RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- As we rang in 2014, two Western states became the first in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Nevada is gearing up to have legal dispensaries for medical marijuana, but could we be on the path to allowing recreational use?
Adam Bierman thinks we are. "I think you'll see Nevada go recreational, I think you'll see Arizona go recreational, I know California will go recreational in the next five years."
Bierman is part of a growing industry. His company called MedMen is a consulting and marketing firm for those who want to set up shop in the marijuana dispensary business. "MedMen helps people with no background in the business."
He says moving Nevada toward a recreational pot state will be a process. The key is to get businesses, politicians and the public used to the idea. "I think it's inevitable. I think as all these states that have medical marijuana programs look at the 2 states that have recreational programs, the state of Washington and Colorado and they see the success that is being had there, I think it's a natural transition."
Success is being measured in Colorado by the other kind of green: money. In the state's opening week, there were $5 million in taxable sales of marijuana and it's projected to hit $70 million in the first year.
"The demand for marijuana is there," Bierman said. "We're not talking about taking a new substance and saying we are going to introduce it to these communities."
A bill legalizing recreational marijuana in the Nevada Assembly failed, but a recent poll of voters found 56% would favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, if the money raised went to fund education in Nevada.
The economic boost is attractive to local governments, as well. "So the city will say 'hey, this is a rundown part of the community, we'll zone out these so you have an influx of capital, people spending and investing money, they are are investing in jobs, so people now have a place to work.'"
Bierman also points out that regulating an already-used drug makes safety sense, too. "Those people who were buying pot off the streets now get to walk into a facility, protected by cameras, security, and there's testing of the product as mandated by state. So they know what they are putting in their bodies. It's a vast improvement over what is going on now."
But not everyone is as focused on the positives of pot. State Senator Greg Brower says he's opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. "Increasing access to what is generally considered by medical experts as a dangerous drug seems to me to be the wrong policy decision."
A physician representing Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians also is cautious. "I am concerned legitimately like everyone else in law enforcement, including that we may see a spike in usage, if we go to legalization." said Dr. Bret Frey.
Frey says if pot is legalized for recreational use like any other drug, legal or not, a big effort needs to be made to keep it out of the hands of children. "It can be quite dangerous in terms of diminishing their ability to breathe well. Certainly makes it difficult to rouse them, not going to be walking well, talking very well. Some of these central nervous system effects are easily seen."
In the emergency room, Frey sees a lot more injuries due to alcohol than pot, but is concerned about the effects on young people's mental health. "With legalization, you may see increased usage that, of course, leads to not being as motivated as you used to be on a regular basis. You may suffer if you are a teenager and suffer some long-term cognitive impairment, if they are using all the time."
The Justice Department has made it clear that federal policy is being changed to allow banks to do business with state-sanctioned dispensaries and Bierman says it is just part of the shift that is happening. "I think we are going to see a green rush here. Not today, but maybe tomorrow."
The latest wrinkle for Nevada in getting medical marijuana dispensaries open is the pressure attorneys are feeling about possibly violating their ethics rules with the Nevada Bar Association if they help anyone or any local government to set up a marijuana dispensary.
The Nevada Bar is expected to give an opinion towards the end of this month and then the issue will most likely go before the Nevada Supreme Court.