Nevada dispensary association exec: ‘Cannabis industry is hugely important to our recovery’

As the new executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, Layke Martin will be tasked with overseeing governmental affairs and public outreach for the group that represents dispensaries throughout the state.

The association promotes a safe and regulated industry in Nevada, where recreational marijuana use has been legal since July 2017.

Martin comes from the UNLV Boyd School of Law, where she was the assistant dean for external relations and in charge of fundraising, communications and career development. She also taught public policy and leadership courses.

Martin, a native Las Vegan, previously spent five years practicing business litigation. In 2015, she was named “Young Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar of Nevada.

Martin’s background, especially her time at UNLV, helped prepare her for this new challenge. She replaced Riana Durrett, who was named to the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Martin spoke to Vegas Inc about what’s ahead. The interview was edited for clarity.

At Boyd, you did a lot of work with fundraising, alumni relations and event planning and execution. How did work help prepare you for this new position?

Frankly, a lot of that is similar to what we provide at NDA in terms of member services. I think my background both in law and in higher education will help. This is, of course, a very regulated industry. NDA does a lot of education programming, and we do policy forums and are in constant communication with our members.

NDA also works with other stakeholders, like the Legislature, and everyone, including regulators, who comes in contact with the industry. The community outreach, and relationship-building that I’ve done in the past will be beneficial.

Dispensaries were required to shut down for a time this year because of COVID-19. What’s your top priority right now as the industry gradually returns?

Short-term, with respect to COVID-19, the initial shutdown impacted our retailers, as it did all local businesses. Since then, our members have been able to find innovative ways to stay safe and serve their consumers. Options like delivery and curbside service have helped. As the industry’s trade association, we help with all that. We encourage compliance with different regulations, including the new COVID-19 regulations. We do a lot of education and training with things like safety and delivery.

In terms of long-term issues, I think legalization at the federal level is constantly an issue. Because of banking and other traditional business practices, it’s difficult without legalization at the federal level. It seems to be the view of many in the industry that we’ll see it in the next handful of years. I can’t speculate if that will be the case, but many think it will.

The industry seems to have bounced back. In July, the state’s dispensaries generated about $82 million in sales, which was up 37% from July 2019 and up more than 20% in June. Has the industry regained its footing?

It’s a good sign. It’s just one month, so we want to make sure it’s a trend that continues. We want to make sure the market is stable. We want the market to grow at a reasonable pace.

What are you most looking forward to as you continue to get your feet wet in the executive director role?

I look forward to getting to know our members and working with all the different stakeholders involved. This is a new industry, and the landscape has been consistently changing in the years since legalization. One of the challenges and opportunities will be bringing members together to make sure we’re all united. Building that consensus among folks to achieve different goals. We also have to develop and maintain an effective relationship with the CCB because that’s new, too.

Las Vegas is in a tough spot economically because of the pandemic. Will it bounce back? What role could the cannabis industry play in that recovery?

I do think Las Vegas will bounce back, and the cannabis industry is a key player in that. For example, in 2019, there were 8,200 jobs in cannabis establishments. In fiscal year 2020, the cannabis excise tax brought in $105 million for the state, so yes, the cannabis industry is hugely important to our recovery.

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