Las Vegas is a town built on deception — primarily that your odds of winning a jackpot are good. But some of its deception is less expected and acceptable. For example, a half dozen stores on the Las Vegas Strip attempt to pass hemp off as cannabis.
The Las Vegas Strip is not where you will find legal weed, despite signs apparently telling you otherwise. (Image: runthetrap.com)
Though cannabis and hemp are the same plant, cannabis contains more than than .03% THC, the compound that gets users high. Hemp doesn’t. Mostly, it contains the non-psychoactive compound CBD.
A loophole in the 2018 Nevada Farm Bill allows anyone to peddle hemp, anywhere they want, without the state’s Cannabis Compliance Board, or any other regulatory body, setting rules for its quality and safety.
Located across Las Vegas Boulevard from CityCenter, this is one of a handful of fake weed dispensaries dotting the Strip. Its Yelp score is an unsurprising 1 out of 5 stars, the lowest rating possible, averaged from 49 reviews. (Image: Google)
Most customers patronize these fake dispensaries knowing only that weed is now legal in Las Vegas. They have no idea they’re being bamboozled.
Fake dispensaries, which usually display a cannabis leaf on their logo, sell hemp buds (flower) that appear, and even smell, indistinguishable from cannabis. They also sell gummies, cartridges, and other products in bags and boxes whose packages depict smiling faces eating and vaping their contents.
“You walk in and there’s flowers in jars, there are big security guards, and they’re charging the same prices. But there’s no THC listed on the product,” Layke Martin of the Nevada Cannabis Association told Casino.org.
Not only will this counterfeit cannabis not get you high, it could contain synthetic marijuana, pesticides, or other ingredients that can harm you since these products aren’t laboratory-tested.
What the Law Says…
Nevada prohibits legal cannabis dispensaries from operating “in any venue, attraction, or public area on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street Experience,” and less than 1,500 feet from any establishment with an unrestricted gaming license operating anywhere else.
This is why most licensed Las Vegas cannabis dispensaries locate themselves about a half-mile away from either of Sin City’s two tourist corridors.
But any business not selling real cannabis isn’t beholden to this or any other state law.
This fake dispensary, located in a strip mall within 1,500 square feet of Planet Hollywood, also has a Yelp rating of 1 out of 5 stars. (Image: Google)
In June, the city of Las Vegas cracked down on fake dispensaries. It passed a law requiring them to state, on foot-high signs posted in their entranceway: “This location is not licensed to sell cannabis.” It also requires the actual (low) THC levels of all products to be listed on their packaging.
While a victory, this law only impacts the fake dispensaries along Fremont Street. That’s because the Las Vegas Strip isn’t located in the city of Las Vegas, a fact that still confuses most tourists despite our attempt to bust that myth last year.
The Strip is governed by Clark County, which has yet to pass a similar ordinance. So it’s still buyer beware out there.
How to Spot a Fake
The “dispensary” is located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street Experience
This is thoroughly covered above.
You can see its sales counter from the street
Licensed dispensaries all have a vestibule where someone verifies IDs with a cannabis board-approved scanner before buzzing customers into the store. Nevada law requires scanning IDs, not just checking them at the front of a line outside. If the street entrance opens directly into the store, that means the owner isn’t afraid of losing their license to sell cannabis by neglecting to scan IDs, which is because they don’t have one to lose.
The “dispensary” accepts credit cards
Real cannabis is still federally illegal, so it can be paid for only with cash or a debit card. (That’s true everywhere it’s legal, not just in Las Vegas.) Credit cards can’t be used because they’re issued by banks that are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Check the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board’s website
A list of all state-licensed dispensaries is posted here.
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