On July 1st, 2017, Nevada became the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, plenty of places have cropped up where tourists and locals alike can procure pot – the problem is, there aren’t many places to legally smoke it.
Adults over the age of 21 can buy up to an ounce of flower or an eighth-ounce of concentrate, but it can only be consumed on private property with owner permission, presenting a problem for tourists who stay on the Strip in Las Vegas or in Reno. Because the plant and its derivatives are still banned by the federal government, classified as a narcotic akin to cocaine or heroin, hotels-casinos can’t openly allow it without risking their gaming licenses.
“Visitors consume at their own risk when it comes to breaking the law about public consumption,” says Scot Rutledge, who worked on the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign, which put it on the ballot in 2016. “[But] given [that] people have been smoking in public in Las Vegas for years, it is possible to be discreet.”
The good news is consumption lounges are in the works. Nevada, long known for regulating vices like prostitution and gambling, wants to be among the first states to offer bar-like pot venues with food and entertainment.
Rutledge, who is working on a marijuana bar-arcade concept of his own, thinks the City of Las Vegas could have legislation in place as early as this summer. Interestingly, the Strip and most major resorts aren’t located in the city; they’re located in Las Vegas County, where officials have expressed interest in allowing lounges but say there’s no hurry to figure it out.
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Until then, Rutledge says 420-friendly Airbnbs are a good way to go for tourists who want to get high, and private parties are another option. As long as an event is venue-owner-approved and closed to the public, it’s legal. The Travel Joint and Sin City Cannabis Tours promote 420-friendly lodging in Las Vegas, most of which are private rentals.
Michael Eymer, founder of CannabisTours.com, has talked to local governments about opening a 420-friendly hotel in Southern Nevada, but so far it’s not allowed.
Smoking in moving vehicles is prohibited, so party buses aren’t allowed, but there are tours that take guests to dispensaries. Herbology Tours (herbologytours.com) offers experiences like “Herbology 101,” a behind-the-scenes dispensary tour that teaches ticket-holders about strains and pot culture. Its “Beer and Buds” tour makes stops at both dispensaries and breweries, designed for folks who want to learn about weed while enjoying an old standby. Afterward, the tours stop at private venues where guests are often able to consume.
“The tours are for people who are interested in learning what this is all about,” says Herbology CEO Matthew Miner. “You can go to the Hoover Dam, you can take a helicopter tour, but this is really unique.”
But offerings are still limited.
CannabisTours.com also does business in California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and Oregon, and Nevada is the only state that won’t allow public events on private property. Otherwise the company would offer “puff, pass” art classes and infused dinner parties, as it does in other cities. “Nevada is a tough situation,” Eymer says. “They interpreted public consumption in a very strict manner, pretty much right away.”
To craft a weed tour of your own, Rutledge recommends exploring dispensaries by renting a pay-by-the-hour bike from the Regional Transportation Commission or taking a free shuttle between Fremont Street and the Arts District.
“Thrive dispensary, NuWu dispensary, Las Vegas ReLeaf, Essence, Reef and Sahara Wellness are all walking distance from either the Strip or downtown,” he says. Each of the shops sells a products ranging from flower, concentrate, edibles and vapes and most offer daily specials.
Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, located in the Arts District, is a favorite of downtown’s creative scene. It’s a good first stop before browsing galleries on First Fridays or shopping on Main Street, downtown’s newest up-and-coming neighborhood, which is home to bars, restaurants and several vintage clothing and furniture stores. In a few short blocks, you’ll find Frida Kahlo-themed Mexican food, upscale Italian and hot dogs on pretzel buns at a bar that doubles as an antique mall.
NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, just north of downtown, is billed as the state’s largest dispensary, and it’s owned by the Las Vegas Paiute tribe. They accept online orders to be picked up in person, and have a 24-hour-a-day drive-through. It sells everything you’d expect from a full-service shop, plus extras like THC-laced dog treats. It’s also home to the occasional Native American art fair, with crafts made by local tribes.
Las Vegas ReLeaf is an upscale shop, located half a block west of the Strip on Paradise Road. It carries medical and recreational, and even accepts out-of-state medical cards. ReLeaf accepts online orders and also delivers order of over $85.
Once medical-only, Essence now sells recreational but still keeps a registered nurse on staff to advise patients. It has three locations, including the only dispensary with a Las Vegas Boulevard address. It accepts orders online and by text, and has local and national awards for its selection and service.
Jessica Parks, a longtime medical marijuana advocate who hosted an internet radio show under the name Jessy Jane, points visitors and locals to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health webpage. Although the page focuses on medical marijuana, its information is useful to recreational users because it lists dispensaries throughout the state.
“Their goal is to keep people legal,” Parks said.
It’s a little-known resource, but Parks says you can call the department if you’re unsure what’s legal and what’s not. For example, delivery services are only legal if they’re connected to a storefront, which are licensed and only sell tested products.
A medical user herself, Parks likes Oasis Cannabis for its medical and recreational offerings. It’s also connected to an all-ages educational center where families gather for events like yoga, hydroponic classes, essential oil classes and prenatal and postpartum groups.
She also recommends Sahara Wellness, a women-owned 24-hour dispensary that’s great for first-timers and older people and offers a more upscale experience, though you wouldn’t know it by the nondescript exterior of the building. “They take pride in offering education to newbies, and making elderly people feel like they’re in a med spa rather than a dispensary,” Parks says.
Eighty-percent of Nevada’s population live in Las Vegas, so it also has the highest concentration of dispensaries, but Reno and the smaller towns aren’t missing out. Reno has a dozen or so dispensaries, including the highly rated Silver State Relief, Kanna and Sierra Well. Silver State Relief offers recreational marijuana delivery and discounts for veterans, seniors and senior veterans; Kanna is family owned and creates its own strains; and Sierra Well, which carries products made from house-grown flowers, has a patient resource room with books and videos.
The northern farming town of Fallon is home to a pot testing facility, which helps growers perfect their strains, and the state’s largest cultivation facility is being planned in Nye County, known for its legal brothels. Even the small river town of Laughlin has its own shop, Nevada Medical Marijuana.
But pot tourism isn’t just about dispensaries and lounges. Entertainment options are in the works, too, including Cannabition, a multisensory art experience that’s being compared to the selfie-driven Ice Cream Museum in San Francisco. The museum won’t sell weed or allow smoking, but it will have the world’s largest usable bong, standing 22 feet tall and designed by famous glassblower Jerome Baker, a founder of the Eugene Glass School in Oregon.
For those wanting to take their commitment to cannabis to the next level, the Cannabis Chapel officiates pot-themed weddings, called “weedings,” with reggae music and hemp clothing. In addition to legally marrying folks, the chapel helps people get medical cards, and will take newlyweds to a dispensary after swapping vows under a weed trellis. The high-end package includes a stay in the “weeding suite” with marijuana leaf sheets.
And yet this is just the beginning. Cannabist founder Ricardo Baca, who spoke at a bar convention in Las Vegas recently, has said he thinks Nevada’s weed landscape could change drastically in the next year, becoming unrecognizable from what it is now, as marijuana loses its decades-long stigma.
“What you see now will almost be unrecognizable when you get to 2019,” Baca recently told Nevada Public Radio. “This is the complicated industry that came out of nowhere. Nobody anticipated adult-use cannabis to be legalized this early, not even the most vehement legalization advocates and activists … This is legal now. This is the new beer.”