Tourists traveling to Las Vegas are after cash, call girls and now cannabis, say advocates. Sin City’s unconventional reciprocity laws mean that its collectives honor medical cannabis cards from out-of-state. Cannabis tourism’s potential is limitless for a state that sees 41 million visitors per year. Critics are cringing at the mere notion of cannabis billboards, however, the cannabis industry is winning.
Concerns over the lack of clarity has a lot of Nevadans asking questions about the state’s new medical cannabis law. Legislature in 2013 set up a regulatory structure and opened up the door to commercial cannabis operations.
Recently the Las Vegas City Council eased restrictions on cannabis billboards. “This is a city where people come to let their hair down and have fun. I cannot imagine a better match for cannabis tourism,” said Joe Brezny, executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association. “We have legalized gambling, we have legalized prostitution, we regulate vice quite well here.” Brenzy was the one-time head of the Nevada Republican Party and former director of Mitt Romney’s campaign in Nevada. Brenzy is also the one leading the move for Nevada’s recreational initiative.
On Jan. 20 the city council unanimously voted to allow Releaf, a city collective, to launch three billboard ads. Businesses in Las Vegas reportedly were faced with more limitations than their counterparts in unincorporated Clark County. Releaf’s 3,700 square-foot facility is located on the strip. Releaf couldn’t be listed on a billboard along with its neighboring businesses. “Our sign outside is pretty small, so the sidewalk is 100 feet away from our sign,” Releaf Manager Michael Hayford said. “You really can’t read that sign from the street.” Locals call cannabis billboards an eyesore. Nearby Inyo Fine Cannabis in unincorporated Clark County boasts “the biggest cannabis sign in the world,” the company’s partner Greta Carter said. According to regulation, cannabis billboards in Nevada must be 2,000 feet away from the nearest school. The regulatory hurdles that cannabis businesses go through in Nevada is astounding. According to Hayford, he paid a total of $175,000 in regulatory fees to city, county and state officials.
Releaf organizers plan on running a billboard ad with the slogan “Don’t gamble with your meds.”
The city approved a one-year trial run to see how changing the current city ordinance would affect cannabis ads in Las Vegas.
Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, chairman of the commission raised concerns at an Advisory panel March 23 over billboards that ran ads for Dr. Reefer, a toll-free number for cannabis recommendations. Officials with the Division of Public and Behavioral Health said the division has no authority to restrict cannabis advertising. Hardesty’s pleas fell on deaf ears and the council loosened restrictions, enabling Las Vegas collectives to run billboard ads.
“In order for our businesses to be competitive, we had to loosen these requirements. They were pretty onerous, very expensive, huge bonds required, extraordinary limits placed on the size of a sign placed on a building. These are things that have never been done before for any other business,” said Councilman Bob Coffin.
Running cannabis ads is a full-time challenging job. “A big step in the right direction,” Oasis Medical Cannabis CEO Ben Stilltoe told KSNV. “We use a lot of social media and there is also specific cannabis friendly magazines that we’re able to advertise in, but aside from that it’s very limited.”
The tourists have been coming in droves. This fall 5,500 attendees made it out for the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, a growing Las Vegas-based event. Cannabis tourism could go up even further with recreational cannabis on the November ballot.
Are you planning a trip to Las Vegas to enjoy cannabis?