Independence Day came early in Nevada. On July 1, tourists and locals joined together to celebrate a new kind of freedom: the end of cannabis prohibition. It was a historic day, marked with jovial tomfoolery and a few bittersweet moments.
The line to enter Essence Cannabis Dispensary (5765 W. Tropicana Ave.) stretched beyond the shade of two tents. Ubers brought tourists from the Strip, and security guards passed out water on this blast-furnace afternoon. Stephen T., a 26-year-old Long Island commodities broker, sang a snippet of the Snoop Dogg classic “Smoke Weed Everyday.” His group flashed wads of cash, stocking up before hitting the clubs.
Nearby, at the Dispensary (5347 S. Decatur Blvd., #100), store managers were so upbeat and thankful about this newfound freedom, you could have mistaken them for perky baristas. Oddly enough, the Roberto’s Taco Shop next door hadn’t seen a bump in business … yet.
Downtown, Acres Cannabis’ (2320 Western Ave.) One Love Cannabis Celebration & Community Jam featured music, dancing, live art, a food truck and a variety of booths promoting lifestyle accoutrements. The interior felt like a psychedelic version of Ethel M Chocolate Factory. Instead of watching candy production through a glass wall, visitors gawked at the “cannabis kitchen.” Leading a tour, a rep for Mezz Brands (T-shirt slogan: “No stems, no seeds”) shared an emotional story about how she helped ease her dying father’s pain through surreptitious edibles.
Earlier that day, an elegant Las Vegas couple marked the occasion by getting married amid the vibrant hues of the Grove cultivation facility. Vertical fields of lush marijuana plants swayed under the cool breeze and perfect sun of fans and grow lights. The groom, Mark Balfe-Taylor, wore a bud boutonnière, and the bride, Anna, carried a bouquet with leaves and buds among traditional flowers.
Solemnly, Balfe-Taylor explained how his father had been jailed for a marijuana offense and his own academic goals had been derailed by prohibition. (He’d written a Ph.D dissertation on cannabis.) Even as the city celebrates freedom, the past still smarts.