Reno legal marijuana customers show ‘a touch of gray, dispensary owner and deputy police chief say

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By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

Some of the best customers for legal, recreational marijuana in Nevada are from the older generation, said well-known Reno cannabis investor Fernando Leal, owner of marijuana dispensaries in Reno and Carson City.

“I can tell you that our market is not people who are turning 21, like people would think of with alcohol,” Leal said on Nevada Newsmakers. “For our average customer, 60 percent of our customers are over the age of 40 and these are people that may have dabbled with marijuana in school or previously and now are really trying to study and understand the benefits of cannabis.”

Mac Venzon, Reno’s deputy chief, agrees Reno’s pot customers have a touch of gray.

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“I think you have some folks who are willing to try it and see if they like it,” Venzon said in a Nevada Newsmakers interview earlier this month. “Maybe they used marijuana when they were younger, 30 or 40 years ago and now what to go back and try. I think that is part of the market.”

Many older customers buy marijuana to help with health issues rather than to just get high, said Leal, also managing partner and owner of the Marriott Renaissance resort in downtown Reno, formerly know as the Siena.

“(I am) an absolute advocate and believer that there are a lot of purposes,” Leal said about marijuana, adding he was skeptical about pot when first approached about investing by a group that included the late Joe Crowley, former president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

“Let me be very straightforward. I didn’t understand. I thought medicinal and cannabis was an oxymoron and that was 2 1/2 years ago,” Leal said. “Now, we see well over 1,000 people (daily) at our two dispensaries. And I think recreational access has done more for medicinal use than the medical card program could have ever hoped to do.

“I am reluctant to use the term medicinal because I never want to speak of things I do not know,” Leal said. “But I do know that it affects people in many, many ways and we’re witness to it hundreds of times a day.”

Older people also like the idea of not having to deal with an illegal source of supply, Venzon said.

“A lot of it is, yeah it is legal now and I don’t need to go to a black market source,” Venzon said. “Rather I can go to a dispensary and do everything above board. OK, it costs a little more.”

Leal is considered a pioneer in development of downtown Reno, first completing the Montage, a high-end condominium tower, in 2008.

“I believe Reno is well on its way to being what I consider the Austin, Texas of the west,” he said. “It is a very progressive community.”

Watch this episode of Nevada Newsmakers here.

See the upcoming schedule for Nevada Newsmakers here.

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