Did you know that a new stadium is being built in Las Vegas for an actual NFL football team? Frank Hawkins, a former Oakland Raider, did not know that when he setup the first medical marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, the Nevada Wellness Center. Not only did he not know that the NFL was coming to the strip, he did not know it would be an Oakland Raider uniform that he would be seing. Do you think the legendary player will take full advantage of his time on the team to market his dispensary?
LAS VEGAS—The display case just inside the front door is filled with the kind of stuff you would find at any sports memorabilia store. Frank Hawkins used to run interference for Marcus Allen back in the day, and there are plenty of signed footballs and pictures of No. 27 in silver and black.
There’s a picture of Hawkins with a former governor of Nevada, and a drawing of the late Raiders owner Al Davis with signatures from players on it. Next to them is a team photo from 1983, and a championship banner with the result of that season’s Super Bowl: Raiders 38, Redskins 9.
A few metres to the left is what is called the “smell room,” one of many signs that this is no memorabilia shop.
Everyone who enters is greeted by a smiling man with a question:
Medical or recreational?
Hawkins didn’t set out to be in the marijuana business in the town where he grew up and later became a city councilman. He resisted it at first, mostly because he says he doesn’t smoke the stuff.
Now he sits in a back office at Nevada Wellness Center just a few blocks from the glittering Las Vegas Strip, amid strains of marijuana with names like Devil’s Lettuce, Silver Back Gorilla and Black Afghan.
It’s all legal in a city where almost everything goes. But Hawkins — who opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in town — says it hasn’t been easy.
“We started out losing $50,000 a month,” Hawkins said. “We suffered for a long time.”
That changed on July 1 when Nevada became the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Marijuana shops, which had been competing for a few thousand customers who had medical marijuana cards, could now sell to anyone — including tourists — over the age of 21.
That meant long lines on opening night at the shop Hawkins owns with two partners. It also meant a lot of cash in an industry where, as the sign in the lobby tells customers, business is all conducted in cash.
Things were slower on a recent summer afternoon, when only a few customers came in and headed to the smell room to get a whiff of what they might buy.
“Back when I was growing up marijuana was a bad word,” Hawkins says. “Now it’s a household name.”