By now, Tick Segerblom has attended a lot of conferences where careful politicians frame their support for recreational marijuana use with a boilerplate disclaimer.
I've never smoked marijuana, but…
Segerblom is different. A state senator who hails from downtown Las Vegas, he is the rare politician who will say, "I have smoked marijuana, and I loved it." That helps explain why he's also the rare politician—at least in the United States—who has a pot strain named after him: Segerblom Haze.
After Nevadans voted to permit recreational marijuana use in November, I reached out to Segerblom to learn how that will actually work in Sin City. Among other things, he suspects casinos are still in denial about what lies ahead, that California will have a tough time adopting its own legal sales regime, and by way of an aside, he opened up about how in the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter's staff—of which Segerblom was a member—used to smoke weed on the White House roof.
"Before the Reagan administration, the reality was marijuana was not a big deal," he told me.
Speaking in a dry Western drawl, the fourth-generation Nevadan added, "I don't want to expound about how great drugs are, but I will say that when it comes to drugs, marijuana is probably the best one. And the more this country uses it, the better the country is going to be."
Here's what Segerblom had to say about the future of pot policy in the West.
VICE: First off, is Tick your real name?
Tick Segerblom: Rich is my real name. My sister called me Hickey when I was a baby, and it evolved into Tickey. Being a Richard, you always get called Dick. And I'd rather be a Tick than a Dick.
Fair enough. So how did "Segerblom Haze" come about?
It was just a fluke. The girl actually had a strain with a name they didn't think was appropriate for medicinal use, so they said we'd like to name it after you. I asked my family, and they said, "Oh, that'd be great," so I said what the hell… The former name was "Super Slutty" something or other.
What's it like?
Everybody who's tried it is super impressed because it's very energizing, and a lot of people start with it first thing in the morning.
Does it represent your personality?
You'd have to ask other people. If I had a characteristic, it's never give up.
They could have named it after anyone, though! Why you?
I'm very well known in the industry as somebody who is not just a good vote, but a real advocate. Back in the 60s and 70s, when I was going to college, it was a pretty common thing. I used it, and I enjoyed it. It's the kind of thing where, in midlife, you can't use it as much because it kind of distracts you. But I'd always realized it was far more preferable than alcohol. It was never lethal or leading to suicide or anything like that.
So where does Nevada fit into the national pot movement?
We only just implemented medical marijuana in 2015, and before we did that, we looked at Colorado, we looked at Arizona—we looked around and tried to pick the best practices. Turned out, we were on the cutting edge of where recreational was going: Everything has to be tagged and tested. We have the toughest mandatory-testing [in state labs for mold etc.] law in the country. So our medical program is better than anybody else's recreational program as far as being totally government controlled.
California is going to have to go back and put their medical program under a regulatory framework, and it's just gonna kill them. You have an industry that thinks it's done great, but no, now you have to have your product tested. You've been using pesticides—you can't use pesticides. You've been using fertilizer—you can't use fertilizer. If there's any mold, it's thrown out. You can't just barter how much it's gonna be. We have to know where the plant came from, how much it weighed, tag it. If it goes into a place with oils, what goes in has to be measured, what goes out has to be measured. It's a whole new world. Alcohol, cigarettes, any of those regulated industries—they're used to it. But to start that on an existing industry is really tough.
Watch Abdullah Saeed explain how to make firecrackers—a.k.a. weed peanut butter crackers—at home.
So what is recreational weed use going to be like in Las Vegas?
The big issue is where to use it. This is really important in a tourism state like Nevada: You're gonna have people come here to purchase it, so we need to allow them to have it at concerts, maybe bars, nightclubs, maybe on designated streets. We could have a street called Amsterdam Downtown, where anyone could walk around smoking in different stores and cafes.
Everyone already thinks everything is legal here. They think prostitution is legal. The image around the world is that in Vegas, you can do anything you want to do. And that's basically true, frankly, but this would be something you could do legally.
I've heard the casinos are opposed to it. What's the reality of the situation?
They're afraid of losing their gaming licenses. Right now, we have a gaming-control board that is very tough, and they've said no marijuana in any hotels, which is totally unrealistic because it's already there, obviously.
I think the biggest concern is that you can't allow people to do it on the casino floor. Because of federal law, they don't want it inside. But there's no reason why there couldn't be a bar or an outdoor cafe or park next to a casino, where people can go use marijuana.
Are you doing anything to make sure the industry isn't taken over by the typical Vegas oligarchs? Nevada is sort of famous for that kind of cronyism.
To the extent I can. I'm hoping one of my bills will require diversity as one of the necessary elements for picking a dispensary owner. So we're looking for minorities, looking for women, looking for people from different economic levels. But, at the end of the day, it is a business, and in all businesses, rich people have a leg up. I think the bigger issue is not to let it get too concentrated. The law we passed in 2013 said no one company could have 10 percent of the market in any county. Something like that, which tries to spread it around a bit. I would like to make sure that minorities have a chance to participate because it is a government-run program, and if it's all old white guys, that's not good.
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