Here's how to make sure you don't let the sun interfere with safe fleet driving.
Drew Gennuso, owner of 420 Tours Las Vegas, is quite the accomplished entrepreneur. He’s a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; co-founder of a nonprofit that works with patients and professional organizations, including Nevada’s only neurosciences institute, to advocate marijuana for therapeutic use; and has received state recognition for training more than 1,000 students looking to enter the cannabis industry. Oh, and he also opened the first cannabis themed wedding chapel in the city.
Gennuso owned both Presidential Limousine in San Diego and Back Bay Limousine in Orange County, Calif., but moved to Nevada in 2012 to start 420 Tours Las Vegas, providing patients with access to mobile doctor’s offices and cannabis dispensary tours.
“Luxury ground transportation has always excited me, but after working in nightclubs for years, I noticed the explosive growth of club crawl companies that would tour patrons around multiple clubs,” Gennuso says. “I also saw tremendous value in providing medical marijuana patients visiting town with information on which dispensaries to visit while navigating through Nevada’s new reciprocity laws.”
This means that, as of Jan. 1, 2015, it's legal for anyone with a valid medical marijuana card from any state to use and buy medical cannabis products in Nevada dispensaries.
420 Tours has three vehicles in its fleet, with a fourth in production. The GMC Yukon XL is the most popular and has an eight-inch raised roof for extra comfort. The “cannabus” is an E450 Tiffany limo coach with party bus seating, a separate room for doctors to examine patients, and advertising screens that allow them to have sponsors as well as their own signage on the rear of the vehicle.
The black, all-electric Nissan Leaf is available for patients who are environmentally conscious. Gennuso also recently bought an ADA accessible van, which will allow the company to assist more local and visiting patients who require ADA accessible vehicles.
Some of the amenities included are leather reclining seats, LED lighting, rear passenger air controls, premium sound and video, Wi-Fi (which enables patients to video chat with a doctor to get a recommendation and medical card), refreshments, charging stations for electronics, and vaporizer pen batteries. If Nevada approves marijuana for recreational use this November, Gennuso plans on adding more to the fleet, most likely another SUV or Sprinter.
And legalization is extremely likely. “If you look at how long it took the medical market to get going out here (almost two years), it could take until at least 2018 before you will see recreational cannabis being sold here,” he says. “With that being said, the medical market will definitely be thriving from now until then, but usually the biggest growth for any type of business if you’re dealing with patients is when the state goes from medical to recreational.”
The largest jump in patient card holders happens with wider public acceptance of marijuana, and more people learn about the medical availability, he says. “As states prepare for the new program, they just let the medical industry grow like it’s supposed to.”
Classy, Legal Service
Of course, when states such as Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use, one of the first things addressed was smoking and partaking of edibles in vehicles.
According to state law, selling and consuming cannabis on board is illegal. “We are strictly a support business that provides tours around the different dispensaries,” Gennuso says. “We don’t actually sell any of the product. Our vehicles are solely used for the tours and mobile doctor’s appointments. We also showcase them at local events and industry tradeshows.”
Gennuso has put a lot into making the company’s vehicles classy, comfortable, and unique. “If we were to let people smoke, it would take away from the cannabis business. Executives who fly into town and use our services go to and from different dispensaries and meetings. It would devalue our business and what we are all about.”
Although you would think the pushback from clients would be a major issue, he says it really hasn’t been a problem. “It’s a little odd having to tell our patients they aren’t allowed to smoke, but I think it actually moves them to make more conscious decisions when making their purchases. This way, they don’t load up on too much, especially if they are flying.”
Most of their clients are actually happy campers because many come from a state where marijuana is not legal, Gennuso says.
“Our two most popular are Texas and Florida. When we tell them they can’t smoke in the vehicle, they don’t really care. Ultimately they are just so ecstatic they are able to go into a fully licensed legal dispensary, get their product safely, and then make their own decision as to where they feel comfortable consuming.”
Licensed To Serve
420 Tours also provides a much needed service to patients who have legitimate medical conditions. If a client arrives without proper paperwork to enter a dispensary, the company connects them to a board licensed physician who will evaluate them and establish a qualifying medical condition. “Of course, in some states there’s a long list of qualifying medical conditions, but they are still medical conditions nonetheless,” Gennuso says.
Many regulations ensure things run legally. “Since this is a really new industry and this is the first business concept of its kind for Nevada, licensing was one of our biggest obstacles,” he says. “Ultimately we had to get licensed as various medical marijuana support businesses, which are new types of licenses that have just started coming out over the past few years.”
A company is considered a support business if it does more than 60% of its business with the medical marijuana industry. Obviously, 420 Tours does all of its business with these companies. “We carry about six different licenses,” Gennuso says. “With Nevada being such a highly regulated state for transportation, we also had to satisfy the needs of the Nevada Transportation Authority (NTA).”
In addition, all of its chauffeurs are drug tested and have passed background checks including fingerprint. They must also go through extensive training and an educational session on Nevada’s medical marijuana program.
What may seem blasphemous to others in the ground transportation industry is the fact the company’s vehicles under seven passengers are actually permitted as transportation network companies (TNCs) through Lyft. But before you judge, consider this point from Gennuso: “That was a decision we ultimately had to make. One of the things I want to point out is a lot of these people are patients and price-conscious, so to charge someone $105 to go from a hotel right down the street to a dispensary would have destroyed our business model."
“We have looked at all our options, and with the NTA and the state being so regulated, it seemed to be the best solution for us. It really allows passengers the opportunity to request us whenever they want, and they are paying a more reasonable rate. We just want to be there for the patients.”
What if an operators wants to break into the “budding” cannabis transportation niche? Gennuso says, “Spend the time to understand your state laws, and identify if there is actually a need for your business. A lot of people, even if they are big, powerful CEOs of business, do take Uber or Lyft. They don’t need the Rolls-Royce driving around all day. If you are going to break into this industry, invest in training your staff to deal with patients prior to offering your services.”
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