As legal adult-use marijuana approaches its first anniversary, the process of going to a dispensary has become a bit rote. You go to a place that looks like a doctor’s office, you check in, walk into a room full of glass cases, choose your products and check out.
Acres Cannabis is exploring a new way to buy with The Underground, which Acres CEO John Mueller describes as “Nevada’s first marijuana farmers market.” The idea is for small growers and producers to have a space where they can share their creations. “We want the little guy from Tahoe to come down,” he says.
But with the change in substance, there’s also a different style: The Underground is set up to look like a drug marketplace from an ’80s movie. Shoppers get a badge, go through a “tunnel” with fake stone walls and emerge into a room with graffiti-covered walls where vendors sell out of car trunks—not the whole cars, just the trunks, which have been cut off and set into the walls as storage. “It makes it more entertaining,” says Mueller of the art-designed experience.
Vendors will cycle in and out each week, and Acres hopes to draw in women- and minority-owned businesses. Part of the appeal is that people who bring in product will be able to talk to customers about their wares with an authority and detail that store budtenders can’t. “They can talk about extraction methods, who grows in soil, who grows in cocoa,” Mueller says.
The Underground’s Disney-like setting will draw the “What happens in Vegas” novelty crowd, while the ability to chat with cultivators and producers will appeal to weed nerds. Mueller points out that, as more dispensaries enter the market, it’ll be increasingly important for dispensaries to make themselves stand out. “It’s challenging, but you have to offer different experiences,” he says.
One of the ways The Underground sets itself apart is by allowing customers to watch marijuana being prepared in real-time via an open-view kitchen and trim window. Customers can also take a step back with Acres’ “museum,” a collection of memorabilia ranging from ancient glass bottles of cannabis extract to vintage copies of High Times with Debbie Harry on the cover. Mueller hopes to add a consumption lounge whenever they are finally permitted; they’ve got plenty of space for it.
“At the end of the day, it’s 19,000 square feet,” he says.
If the Las Vegas marijuana business keeps going like it has been, Acres should have no trouble filling them.
The Underground at Acres Cannabis
Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., 2320 Western Ave., 702-399-4200, acrescannabis.com