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Legal weed tourism: What happens in Vegas? Blaze in Vegas

Desert oasis

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Las Vegas is often described as a debauched Disney World for adults, so if any city's experience with legalizing marijuana could be instructive for Orlando, it would have to be Sin City.

Since July 1, 2017, anyone over the age of 21 can walk into a recreational dispensary, show a state-issued photo ID, and slap down cash (no credit cards accepted) for up to an ounce of cannabis, or the edible equivalent.

When you arrive in Vegas nowadays, it's impossible to miss the billboards ballyhooing bud along the drive into town, so of course I did some journalistic investigation during my last visit. I stopped by Essence Cannabis Dispensary (essencevegas.com), which is not only partly owned by Las Vegas Sun/Las Vegas Weekly publisher Brian Greenspun, but is the only pot shop operating on the Las Vegas Strip, conveniently located between the Stratosphere and SLS; visit weedmaps.com for other options.

I arrived early enough to be among the only customers. (Pro tip: Shop before noon to avoid crowds.) After a brief check-in, I was ushered from the doctor's office-esque antechamber into the inner sanctum.

Imagine if Willy Wonka ran an Apple Store, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Essence's showroom looks like: pristine white walls and gleaming glass cases filled with colorful candies, psychedelic confections, lotions, potions and vaporizing contraptions. Flower (the bud or flower of the cannabis plant) is available in dozens of sativa, indica, and hybrid varieties, all labeled by THC and CBD content, and displayed in ventilated cubes for easy sniffing. While the reefer your (grand)parents rolled on their gatefold Goodbye Yellow Brick Road covers was only 10 percent THC, the THC content in flower sold today can be as high as 30 percent.

The options can be overwhelming, so it's a good thing that each shopper is assigned a personal "budtender" to help sort out your selection.

There are just a few catches. One, while prices are reasonable – $43 for a top-shelf eighth of an ounce – steep taxes bring the total up to black market rates.

Two, consuming cannabis in public – including inside any casino or hotel – is still prohibited. While you'll smell sweet combustion under every pedestrian overpass from the Luxor to Caesars Palace, you're safer sticking to edibles and vapes if you want to wander around indulging while gaping at the flashing lights, neon, streetwalkers and tourists.

And finally, another friendly piece of advice: Stay away from the blackjack tables when you're baked. In that state of mind, you're far better off blowing your money on Cirque tickets.

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