LAS VEGAS - Recreational marijuana sales have exceeded the expectations of Las Vegas area store owners, who have seen long lines outside their dispensaries since Saturday, when Nevada became the fifth state with shops selling pot to the public.
That move jumpstarted a market projected to be fueled by the tens of millions of visitors that Sin City welcomes each year.
Eager pot customers on Monday again lined up before dispensaries opened their doors. Some were looking to make their first purchase since Saturday, and others were shopping for seconds. Tourists and locals alike have taken advantage of the change in state law.
"I'm a very happy with the way sales have gone and continue to go, especially when you consider that the word didn't really get out ahead of time." said Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association and a store owner. "The public really only had a couple of weeks' notice, whereas Colorado had a full year to prepare."
Nevada voters approved legalizing recreational pot in November, but regulations needed before the sales could start weren't approved until the past two weeks. The state later this week will release a report regarding the unannounced enforcement inspections that were conducted Saturday at dispensaries across the state.
The demand for recreational marijuana has been such that dispensaries had to turn away customers in line over the weekend, and at least one extended its hours of operation. Dispensaries reported wait times of 45 minutes to an hour Saturday afternoon and up to 20 minutes Sunday.
The Euphoria Wellness dispensary had 50 people waiting to make purchases midmorning Monday. Its marketing coordinator, Jim Ferrence, said budtenders helped at least 1,000 customers during the first two days of legal recreational pot sales.
Customers on average bought a quarter of an ounce of marijuana flowers and a sampling of various edibles and concentrates, Ferrence said. "Everyone was calm, cool and collected. No unruly crowds at all," he said.
Those 21 and older with a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of pot. As of Friday, the state had licensed 44 dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana. Thirty-nine of those shops are in the Las Vegas area.
More than 42 million tourists flock for business and pleasure to Las Vegas every year. They along with visitors to the rest of Nevada are expected to make nearly two of every three recreational pot purchases in the state.
But people can only use the drug in a private home as it remains illegal to consume it in public, including the Strip, hotels and casinos. Violators face a misdemeanor citation and a $600 fine.
Fifteen tourists on Monday hopped on a bus for a three-hour tour of dispensaries in the Las Vegas area. The "Cannabus" took the visitors to two stores with whom they have an agreement to allow riders to skip the lines.
The recreational marijuana sales did not cause Las Vegas police a headache over the weekend. The department did not deploy additional officers and does not track misdemeanor citations, Officer Larry Hadfield on Monday said.
"It was business as usual," he said. "Everything went smooth as far as we can tell."
The state stands to earn millions from the sales of recreational marijuana, but the tax collection data won't be available for several weeks.
Nevada joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in allowing adults to buy the drug that's still banned by the federal government. The market in the Silver State is expected to outpace all others in the U.S., at least until California starts its sales.
"With all due respect to Denver, Seattle, and Portland, Las Vegas is already the party capital of the world, and this is just an extension of that," Ferrence said. "There's no question that the demand is ever going to relent."