Navigating Reno-Tahoe’s growing legal recreational cannabis scene

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of Tahoe Magazine. It was first published on this website in August 2018 and is presented in its original form.

With its recent legalization in both California and Nevada, recreational cannabis is becoming more widely accessible throughout the greater Lake Tahoe region. The drug is also offered in a slew of products that go far beyond your typical smokeable options, which can make it tricky to know exactly what you’re looking for if interested in experimenting.

There are several legal (and medical) cannabis dispensaries that operate in North Lake Tahoe and Reno, and the professionals who work there are tasked with helping you decipher what you’ll like — and more importantly, what effects can be expected from ingesting marijuana in various forms.

“There are many misconceptions about consumption, and many people are worried about proper use, so we are here to help and guide,” said Bryan Spicher, processing specialist at NuLeaf Tahoe Marijuana Dispensary, which opened in Incline Village in the summer of 2017.

Spicher has seen firsthand the powerful healing effects that cannabis can have on the body.

“As a cancer survivor, cannabis has changed my life,” he said. “It’s a new age and it is wonderful to see that this plant is finally being embraced throughout our country.”

Over in Reno, MYNT Cannabis Dispensary is among several pot shops in the Biggest Little City — and throughout neighboring Northern Nevada — that have brought medicinal marijuana into the legal mainstream.

Business like MYNT offer all sorts of products, ranging from the traditional flower buds — the stuff you can actually smoke, whether rolled in joint form or packed into a glass bowl or other device — and pre-rolled joints to edibles, drinks, topical balms and lotions, among plenty of other options.

“There is something … for every person, from those who can consume THC to those who are just looking for CBD relief without worry of failing a drug test,” said David Robinson, marketing director of MYNT.

Options aplenty…

So, what exactly is out there in the world of cannabis? Below are a few popular options:


Consuming cannabis in the form of edibles — including candies, gummies, baked goods, chocolates and drinks — provide a long-term effect and are recommended for those needing help falling asleep or looking for all-day pain relief.

A new edible option for cannabis consumers are carbonated and non-carbonated drinks in flavors like berry lemonade and root beer. Contributed Photo: MYNT Cannabis Dispensary

Take caution when ingesting edibles, however, as some can take up to two hours to take effect, depending on the person and the product. Always follow dosage guidelines printed clearly on every package you purchase, and wait the appropriate time before consuming additional portions.

Vaporizer Pens

A more discrete option for smoking cannabis is brought to users by means of the highly popularized “vape” pens, which are easy to use, don’t require any paper or fire and just use a rechargeable battery with a USB port to keep them running.

Vaporizer cartriges are available pre-filled with 100% pure, condensed cannabis oil, which is used with a rechargeable pen. Contributed Photo: MYNT Cannabis Dispensary

These pens vaporize pure oil composed of concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes. The smell is minimal in comparison to smoking marijuana in its flower form, and the pens offer immediate relief of pain and anxiety while also bringing on sleep faster.


People looking to forego consuming cannabis in any shape or form can still find relief from its healing properties through the application of topical balms. Many variations include natural essential oils like peppermint and arnica, mixed with shea butter for quick absorption.

Balms especially help with aches and pains. Customers at MYNT, for example, say they find great relief when used to ease knee, back and joint pain, often experienced from sufferers of arthritis, Robinson said.


Tincture oils are a fast way to get relief and can be easily administered. Those looking to veer away from sugary food and drink or heavier pastries can opt for this method.

Tinctures use a carrier such as alcohol or coconut oil to allow THC or CBD to be absorbed more easily by the body through a sublingual method (under the tongue) of dosing, taking about five minutes to absorb and another 10-15 to take effect, but can also be swallowed right away and used as a traditional edible.

Tinctures are available in pure CBD for pain relief, as an anti-inflammatory, and to reduce anxiety without a psychoactive effect. Tinctures using THC produce a psychoactive effect, a physically sedative and mentally relaxing effect. Products are also available featuring both CBD and THC properties in many varying ratios, which can enhance the effects of each.   


The classic method for cannabis consumption is, of course, smoking its flower form, which is easier than ever these days. Traditional flower smokers can rejoice in pre-rolled, perfectly shaped joints so they don’t need to mess with rolling their own.

Pre-rolls, offered at places like MYNT Cannabis Dispensary, are the convenient option for those who regularly consume cannabis. Contributed Photo: MYNT Cannabis Dispensary

Heavy marijuana users looking for an extra punch can even find infused pre-rolled joints, which have been homogenized with concentrated cannabis oils from the same strain inside the paper, which is soaked into the flower.

