By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record
I’ll admit it. As a gourmet cannabis enthusiast I’m utterly spoiled living on the Washington-Oregon border.
I’m surrounded by two states that – while not perfect – could be considered marijuana utopias compared with most of the rest of the country. And I was reminded of that on a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Don’t get me wrong. Nevada is making good progress, including the opening of its first medical marijuana dispensary, Euphoria Wellness, in August.
And signs point to the state – or perhaps just the city of Las Vegas – legalizing recreational marijuana in the near future.
But roaming the Vegas strip is still anything but marijuana friendly – despite the area’s rampant enthusiasm for alcohol and binge drinking.
Bicycle security officers rapidly descended every time I smelled a whiff of cannabis smoke, there’s no real place where medical marijuana patients touring the city can light up, and wearing a cannabis shirt got me a host of strange looks (although I also got a few thumbs up from folks I met on the street).
It’s fairly typical of prohibition states. The stigma, the reluctance to talk about cannabis in anything but hushed tones, and the fear of arrest make the experience a paranoid one. And that stigma is very much going away in the Pacific Northwest – where I often chat with – and sometimes smoke with – my marijuana enthusiast neighbors and friends.
As a Washington medical marijuana patient, I decided to check out Euphoria Wellness and Nevada’s new medical marijuana reciprocity rules (which allow medical marijuana patients from other states to fill their prescriptions in Nevada).
The Euphoria Wellness dispensary itself was well-lit, clean and very welcoming. They looked at my Washington card and had me fill out some paperwork, then gave me a few documents with state rules and a sheet to give to police if I got in any trouble.
The budtenders and even the security guys were extremely friendly and more than willing to talk a little shop with me.
The product lines in the state are in their infancy, but that could change quickly. When I visited, Euphoria Wellness had about 10 strains of flower available and one vape (JuJu Joints) – at prices that reminded me of Washington’s late-2014 market. The shop also had no edibles or concentrates, but it did offer some hats and T-shirts for enthusiasts.
I decided to pick up a gram of Turbo OG by Thompson Farm at the shop. The $20-a-gram top shelf cannabis came in a pill container loaded with popcorn buds – a product you might see selling for $10 or less in the Pacific Northwest.
The shop did have one strain for $13 a gram, but that was the lowest price.
Budtenders told me the store has its own grow site and they are planning to release about 25 new strains when they harvest before the end of the year.
So it seems that the product diversity is on the rise and hopefully prices will drop quickly enough toward that $10 a gram sweet spot that the market demands.
The Turbo OG was good, medium strength, and nice on my back pain after hours wandering the strip. But finding a place to smoke it was a challenge.
You can’t really light up in a casino (unless you’re smoking regular cigarettes), and using cannabis in your hotel room isn’t the best idea either.
Like other places, it’s illegal to use cannabis in public view in Nevada, even if you’re a medical marijuana patient.
My solution was to find a relatively dark outdoor corner and sneak a few puffs as I nervously looked around for bicycle cops (one time they rode by about a minute after I had finished and put the pipe back in my pocket).
I quit drinking a few years ago, and it was very interesting to be in Vegas as a cannabis consumer rather than a gourmet beer snob, watching the throngs of rowdy drunks roam between the insane architecture that is the marquee of the city.
It will be interesting to see what happens when and if the city legalizes recreational cannabis, and how that will play into the drinking culture of the city.
If Vegas does it right, there could be smoking lounges or strain bars next to all the booze bars and shops. There could be cannabis-focused entertainment – cool light shows, live entertainment, games and activities that could draw throngs of marijuana tourists to the city.
And I’m sure the casinos wouldn’t mind stoners zoning out on their slot machines – anymore than they mind drunks doing the same thing, they even allow drunk driving which is even worse.
As America’s adult playground, it seems like a natural fit for the city to embrace cannabis. But the cultural shift may take some time.
With all the tiptoeing around, I wasn’t able to finish the gram I bought from Euphoria Wellness before I left – so I had to toss the remainder.
I was glad I did, because when I got back to Washington and opened my bag, I found the Transportation Security Authority had rifled through my belongings. They left me a note after moving my empty pipe, my issue of Marijuana Venture magazine and some kitch marijuana leaf beads I bought to the top of my pack, right under their “Notice of Baggage Inspection.”
If I lived elsewhere, that would have given me a healthy dose of paranoia. But I live in the Pacific Northwest, where cannabis is out in the open and not demonized.
It was a fascinating visit, but it’s good to be home.
Sue Vorenberg is the founder of Cannabis Daily Record. She has 20 years of experience as a journalist covering a wide array of topics, including cannabis legalization and consumer markets. She also founded The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog and spent about three months working in the industry. You can reach her at email@example.com