By Max Godnick
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas: home of the dancing Bellagio fountains, Siegfried and Roy, and the largest recreational cannabis dispensary on Earth.
The Planet 13 Superstore opened for business on Nov. 1 and sees about 1,400 customers at its just-off-the-Strip location every day. But the 112,000-square-foot facility doesn't look like a stoner's paradise from the outside. You won't find any sign of pot on the store's exterior and there's hardly a speck of neon green in sight.
Instead, giant electronic lotus flowers line the building's roof, and a massive red spherical fountain sits just outside the front doors.
The entire operation feels much more Harrah's than head shop.
"We wanted to make this a destination," Larry Scheffler, Planet 13's co-CEO, told Cheddar's Alyssa Julya Smith. "We tried to out-Vegas Vegas."
Nevada legalized recreational marijuana about a year and a half ago, and already has 65 dispensaries selling cannabis across the state to the tune of $425 million in sales in just the first 12 months. The brokerage firm Canaccord Genuity projects that figure will hit $1 billion by the year 2022. Over two-thirds of the dispensaries are in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, but the competition is about to double.
Last week, the Silver State awarded 61 more recreational dispensary licenses.
But Scheffler said his store is less focused on the nearly three million Nevadans than it is on the out-of-towners taking a break in between Blackjack hands.
"We're going after the 55 million visitors," he explained. "Even if we get 5,000 people a day, that only amounts to 3.33 percent of the tourists coming to town."
Planet 13 isn't competing so much against other dispensaries as it is against the bright lights of Sin City's iconic resorts and casinos. That's why Scheffler and company are just as proud of their aerial orb show and interactive video walls as the flower, oils, CBD, and edibles lining the store's shelves.
But this is just phase one. The 24-hour flagship dispensary only takes up 15,000 square feet, about a tenth of the facility's total capacity. A cavernous empty warehouse sits just behind a curtain hanging in Planet 13's lobby, and will soon be the crown jewel of the entire facility. Scheffler called the space the future home of a "cannabis entertainment complex" that will include a coffee shop, tasting lounge, extraction and bottling facilities, a 500-foot-long grand hallway, outdoor balcony, and splash pool.
If Clark County approves public cannabis consumption lounges in January, the space will also house areas for customers to try their newly-purchased souvenirs.
For now, though, the only merchandise guests can sample on site is Planet 13's branded apparel, including a T-shirt boasting: "Size matters when you're the biggest."