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Mesquite, Nev. • Despite the out-of-state locale, about half the cars at Deep Roots Harvest on Saturday morning carried Utah license plates.
Recreational marijuana sales became legal this weekend in Nevada, and for many southern Utahns, Mesquite's Deep Roots Harvest dispensary, a 40-minute drive from St. George, now is the most convenient place to get it even if possession remains illegal back home.
By 11 a.m., a long line snaked into the parking lot of the pot shop, located in a nondescript office building far from the city's shopping and casinos. Employees set up a tent to shelter waiting customers from the triple-digit heat, as a security guard checked a steady stream of cars into the lot.
Russell Smith came to Mesquite for the weekend from Cedar City. Clad in a T-shirt and board shorts, he'd been eyeing the opening day for recreational pot for some time.
But would Smith risk bringing a stash back to Utah?
No way. The plan, he said, was to get high in his hotel room, then do a little gambling.
"Consume it here, and hopefully be un-buzzed by Sunday, when it's time to go home," he said.
Deep Roots opened in October 2016 as a medical marijuana dispensary. It was granted a recreational license the only one in Mesquite under Nevada's "early start program," which allows only operational medical pot outlets to get retail licenses in the first 18 months of sales.
The store offers a variety of products edibles, concentrates and topical among them ranging from $12 per gram to $330 per ounce, depending on the strain.
On its website, Deep Roots describes itself just as a fancy farm-to-table restaurant might. "Drawing upon the knowledge of four generations of Nevada farmers, we're privileged to carry on the legacy of this ancient plant," it reads. "Our dedication to transparency, purity, and sustainability inspires each and every harvest."
Jody, 58, and Paula, 60, rode their motorcycle to Mesquite from St. George on Saturday morning. The couple, who declined to give their last names because marijuana remains illegal in Utah, said they had come to see history being made in Nevada. The state joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska with stores where those 21 and older can buy recreational pot.
"To be honest, it's hard to believe," Jody said. "I wanted to witness it, to be part of it. This is a big deal."
He added the trip was a sort of "dry run." The couple didn't plan to purchase any marijuana this time but might in the future, once they learn more about what the dispensary offers and how strict Utah police will be cracking down on the drug coming across the border.
Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jared Cornia said Saturday that patrols hadn't changed because of Nevada's legalization of marijuana. He noted that Colorado, Utah's eastern neighbor, legalized recreational use of the drug years ago.
Additional DUI patrols were out Saturday, according to tweets from the Utah Highway Safety Office, but Cornia said it was because of the holiday weekend and the increase of vehicles on the road.
Jody, who has smoked all his life, said he hoped the quality of marijuana from the dispensary was better than the "underground" stuff he gets in St. George.
"I wanted to check it out, see if they've got some spectacular stuff that needs to be sampled," he said.
Customers slowly trickled out of the dispensary, clutching their marijuana sealed in plastic packaging. Talk in the line turned to the Mesquite police officer parked just down the street and what the speed limit was on that stretch of road. A security guard mentioned he'd never seen the business so busy.
While marijuana now is legal to buy in Nevada, tight restrictions remain. Only an ounce of marijuana, or one-eighth of concentrated marijuana, may be possessed. And it can't be consumed in public, with violators facing a $600 fine. In addition, dispensaries deal only in cash.
Julie Bettfreund moved to Mesquite not long ago from St. George. On Saturday, she picked up some of the "Golden Goat" strain, described as "sweet and skunky."
The 53-year-old said she's happy she moved to Nevada, where people are more accepting of her tattoos and marijuana consumption, which she said helps with her back pain. She said the drug often was difficult for her to find in the past, especially when she lived in St. George.
Asked whether she thought her old home of Utah might ever join the growing ranks of states legalizing recreational marijuana sales, Bettfreund laughed.
"Hell no," she said.
Mariah Noble contributed to this story.