us, it’s a lot of moving around walls, … it’s add(ing) security — installing all those security systems and cameras and then the vault for product. Then it’s putting a new coat of paint on it and a new shine to make it look like a nice facility.
We have to finish construction, and then get through all of your standard building department inspections and fire department sign-offs. Then, once we have our occupancy permit there, the county will issue our business license. We have a business license application on file, but they don’t issue that until you finish your building and get all of the sign-offs there. … Then (we’ll) do our final state inspection. We’ll have to have the health department come through there and make sure we’re following the rules, and we’ve got everything up to code. Once they see that, we’ll be able to open for business.
Moran: Is there a certain timeframe NuLeaf hopes to open the dispensary?
Luse: It’s a bit of a moving target. We don’t control everything with all these different inspections and things like that, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s a spring opening, something probably (in) April, give or take a couple weeks there.
Moran: Does NuLeaf have any concerns that local residents will delay or halt the dispensary from opening?
Luse: We take the community concerns and objections very seriously, and we’re engaging on a basically daily basis through our work and emails and phone calls and meetings. We’re deeply engaged in order to (address) any fears and figure out how to make this work for this community. We are optimistic we’re going to figure this out and begin to serve the medical marijuana patients of Incline Village very soon here.