Las Vegas has long-been a tourism hot spot within the United States, averaging around 40 million visitors per year flocking from all around the globe to mop up the plethora of casinos, restaurants and ludicrously expensive alcohol.
However, the place aptly named as Sin City is on the verge of becoming a hub for cannabis tourism with lawmakers considering readjusting laws to allow tourists to consume cannabis in pot lounges – similar to the one that recently launched in Los Angeles.
Despite legalising cannabis for recreational use in 2017, the laws remain confusing when it comes to where a user can actually smoke their legally-purchased weed.
It is currently legal to purchase cannabis from licensed stores in Nevada for people aged 21 and over. However the products can’t be smoked in public – only in a private residences or hotel rooms.
Earlier this year, the Las Vegas City Council voted to allow existing dispensaries to apply for a permit in order to open consumption lounges in which tourists could legally consume their cannabis products.
However, just a month later the decision was scrapped due to concerns from casino and gaming companies about the lounges potentially making money outside the hotels, as well as becoming more established and thus overshadowing the traditional casino industry that thrives in Las Vegas.
Despite a huge number of established dispensaries and forthcoming weed businesses putting money and time into building the infrastructure ready for the cannabis lounges to be legalised, the Nevada law has now restricted cannabis consumption back to private residences until July 1 2021, when they will then allow for such places to begin applying for licenses to open the lounges.
Sure to be disappointed about the long wait ahead is Clark County Commissioner and former state senator Tick Segerblom, who said “we’re the new Amsterdam” before the news came out that the council would be putting the brakes on plans to allow cannabis consumption lounges to open. He also has a strain of cannabis named after him – the ‘Segerblom Haze’ – which will have to wait a few years to be smoked at cannabis bars in the city.
Another reason why the casino conglomerates have been reluctant to endorse the growing cannabis industry is that the gaming industry has always been cautious to operate within the federal law and seeing as cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, the casino companies would like to keep the separation of legal vs illegal as to not enter questionable territory and risk their reputations, as well as potentially losing their clientele to competing cannabis bars.
Bo Bernhard, the executive director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute said “Las Vegas, in many ways, is like a Six Flags that has to add a new roller coaster every summer – or people stop coming. It’s a fascinating chapter that will be interesting to see whether (marijuana lounges are) something that draws folks – and, of course, there are concerns it will draw folks away from the resorts.”
Currently there is just one premises throughout the whole of Las Vegas that legally allows people to consume cannabis.
Skirting around the hold up on legalising cannabis lounges is The Vegas Tasting Room, which is situated inside the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace and is operated by the Native American Paiute Tribe, who are exempt from the cannabis consumption laws and Nevada cannabis taxes as the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace is located on sovereign land, which dates back to 1911 when the Las Vegas Paiute Colony was officially established.
The venue serves more than 3,000 people daily with a drive-thru service, a tasting room to sample various types and strains and hundreds of cannabis products including edibles, concentrates and pre-rolled joints.
One of the world’s largest cannabis conferences, the MJBizCon, has also recently taken place with thousands flying into the city from across the United States and abroad.
Aside from being able to consume cannabis at the NuWu marketplace, businesses are launching across the city with cannabis tours, museums and wellness classes popping up to allow tourists to make the most of the legalised cannabis and unwind following an expensive night on the blackjack tables.
The Cannabition Cannabis Museum is the world’s first immersive museum dedicated to marijuana and despite the fact that it is temporarily closed, it plans to re-open with unique cannabis art installations at a new location closer to the strip.
While the likes of Colorado and San Francisco are more catered towards cannabis aficionados, Las Vegas seems to be moving towards a cannabis theme park approach with over-the-top novelty attractions and luxury goods for the emerging industry.
Tourists can join a two-hour Puff, Pass and Paint class which invites attendees to explore their artistic side and ‘channel the powers of cannabis’ and paint on canvases whilst passing joints of legal Nevada cannabis
Local consumption laws
The Cannabition museum has plans to move to a new complex – Planet 13 – which is the largest cannabis dispensary in the world at 112,000 square foot and sells a variety of cannabis products along with attractions such as aerial orb shows, a 3D projection visual experience and an LED interactive floor. Planet 13 also plans to open a coffee house and restaurant, once the local consumption laws are confirmed.
It seems as though the city will take on Amsterdam’s approach when it comes to cannabis tourism, with museums and tours being prioritised ahead of consumption, but all that may change once the laws get the go ahead and cannabis lounges become the place to be when visiting the famous city.
Amsterdam is a key example of how cannabis tourism can work, with consumption levels no higher than other European countries while tourists still congregate there to absorb the cannabis culture and history.
Expecting more from Sin City is John Mueller, CEO of Las Vegas-based Acres Cannabis, who wants the cannabis scene in Las Vegas to outshine the one in Amsterdam, stating “we are better at entertainment, and we are better at controlling vices. You put those two together, and you’ve got a one-two punch of creating another tourist destination. You pull back the veil on cannabis and all of a sudden it’s not as scary as [Ronald] Reagan told us.”