University of Nevada, Reno graduate Mikel Alvarez is director of retail operations for Blüm, a small chain of marijuana dispensaries with three locations in Las Vegas and one in Reno. The Reno location started selling recreational cannabis after midnight on July 1. For more information, visit www.letsblum.com/reno.
I drove by Blüm on July 3, and there was still a line around the block. How have things been from your perspective?
Things on our end have been amazing. Words can’t express it enough. The crowds were so excited to be there. I was worried, with that many people, that it might get rowdy, it might get excited, a little loud. But everyone was calm and collected. I worked the crowds, thanked them for being there, and told them we were moving as fast as we could. We had all nine stations going. The typical response was just, Don’t worry about it. We’re excited just to be here. In the 60 years we’ve been here, we never thought we’d live to see this day. One couple said, “We’re just a bunch of stoners. We’re fine. We’ll stay here as long as it takes.” It was exciting. It was nice to actually see that and hear that. The staff worked as fast as it could, but still taking the time to communicate with the patients about what they were selling and dispensing out. That was the key for us. We don’t just want to have an express lane that was just going to be order-and-go. We wanted them to meet with a budtender, who’s gone through an extensive training program, to educate the public on what they’re consuming. … The weed of today is not the weed of the ’60s. There’s a lot more testing involved. We can explain what you’re consuming, what you’re tasting, what you’re going to experience and feel.
How did the weekend meet with your expectations?
I did not expect the line to be as long as it was on Saturday night. I was pleasantly surprised. … We were working overnight to make sure everything was in compliance. The state came down with new compliance—every minute they came down with something new that we had to do. We wanted to make sure we were in full compliance. Our internal ethos is compliance first, sales and revenue second. We knew a couple of things—one, there would be secret shoppers, and two, we would be inspected. And both happened on day one. … We figured we’d be there until about 3. We didn’t expect to not close. And my team really pulled together, and they were so excited to make history, and just continued right through [all night].
Has it calmed down?
Yes, it has, but it really hasn’t. We don’t have the line wrapped around the block, but we do have a steady line. … I said from the very beginning that we’re going to take care of our medical patients. So if we have a medical patient in line, security will take them out of line and put them right in the front to the check-in, and they are the next patient who gets checked into the bud bar. I was talking to the crowd and thanking them for being there, and I told them exactly that—I know you’re seeing people coming in and they’re skipping the line, I want you to understand why. Not one person had one problem with letting the medical patients go through. I told them two things. One, these are medical patients who are coming here for their medicine. And two, these are the ones who have paved the way to allow us where we’re at today. … No matter what, medical patients will take the priority.