Robinson said the resulting THC content is into the 30 percent range for most pre-rolls, making them heavy hitters and not meant for the inexperienced or the faint of heart; but great for those in need of heavy medicating.

Legally speaking …

While there are plenty of options to consume marijuana legally, there isn’t much room for interpretation when it comes to California and Nevada state laws regarding recreational cannabis.

Ravn Whitington, an attorney with Porter Simon law firm in Truckee, sat down this winter with Tahoe Magazine to explain the laws and ramifications if an adult is found to be in violation in Nevada or California.

Below are the main things you need to know before even considering experimentation:

• Recreational cannabis users age 21 and over can have in their possession 28.5 grams — roughly 1 ounce — of marijuana in its flower form, or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, which includes oils and edibles.

• Medical marijuana cards allow adults age 21 and over to possess and cultivate or store larger quantities of marijuana than what is permitted under recreational law.

• Medical cardholders can grow up to six plants in their home and also do not pay sales tax on product from dispensaries, which accounts for significant cost savings for those in need of higher amounts of medicine.

• You are not allowed to smoke or consume cannabis in a public place — unless it has been approved by a local jurisdiction, such as, for example, a smoking lounge attached to a dispensary.

• Smoking or ingesting cannabis is only legal on private property — this is mainly relegated to inside your home, in your backyard and in hotels that allow smoking marijuana. As such, it is illegal to smoke on the beaches of Lake Tahoe, in a car and in the backcountry.

Driving laws … and infractions

Whitington also said that driving with cannabis has strict rules that are different for medical and recreational marijuana users.

“Recreational users must have the product sealed in the car. If it has been opened, it must be in the trunk of the car,” he said, whereas, “a medical user is allowed to have a package that is unsealed and resealed, or has been closed.”

Dispensaries sell their products in Mylar plastic bags, by law, which oftentimes show whether the bag is fully sealed or has been opened. Product must be kept in the sealed package provided.

“What you don’t want is a bag unsealed and product that is unsealed within the bag,” he said. “Then you’re in violation of open container law and can be fined $100.”

He explained that if you are stopped by a police officer with a marijuana product bag in open sight, it is a clear signal that you may have consumed marijuana between the time you were at the dispensary and the time you were driving the car.

A person can be fined up to $250 and issued an infraction for smoking marijuana in a public place that is within 1,000 feet of a school, or anywhere that smoking of tobacco products is prohibited. Otherwise, the smoking in public infraction fine is $100.

Whitington also warned that technically, according to the law, the minute you drive with cannabis in your vehicle between California and Nevada and cross state lines, you are immediately in violation of federal law.

Of course, one of the most dangerous things anyone can do is operating a vehicle (or boat, bike or any other sort of vehicle) while intoxicated. This doesn’t mean just alcohol — it also equates to illicit drugs, prescription medication and, yes, legal or medical marijuana.

In the latter’s case, ever since marijuana was legalized in recent years, police departments and sheriff’s offices across both the Golden and Silver states have warned the public with a simple slogan — “Drive high, get a DUI” — meaning if you get pulled over and are suspected of being stoned, even the slightest trace of THC in your blood could be enough for a DUI arrest.

As is the case with any sort of DUI, it can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees, not to mention possible jail time and a damaged career or reputation.

As always, be responsible

When it comes to cannabis in the home, Whitington recommends that responsible marijuana cultivation and consumption happen only in an environment that remains completely safe for children.

“The best advice I can give is to treat the stuff you get from the dispensary the way you would treat prescription pills,” he said. “Keep all of those things out of reach — get a lock-box, arguably like a gun safe, to keep kids from getting into cannabis. And keep the opioids out of the way, too.”

Speaking of safety, burglaries and home invasions are not unheard of for cannabis cultivators, either.

“People are aware that the marijuana is growing; they might’ve been working on it and then come back a year later and break in to steal plants, product, whatever,” he said. “The idea is to be prudent with the product in the same way you would with prescription drugs or hazardous things to animals and children.”

By properly educating yourself on the cannabis products available and adhering to California and Nevada state laws while enjoying marijuana in Lake Tahoe, people can improve their quality of life through natural products that are safer and healthier than addictive, chemical alternatives.

Cassandra Walker is a former reporter for the Sierra Sun and former contributor for Tahoe Magazine.
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