Recently, a friend and I visited Las Vegas for a short getaway. It was my first trip to Sin City. Aside from taking some time to remember what it feels like not to have a toddler attached to me (my daughter is two and currently perfecting her ability to tell me “no”), the one thing I really wanted to do was visit a cannabis dispensary.
As someone who has her feet firmly planted in the South — I live in Georgia and frequently return to North Carolina, which I called home for almost a decade — hitting up a dispensary felt novel. Revolutionary, even. Sometimes, it feels like we’re a long way from legalizing cannabis use, medicinally or recreationally, down here.
That’s why I wanted to know what it felt like to purchase cannabis legally. I wanted to give someone my money in exchange for a locally grown product without unconsciously shifting my gaze nervously or worrying that someone was going to tell me I was doing something illegal.
Online resources that will point you to 420-friendly hotels in Nevada.
Product list for items at Reef Dispensary in Las Vegas, Nev.
Last July, Nevada became the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Between July 2017 and April 2018, the state made $56 million in marijuana tax revenues.
Under the law, you can’t consume cannabis products in public or in a vehicle, even if you’re the passenger. In fact, you can’t legally toke up anywhere in Nevada except in private residences. That in and of itself is pretty interesting when you consider that regulators expected about 63 percent of customers to be tourists. City officials are working, albeit slowly, on legislation that would pave the way for the opening of cannabis lounges.
In the meantime, here are four things I learned about buying cannabis as a tourist in Las Vegas.
Each dispensary has its own style
We visited three different dispensaries, and they each had their own vibe. For example, Pisos, which is located about 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip (we chose this spot for its five-star rating on Google with more than 12,000 reviews), felt like a casual jewelry store — a step up from a pawn shop but a few steps down from a Jared’s. Before getting anywhere near a glass counter, employees wearing lanyards check your ID and (if you’re new) create a digital buyer profile for you. Afterward, they let you enter the showroom through a locked door. The space is brightly lit and modest. What I liked most about Pisos was how friendly and knowledgeable the bud tender we spoke with was. For security purposes, I had to show the guard at the door my receipt and bag to verify my purchases before we left.
Kimberly Lawson at the sales counter in Pisos.
While security was also noticeable at Reef Dispensaries, another retailer we visited, the atmosphere was much more chill — the hip-hop music reached us before we crossed the street to enter the giant warehouse. There were about a dozen people ahead of us in line to get to the bud tenders at the counter, but that gave us time to peruse their paper menu. Also, Reef Dispensaries is the only place that carries rapper Wiz Khalifa’s signature brand Khalifa Kush.
Which leads me to the third dispensary we visited.
Largest cannabis superstore in the world in Vegas
During our trip, we had the opportunity to attend a VIP preview of Planet 13 Superstore prior to its grand opening on Nov. 1. (As such, there was no product available for view or purchase.) Close to the strip, the 15,000 square-feet dispensary resides within a 40,000-square-foot entertainment complex that used to be an old Coors beer warehouse. The sheer size of the space was impressive on its own, but the additional interactive lasers, floating orb show and multi-dimensional lotus flowers on the roof (you can actually program the lights to move at the beat of the music from a keypad on the ground) added to the wow factor.
As a writer for VICE put it: “Planet 13 is trying to build a place that’s full of stuff that’s really fun to do when you’re high, and if they pull it off, marijuana tourism will never be the same.”
Inside Planet 13 Superstore in Las Vegas, Nevada.
[Images in this article courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.]
Rideshare drivers may get a kickback for bringing you to certain dispensaries
As tourists, we all do it. Riding in the back of a cab or Uber in a new city, we can’t help but ask our driver for recommendations. In fact, that’s how my friend and I learned that rideshare drivers in Vegas receive cash from some dispensaries for bringing customers to their door. One Uber driver told us the $10 she earned from taking people to the shop we were leaving helped offset gas costs.
Take your cannabis souvenirs home at your own risk
That’s what one of the bud tenders told me. Although cannabis is legal and fairly easy to access as a tourist in Nevada, possession of it on airport property is prohibited. (Not to mention weed is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, thus illegal.)
Earlier this year, McCarran International Airport installed “amnesty boxes” where you can dump your marijuana products before hopping on a flight.
But, as my helpful bud tender pointed out, a brownie looks like a brownie, whether it has THC in it or not.
Kimberly Lawson is a former editor of Creative Loafing, Charlotte, North Carolina’s former alt-weekly (RIP). She now lives in Georgia where she continues to practice journalism. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and VICE Broadly.