Dave Kallas spent over two decades busting drug dealers on the streets of Las Vegas.
On Saturday, he became a dealer himself — a legal one — when his medical marijuana dispensary The Apothecarium, 7885 W. Sahara Ave., officially opened for business.
Kallas, 60, and his business partner, Ryan Hudson — who runs/owns the original Apothecarium in San Francisco — both see the business as an opportunity to help people who might benefit from the medicinal benefits of marijuana by giving them a legal means of getting their hands on it.
Hudson called it a “harm reduction program,” noting people won’t have to head into a sketchy neighborhood to buy marijuana from a shady dealer.
“We have a lawful way for you to obtain the relief you’re looking for,” Kallas said.
The genesis for opening a dispensary in Las Vegas came from his own struggle with pain.
Kallas spent 21 years as an officer and detective for Las Vegas police, and another nine for the police union as the executive director and director of governmental affairs before retiring in 2009.
Three years after retiring, Kallas was diagnosed with Disseminated Valley Fever, a painful, incurable fungal disease that attacks the bones and central nervous system.
His doctors recommended the standard opioid rundown to ease his pain. Kallas said he didn’t want to risk the addictive nature of those drugs.
“There’s just too many negative effects that occur from what you could get by prescription from a pharmacy,” Kallas said.
So when the Nevada Legislature made medical marijuana a reality in 2013, Kallas said he saw an opportunity, and reached out to his friend Rich Abajian to gauge his interest in opening a dispensary.
Kallas said he and Abajian, a well-known car salesman and executive at Findlay Automotive Group, both saw the industry as way to help the residents of Las Vegas.
“I was fully engaged saying, ‘Let’s go find an alternative not just for me, but for whomever else may need it,'” Kallas said.
After months of searching, they met Hudson.
Kallas said he was blown away by the passion Hudson, 37, and his company showed in helping its patients with whatever ails they had.
Talks eventually became a partnership. The group applied for and was awarded one of the highly sought medical marijuana dispensary licenses in Clark County.
Kallas called Saturday’s opening “bittersweet,” because his friend and business partner wasn’t able to see it.
Abajian passed away Feb. 9 from an apparent heart attack at his Henderson home.
“He was my boss. He was my friend. He was my mentor,” Kallas said.
But Kallas said he wants to continue Abajian’s mission in helping those in Las Vegas get the kind of help they need.
“We’re here to help people buy medicine that will provide them the relief that they have not been able to get,” he said.
— Contact Colton Lochhead at email@example.com or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead