First Nevada Cannabis Dispensary Approved at Border of Idaho

October 17, 2021



The Nevada-Idaho border is about to get a little bit greener. 

Officials in Elko County, Nevada last week signed off on a proposal for a marijuana dispensary to open in Jackpot, Nevada, which straddles the border between the two western states.

Commissioners in Elko County unanimously approved the license for the business, according to the Associated Press, adding that the shop could open as early as Monday.

“We have no issues moving forward with the license,” Elko County Undersheriff Justin Ames said Wednesday at the commissioners’ meeting, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Elko Daily reported that the business, known as Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, “passed background checks” and had “interviewed nearly 60 candidates to work in the dispensary, giving preference to Elko and Jackpot residents.”

As of a month ago, 35 people had been hired and paid, according to the Elko Daily.

The dispensary’s proximity to Idaho, where marijuana is still illegal, brought attention to the licensing approval process.

The Thrive in Jackpot will be “Nevada’s first along the Idaho line,” according to the Associated Press, and that its opening aroused anxiety among law enforcement officials in Idaho.

Across the border from Jackpot, commissioners in Twin Falls County, Idaho “had raised safety concerns about the dispensary on U.S. Highway 93, which connects Jackpot and the town of Twin Falls,” according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported that authorities in Idaho “expect to increase patrols in the area once the pot shop opens.”

In a statement, the Idaho State Police said that anyone “engaging in illegal behavior should be aware they risk attracting attention from law enforcement.”

Historically, conservative Idaho finds itself surrounded by neighbors that have embraced legalization: to the south, regulated marijuana sales in Nevada began in 2017; to the west, sales opened in Washington and Oregon in 2014 and 2015, respectively; and to the east, voters in Montana passed a ballot proposal last year to legalize recreational pot use for adults. 

The discrepancy in those laws has sparked some tension among officials in Idaho—and, in some cases, increased sales along the border. 

A report released last year from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis found that marijuana sales along the Oregon-Idaho border were about 420 percent the statewide average—a data point that was almost too on the nose.

“Obviously, recreational marijuana is not legal in Idaho, but even after throwing the data into a rough border tax model that accounts for incomes, number of retailers, tax rates and the like, there remains a huge border effect,” Oregon Office of Economic Analysis economist Josh Lehner wrote in the report. “Roughly speaking, about 75 percent of Oregon sales and more like 35 percent of Washington sales in counties along the Idaho border appear due to the border effect itself and not local socio-economic conditions.”

In what could offer a glimpse of things to come in Elko County, Nevada, Lehner noted that the jump in sales along the Oregon-Idaho border is likely linked to the presence of three stores along that state line.

“Initially the closest retailers to Idaho were located in Baker County, [Oregon], however that changed last summer,” Lehner explained. “There are now three retailers in Ontario, [Oregon] (Malheur County) which is right at the border. These new retailers are 30-60 minutes closer each way to any potential customers traveling into Oregon along I-84 than the retailers in Baker County. 

“As one might expect, as these new stores in Malheur County came online, sales plunged in Baker County by around 80 percent. This is a knock-on impact of the border effect. Proximity or distance traveled matters as do product availability, prices, and taxes.”

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A Nevada dispensary on the Idaho border is raising eyebrows in the more conservative border state, but it was only a matter of time.
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