From celeb nugs to LED light shows, we glimpsed the future of cannabis on our Mango Tango fandango
I was barely one step out the door of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas when I saw a taxi wrapped in a MedMen ad zip away. I knew I had arrived.
The Los Angeles-based company splashed into Sin City in July of this year, and they’ve been advertising so much that your old Aunt Patty, fresh off her annual Vegas trip with the ladies, probably knows what’s up. My driver’s only comment: “I don’t see a dime of it, so I don’t care much.” I suggested that he rent space on his clothing, like a NASCAR driver, but he scoffed. (Other drivers are in on the gambit and get a percentage or a flat-fee kickback for the business they deliver, like with strip clubs and casinos).
There’s signage everywhere; after all, this is Vegas. Still, considering the prudish quarrels over billboards and such that unfolded in Mass before the first gram of legal pot was even sold here, it is a sight for stoned eyes. Comparing legal cannabis in Nevada to what we have in Mass at this point is like comparing a heavyweight title fight to a brawl in a schoolyard; though the former only opened up for business in July 2017 (six months before Mass was supposed to start selling, a year before the rescheduled start date, and 18 months before our first rec dispensaries opened, for those keeping track), it’s already quite the boom state, with cannabis sales breaking records and passing projected estimates.
Having already checked out MedMen in LA a few months prior, I decided to see how other spots measure up. One driver suggested Reef Dispensaries, the behemoth by the strip that also operates more locations in Arizona and Nevada. According to Lyft, Reef is one of the most visited places in Vegas by their passengers, and they don’t seem to be kidding—as we approach the massive building, there’s a pickup/dropoff lane outside the business. It’s like an airport and apparently as busy, but with no security gates or machine gun-toting guards like I’ve seen at a lot of California dispensaries, I actually feel comfortable.
Once through the front doors, I got my ID checked by a jovial security duo and pointed to a queue for the budtenders. Posted at the front of the line was Martha, a rep from Shango Brands who gave me information on the company along with stickers and a Shango-branded Clipper lighter, my favorite. Shango, by the way, is the exclusive grower of Tommy Chong’s Choice buds, and this is something Mass consumers should prepare for—among other celeb items, I saw display cases with brands such as [Wiz] Khalifa Kush, which is grown by Reef’s grow op, Tryke.
The budtenders are there to dazzle you with smells and information and help you see what you’re going to bring home. I went with a few grams—one from each of the various pricing tiers. As it turns out, Khalifa Kush (at $25/gram including tax) turned out to be exceptional, what with its sweet-and-sour lemony pine taste and hard-hitting buzz. It kept me going, not heading for the couch, which is what you’re looking for in Vegas. Testing at 22.04 percent THC and packing significantly strong terpenes, it’s what Reef refers to as a diamond-tier bud. I suggest it for anyone looking for serious flavor, though you can still get some quality nugs on a budget.
We passed through Planet 13, the new player aiming to eat the lunch of spots like Reef. Touted as a destination dispensary, with the interactive LED flooring, laser graffiti, and a flying colored orb show among other draws, the place is built to bring in tourists. There’s even a soon to be consumption-friendly cafe being built up front and a nightclub in the back awaiting expected to pass legislation.
After dropping my crew off at Planet 13, our driver pulled off to a separate area to collect his kickback while we stared at the big red branded globe. It’s all right in the shadow of Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, almost as if the decor is giving an enormous middle finger to the orange presidential turd it’s named for. We then walked through the glass doors and into a gorgeous lobby, where we were greeted by a couple of receptionists who took our IDs. In Grass Vegas, by the way, your ticket doubles as a souvenir.
Thanks to Ivan, the gentleman who greeted us inside the retail area, I learned some of the Planet 13 backstory and got a whole bunch of questions answered about their extensive product selection. The setup is that of an Apple store to Reef’s Best Buy, with a lack of formal lines and open flooring full of beautiful displays to show off offerings from various growers and brands. I went big on flavor, and once informed about my preferences, budtenders recommended Mango Tango (from Greenway Las Vegas), XJ-13 (from the aforementioned Shango), and Silver Hawks Haze (from Green Therapeutics).
Later on, I found that the XJ-13, perfectly cured with a dense flower and minimal stem, crumbled nicely but not into dust. Inhaling it was like receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from a conifer tree, in a good way. I also dug the Mango Tango, with its whopping 12.97 mg/g of the terpene B-myrcene (the same found in actual mangoes) that made for a heady and focused experience, but I wasn’t so sweet on the Silver Hawk Haze. The latter had enticing earthy tones and a nice citrus aftertaste, but we were spoiled by then, and simply wanted some more Mango Tango.
For edibles, I picked up some delicious Dutch Girl caramel stroopwafels at Planet 13 on the rec of a budtender who told me they’re a good morning pick-me-up. He wasn’t kidding. It’s important that these places produce solid products to ingest; some hotels like the Cosmopolitan are weed friendly, but most people are left to smoke in the shadows cast behind the strip, where you run the risk of getting caught and fined. Frankly, I was pretty disappointed with the pre-roll situation, so people who don’t roll their own may want to take it easy on the flower while in Vegas. Which shouldn’t be much of a problem with a million other ways to get extremely stoned and spend your money.