1 year later, Washoe Valley dispensary offers window into Nevada’s budding cannabis industry
WASHOE CITY, Nev. — Ed Alexander had a vision.
A fourth generation Nevadan, cannabis activist and Deadhead, Alexander had dreams of opening a dispensary in his home state that was “warm and inviting,” championed the performing arts and propped up local nonprofits. What’s more, he wanted a facility that enabled him to grow marijuana on site.
Due to the size of his vision, Alexander, a Spanish Springs resident, knew finding space to plant a facility in Reno or Sparks would be next to impossible. So he found a patch of land in Washoe Valley, tucked between Reno and Carson City, at 275 US-395 ALT, in New Washoe City.
Years later, on Oct. 26, 2018, SoL Cannabis came to fruition. More than a dispensary that sells cannabis products, SoL houses a greenhouse, commercial kitchen and extraction lab.
In fact, if you’ve ever wanted a window — literally — into Nevada’s budding cannabis industry, look no further than SoL.
GETTING A PEEK
The 8,000-square-foot dispensary includes a lobby area with a wall of windows, offering customers expansive views of the 30 strains of marijuana growing in a 25,000-square-foot greenhouse. Moreover, SoL’s extraction lab and kitchen are surrounded by glass, offering visitors a view of how their products are made.
“Our mantra is about complete transparency,” says Alexander, gazing at his crop of sun-kissed cannabis plants on a Monday morning in late October. “We want people to see it’s just a plant that’s being cultivated under the sun in organic soil.”
All told, Alexander and his team lobbied the state of Nevada for roughly eight months to allow viewing windows into the facility’s cultivation and production spaces. It’s about as up-close-and-personal as cannabis consumers can get with a legal grow operation in Nevada — or anywhere, according to Alexander.
“From our standpoint, we understand that not a lot of people have seen cannabis being cultivated,” said Alexander, noting the greenhouse has the capacity to produce in excess of 3,000 pounds of marijuana annually. “That’s the reason we lobbied the state to allow us to put the windows in place. When people come down, they’re able to see the plants growing in front of them that they may end up at some point consuming.”
SoL’s use of a greenhouse was also fueled by the company’s commitment to being “good stewards of the land,” said Alexander. He added: “We believe that with the full spectrum of the sun, you get a higher quality product, and you have a much lower environmental footprint.”
‘AN INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT’
Inside SoL’s open and spacious dispensary, an array of products — flower, pre-rolls, edibles, cartridges, CBD tinctures and more — hang on walls, sit on shelves and lie under glass.
To simplify the shopping experience, SoL labels each product with one of four different icons: Charge (sativa), Compose (sativa dominant hybrid), Connect (indica dominant hybrid) and Calm (indica).
Since opening a year ago, SoL’s customer base has grown about 25 percent each month, Alexander said.
“We have people that travel from as far away as Elko,” Alexander said. “We have customers from 21-year-olds to 90-year-olds … we’re a very inclusive environment.”
Alexander said SoL prides itself on being “very medicinally-minded” and making its customers feel “more informed about cannabis” when they leave.
‘A COMMUNITY CENTER’
Inside SoL, the company’s connection to music is also on display: guitars signed by the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and country music legend Willie Nelson on the walls; Dead-inspired swag on shelves; an a 2,500-square-foot deck outside that holds a summer music series.
Moreover, in September, SoL created a musical instrument drive for O’Brien Middle School in Stead.
“We believe that cannabis and the performing arts walk hand-in-hand,” Alexander said. “What we want to make it more of a community center that just so happens to provide marijuana and CD products. We’re really try to change the perception and some of the stereotypes associated with the industry.”
To that end, Alexander said SoL tries to bring in a local nonprofit to highlight every Saturday during its music series. In the past, SoL has promoted nonprofits such as the High Fives Foundation, My Hometown Heroes and For the Kids Foundation, among others.
“We’re trying to be conscious capitalists,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure that as we benefit from this platform, the local community benefits and the nonprofits benefit. It’s a platform where nonprofits can spread their message.”
Recently, SoL celebrated its one-year anniversary by hosting its second annual “Harvestfest,” an event for those 21 and older that included live music, food and more, in late October.
With a year in the books, Alexander said he has even grander plans for the Washoe Valley dispensary.
“As we move forward, we’re going to focus on combining entertainment with a culinary experience with the cannabis experience,” he said. “Similar to a vineyard in Napa. We want people to have an all-encompassing experience as opposed to just a transactional experience.”
First, the state of Nevada has to OK cannabis consumption lounges, which won’t happen for at least two years. In June 2019, the Nevada Legislature adopted a bill that delays the opening of any legal cannabis venues until at least July 2021.
Still, Alexander feels the evolution of Nevada’s fast-growing cannabis industry will lead to lounges eventually being allowed in the Silver State “hopefully in the not too distant future,” he said.
As of April 7, Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks received over 350 complaints about non-essential businesses remaining open. Compliance staff is investigating and giving initial courtesy notices — no citations have yet been given.