Sparks’ newest cannabis shop is the family business
June 5, 2017
Washoe County's 10th medical cannabis dispensary is a family venture.
Greenleaf Wellness, owned and operated by Spike Duque and his adult children Steve Duque and Tammy Kolvet, opened quietly last month on the corner of Rock Boulevard and Greg Street.
Spike Duque is the president of the company. Steve Duque is co-vice president in charge of operations at the dispensary, with Kolvet serving as co-vice president managing the cultivation and compliance aspects of the enterprise.
"We're very proud that this is family owned and operated," said Steve Duque, who is the fourth generation of the family born in Nevada.
"Father is very entrepreneurial," he said during an interview at the Greenleaf dispensary.
The Duque family has pursued a number of business ventures, including Castaway Trash, which they sold to Waste Management in 2013.
Looking for another venture, the Duques started researching the cannabis industry after seeing the medical benefits first hand.
A family member suffered from extensive nerve damage following thoracic surgery and was in and out of the hospital, Steve Duque explained. A friend introduced the family member to cannabis treatment.
"We truly saw how life changing it can be," he said. Since starting treatment with cannabis, the family member "has not been back to the hospital, not even had an MRI or CT scan."
Nevertheless, it took a little time to enter the cannabis business.
During the first wave of licensing, Washoe County received 10 allocations for medical dispensaries from the state of Nevada. Five of those were allocated to Reno; two to Sparks; and three to unincorporated areas.
"For the allotted two to the City of Sparks, we placed third," Steve Duque said. "We lost by one-quarter point out of 200 points."
The Duques did receive a provisional certificate for cultivation, which required activation within 18 months of receipt or loss of the certification.
To preserve their provisional certificate for cultivation, they got that piece up and running first.
In the next round of certifications, the licenses that were originally allotted to rural areas that had chosen not to allow cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions were redistributed.
That time, Greenleaf was at the top of the list for licenses re-allotted to Sparks.
The Duques were ready. They found a former Wendy's restaurant, just a few blocks from their cultivation facility, that met the extensive criteria required by the state.
That was only the start.
Those who enter the cannabis industry must be ready to jump through many legal hoops in terms of paperwork, security clearance and security equipment, Steve Duque explained
Everyone who works for the company has to be fingerprinted, photographed, and given a background check.
"It's crazy," he added. "We have to have special locks and special keys that can only be made by one guy in the city of Reno."
The customers at a medical marijuana dispensary also receive extra scrutiny.
"When a patient comes in, we look them up in the system (to confirm) what their allotment is," Steve Duque said.
The security room has a screen of about a dozen video feeds from throughout the dispensary, including three cameras showing different angels in the tiny patient check-in room. The video is high definition at a resolution of 1080 pixals. That's not only for clear views for members of Greenleaf's security, but also for the State of Nevada and City of Sparks. Both jurisdictions can view the live feeds to spot check security, he said.
Remodeling the old Wendy's building involved a lot more than paint and fixtures. Installation of ballistic paneling was required to keep employees and patients safe.
As a medical facility, the storage areas require nonporous surfaces, a blend between a hospital and restaurant, he said. Everyone handling product is required to wear gloves and a hairnet, which are replaced every time they handle a different lot — even if it's from the same product.
To keep up with state regulations and inspectors, inventory is counted numerous times in numerous ways.
"It has to be exactly, perfectly accurate," Steve Duque said. "Quality control (in the industry) is second to none."
Inventory is counted at every stage of its handling plus 20 percent is spot checked on a daily basis.
"With the systems we have in place, not only can I come back and check, but the state can pull up my reports remotely."
When an auditor makes a personal inspection, inventory is expected to exactly match what's recorded.
"It's very robust as far as auditing," he said. "If someone is trying to be less than respectable, the state will catch them."
While the Duque family is currently focused on getting its medical cannabis operations in full gear, they are also looking ahead to selling recreational marijuana.
"We have filed our application (for recreational sales) with the Department of Taxation," Steve Duque said in a follow up phone interview.
Although the state will allow recreational sales from dispensaries beginning July 1, he said those in the City of Sparks will be 10 to 14 days later. Aspects of the city charter require public notices that require more time.
"The City of Sparks supports us," he said, "but they want to be sure everything is done correctly; by the book."