For the past five years, the Nevada Dispensary Association (NDA) has represented the majority of cannabis dispensaries in the state through its work performing public outreach, assisting with government affairs issues, providing educational resources and generally encouraging a more cohesive industry.
Now, as the state’s cannabis retailers face challenges stemming from constantly evolving regulations and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has appointed a new executive director, Layke Martin, who previously served as the former assistant dean for external relations at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) William S. Boyd School of Law.
“We’re extremely fortunate and excited to work with Ms. Martin, [and] we’re continuing in our upward professional and sophisticated path,” NDA President Tisha Black tells Cannabis Dispensary.
Here, Martin and Black provide insight into the current challenges facing the state’s dispensaries, as well as the organization’s goals following Martin’s recent appointment.
Cannabis Dispensary: Layke, can you describe your background and how this past experience will complement your new role as NDA’s executive director?
Layke Martin: I am a lawyer, as well as a professor. I’ve spent the last decade working in higher education at the law school at UNLV, as well as at the school of public policy. In my role at the law school, I oversaw a lot of our external relationships, managing relationships with donors, alumni, judges and legal employers, as well as overseeing our communications [and] marketing.
I think all of that very much ties into what this organization provides in terms of service to its members, making sure that we’re providing clear communications [and] updated information to our members, as well as developing information resources. I have a lot of background in that, and we’re very much interested in expanding our education and training program for our members. Of course, to tie it all together, the legal background helps because this is a highly regulated industry.
CD: What is the NDA’s role in Nevada’s cannabis industry? How does it help support the state’s dispensaries?
LM: NDA represents most of the dispensaries in Nevada, and we concentrate our main efforts on cannabis industry advocacy, government affairs and education. We coordinate government affairs efforts among our association members and various other stakeholders, and we provide education resources for members [through] online courses [and] policy forums. We aim to be the voice of the industry.
Tisha Black: We were set up over five years ago. We were able to help members of the industry who were just licensed, [who] were within days of just being issued the conditional license awards. We set up the association so that we could all network and collaborate with one another to determine best practices and move forward with transparency as a single voice to the community and the legislative and regulatory bodies that oversee us.
CD: What are some challenges that Nevada’s dispensaries are currently facing, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
TB: I think the No. 1 issue for everybody in cannabis right now is whether or not this is going to be legitimized at the federal level, where it eases banking and [provides] traditional business practices that aren’t available because we don’t have traditional banking. Certainly, marijuana being pulled off Schedule I is always of paramount importance and I think a continuing goal.
Other than that, I think in light of the pandemic, we’re just making sure that our supply chains are intact, that our product is safe and healthy for the community, and that our business partners are not overly taxed or overly regulated to account for some of those financial deficits that some of the counties and states are in.
CD: Where do you see the state’s cannabis industry headed in 2021?
TB: We think that our market is going to continue to be stable and grow at a reasonable pace. We don’t think we’re going to have trajectory-type spikes in new clients and patients, so that’s good.
In the next legislative session, one of the things we’re trying to work toward is getting clarifications on criminal prosecutions, or charges for driving under the influence or driving while impaired. We also want to work toward alleviating some of the shackles placed on those who were convicted of possession or [other] prior crimes who aren’t allowed to work in the industry. In the last legislative session, [lawmakers passed legislation so] you can get those convictions repealed or you can get them exonerated if they were possession amounts that were under what is presently the legal amount, but you still aren’t allowed to work in the industry. We want to move forward along that same path, making sure we have the ability to hire and diversify the population by including those who may have been convicted of prior crimes relating to marijuana.
The landscape in marijuana still changes quite frequently with laws, regulation [and] taxation, so what we’re really trying to do is let the dust settle. It was hard to get to that point in the first place. First, we had [a medical cannabis program]. Then, we had the referendum that gave us [adult-use]. Then, we’ve had, like most states, ongoing litigation over some of the recipients of the conditional licenses. Then, unlike many other states, we’re going to be on our third regulatory body in five years. So, we don’t want to change much. We just want to let things settle, get a good footing, look around and see what happens when we allow things to settle with the market and with this pandemic, and then move forward from there. We’re just hoping that we don’t have a tumultuous year.
CD: What are some of the NDA’s longer- and shorter-term goals as we head into next year?
LM: Some of the things that I’d like to do in the coming year include strengthening our member services, in addition to expanding our education and training program. [This includes] promoting best practices among our members and continuing our advocacy on behalf of the cannabis industry.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.