Inside a Vegas cannabis store

Published on November 1, 2018 by David Trifunov

Visit a cannabis dispensary during a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, and here’s what you’ll experience.


Walking into Essence Cannabis Dispensary along the Las Vegas strip is an intimidating experience.

There are no windows to see what’s on the other side of the door. It’s on the corner of a busy, six-lane intersection on the “other end” of Las Vegas Boulevard. Heck, even the door is hard to find, with the entire exterior of the building a glowing green colour.

It’s not much better once you’re inside. Bare concrete walls and a security guard funnel you toward the actual dispensary and make it feel like some kind of prison. There’s a line for medical users and one for recreational users.

Velvety ropes ushering customers into the line of their choice are of little comfort. Music blares and all eyes find you as you walk into the place.

But the warm Essence staff compensates for the lobby’s stark welcome.

Once your eyes adjust, you realize the security guard — a wisp of a girl no more than 25 years old — is dancing to that music.

The employees behind the security glass checking your ID are chatty and welcoming.

“This is pretty intense,” my wife says.

A happy young man smiles and nods.

“Yeah, we’ve heard other places aren’t as secure, but better safe than sorry,” he says in a voice that sounds theatre-trained.

He spots our Canadian ID.

“Oh, congratulations.”

Americans now know at least one thing about Canada.

Once you’re inside the actual dispensary, there’s more to absorb.

“No cellphone use,” the doorman warns a steady lineup of customers. “Do not take product out of the bags.”

On your left, a row of salespeople sit behind desks waiting for medical customers.

Recreational users can stand and view pipes, papers and product through glass cases to the right.

Nevada’s first year of pot sales (the state legalized July 1, 2017) have exceeded expectations.

Customers bought $530 million worth of pot that’s generated $70 million in tax revenue since legalization.

It was 40 per cent more than expected.

With almost no medical users in the building — seven in 10 Nevada customers in Year 1 were recreational — another staffer wades into the middle of the room and shouts to the other side, “Next!”

Nobody from the front of the line moves.

“Next! Who wants to go next?”

We raise our hands, “We’ll go next.”

“Great, come on!”

She slams down a chair for us at an open desk, and we’re greeted by middle-aged “Carole.”

We explain we’re curious about oils and edibles, but we’re infrequent users. My wife would like a vape pen that’s discreet.

I’m keen to try CBD oil to help manage chronic back pain and lift my mood.

Once Carole has a handle on what she thinks would interest us, we’re offered an array of products to choose from.

Two staff members spend at least 10 minutes with us, and likely more than that going over our options — and they seem unlimited.

She offers us a nifty cartridge vape system. They’re sleek and easy to use, but because you can’t buy replacement cartridges in Canada, we have to pass.

We choose $24 Gummiez from The Cannavative Group and a $51 disposable vape pen from Experience Premium Cannabis with a 0.5 grams of hybrid oil.

With tax, it’s about $80 (about 40 per cent of taxes goes to schools). It’s a steep price to pay, but everything in Vegas is overpriced.

We can’t get much more since we’re only in Vegas for a long weekend. Heck, we’ll probably end up sharing most of it or leaving it for the hotel staff anyway.

We would never attempt to bring it back across the border, because that would be wrong (at least we think it would).

With our purchases in hand — and it’s cash only, by the way — we prepare to leave.

Carole wishes us well, and a safe return trip to Canada.

“Congratulations on legalization,” she says.