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Las Vegas Is Betting On Pot Tourism As The New Trend In Travel

Sin City is hoping to cash in on pot tourism. Las Vegas, which is home to Planet 13, the largest cannabis dispensary in the United States, with 16,200-square-feet filled with buds, oils, soaps, edibles, cartridges, joints, or beverages you can imagine, is leading the way in this city historically associated with excess.

“I’d say about 80 or 90 percent of the people who come in are tourists or first-timers,” said Planet 13 budtender Zach Brengman. “A lot of people come in and have no idea what they’re looking for. But that’s what we’re here for. We give them a little direction. We have 500 different products, so it’s pretty overwhelming.”

Planet 13, however, is not alone in this new pot landscape. As of May, Las Vegas has more than 30 dispensaries and hopes to lead the way in the recreational marijuana market in the United States. “I eventually think that this whole area could be the Amsterdam of Las Vegas,” said Brandon Zimmer, marketing coordinator for the Planet 13. “People can walk around to all the different shops, or they can just stay here.”

The only problem so far has been where to consume the pot once you’ve purchased it. Although the 42 million tourists who visit Vegas annually can legally buy marijuana, it’s illegal to smoke or consume cannabis in hotels and public places in Nevada, including casinos, bars, restaurants, and on the street.

Another problem arises when trying to fly back home with marijuana. The drug is still illegal under federal law and post-security areas at airports are governed by federal agencies. In April, the TSA attempted to clear up the confusion, “TSA officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. Our screening procedures are focused on security and detecting potential threats. But in the event a substance appears to be marijuana or a cannabis infused product, we’re required by federal law to notify law enforcement. This includes items that are used for medicinal purposes,” the agency wrote on Instagram.

In the spring, the city government tried to pass an ordinance that would have permitted dispensaries to open “consumption lounges,” yet the state government halted the measure until at least 2021. Visitors have been getting around the law by hiring cars to visit growers and dispensaries. During these pot tours, tourists may partake in edibles and toke to their hearts content. The booming pot industry has meant big business in the state. In 2018, recreational marijuana sales totaled $424.9 million in Nevada.

“I think Las Vegas is often viewed from that lens of glitz and glamour,” said Matt Janz, marketing director of The Source. “There’s an alternative to that neon-lit madness. We provide that for tourists. We’re creating an atmosphere that’s very warm and engaging. A lot of what we do is around wellness.”

At Acres Cannabis, guests can enjoy “an immersive dispensary experience.” The site hosts a weekly farmers’ market where growers sell their goods and staff specialize in 12 types of gourmet gummies. “Acres is bridging the educational gap between the customer and the mysteries and taboos surrounding cannabis,” said Luke Chasse, who manages marketing for Acres. “We give cultivators the opportunity to connect to the consumers face-to-face.”

RELATED: $850 Million Hotel Set To Open In Vegas, But You Can't Smoke Or Gamble There

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After you wind up your pot tour of Vegas, it’s time to head back to the airport, where there are repositories that remind travelers to discard their stash before boarding their flight.

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