Las Vegas, Nevada, known today worldwide as a desert resort playground for adults, is emerging as a forerunner in the engagement of everyday people to use cannabis. On any given day cannabis-friendly Las Vegas welcomes visitors who arrive by air, bus, and car—there is no longer passenger rail service to get you here from anywhere else.

The adjacent state of California, the most populous place in the nation with nearly 40 million people, has enacted pro-cannabis laws. Yet, Los Angeles area residents are irresistibly tempted to make the infamous four-hour, one-way drive across the desert to a popular place in the sun offering escape from everyday reality. The first 100 years of Las Vegas growth was stimulated by dazzling casinos and top entertainment productions featuring famous celebrities. The second Las Vegas century already is underway, punctuated by the urge for escapism from everyday pain through cannabis. 

This cultural shift began with legislative changes in Nevada. Following voter approval, the state in 2000 legalized medical cannabis, then a second ballot measure made recreational use of cannabis products legal starting in 2017. Another crucial change happened in 2018 with the federal government passage of The Farm Bill that opened up nationwide CBD marketing and sales.

Clark County, Nevada—home to both the Las Vegas Valley and also most of the state’s population—experienced a stunningly unexpected introduction of legalized recreational cannabis sales in terms of the revenue generated. As of July 1, 2017 there were 35 cannabis dispensaries licensed throughout this one county alone and government officials all across Nevada eagerly started making plans for distributing the tax revenue from cannabis sales. The general public’s acceptance of recreational retail sales of cannabis in Nevada has initiated a slow but steady transformation of a relatively small state with a population of only about 3 million people.

Community and business leaders nowadays talk openly about their hopes for Las Vegas to learn the many available lessons about managing tourism brought on by this culture change. More specifically, such hopes consider the impact of potential tax and commercial revenue that are expected to be generated by an increase in cannabis tourism to Las Vegas. The future of Las Vegas is best considered through the lens of history. Amsterdam, the capitol of the Netherlands, with roughly the same population as the Las Vegas Valley, has since the late 1970s learned to manage their influx of visiting cannabis consumers internationally. In contrast to the comparatively young Las Vegas, however, Amsterdam has had time to develop and grow since the late 12th century. Could Las Vegas more quickly become the New Amsterdam of the Mojave Desert following the anticipated 2019 legalization of public consumption of cannabis products locally?

This is not a question that can be answered either easily or quickly. Will the entire Las Vegas Valley somehow learn to stay ahead of the increasing public acceptance of using cannabis? Some Las Vegas locals speculate that this entire region potentially could experience a major upswing in both visitors and new residents who might flock here for reasons completely unrelated to casinos or Broadway-style shows or even a Las Vegas expansion of professional sports teams. In 2018 the annual number of visitors exceeded the number of locals in Las Vegas 13 times over so it is reasonable to expect Southern Nevada in the near-future will face an influx of additional people here. 

Infrastructure managers and planners in the Las Vegas Valley inevitably will need to frame expectations for how much capacity there is for the addition of new visitors and residents here in the desert. Already there are controversial efforts to maintain the long-term availability of water to support the anticipated population increase. 

Yet, management of available natural resources is not the only urgent concern for this growing region. For instance, one of the worst-kept secrets about the Las Vegas Strip is the persistent annoyance of finding free parking near the most desirable venues for having fun and enjoying a night out. An expanded Las Vegas freeway system springs from the American cultural emphasis upon individual ownership and enjoyment of cars. This, in turn, has an impact upon the local traffic congestion. A planned interstate freeway connecting Las Vegas with Phoenix, Arizona and a high-speed rail system linking Las Vegas with Los Angeles would attract even more people to visit or relocate here. Meanwhile, public transportation availability as an alternative to private vehicle usage throughout the Las Vegas Valley remains a controversial issue.

The long-standing nickname of “Sin City” distinguishes Las Vegas from other population centers in the United States. Las Vegas owns the reputation as the marriage and divorce mecca of the nation. The allure of neon-lit casinos across the Las Vegas Valley motivates visitors to part with their money. The next logical phase in the evolution of Las Vegas as a world-class territory of pleasure is the marketing, sales, and public consumption of cannabis.  

I am one local Las Vegas entrepreneur who chooses to focus upon social and cultural changes brought on by cannabis consumers to this already-famous vacation and convention destination. To prepare for the forward momentum I created an online cannabis education resource for coaching and training for the general public. My goals include emphasizing simple, understandable language for cannabis awareness especially because the cannabis plant science is brimming with scientific terms of multiple syllables. I work to ensure that cannabis consumers become comfortably aware of both the established medical uses (such as CBD) and recreational options (such as THC combined with CBD for the “entourage effect”.) I believe cannabis consumers need to adopt simple language to share their experiences of shopping for the most appropriate cannabis products to align with their individual health profiles.

I am unashamed in my efforts to reshape cannabis industry expectations. Here’s why I also created a free webinar to introduce sales and customer service skills training for the national U.S. cannabis industry: In Las Vegas I keep encountering examples of people who work in dispensaries putting the emphasis upon cannabis products, themselves. 

Such a product emphasis and focusing upon today’s in-store pricing specials may be perfectly suited for selling to cannabis consumers who are ages 21 through 39. Why not also devote some attention to cannabis consumers who are over the age of 40? The cannabis industry is still very new across the United States and may not yet have come to accept what I see as a rapidly-changing sales environment: Selling cannabis products to multiple generations of consumers will not necessarily work with the current “one sales approach fits all” attitude.

New potential cannabis consumers who walk into legal sales venues anywhere across the nation today cannot be expected to understand about sometimes subtle differences between the specific products available there for purchase. The jargon and slang routinely used in today’s cannabis product sales can also discourage consumer acceptance. This is precisely why I coach and consult new cannabis industry sales and customer service employees to choose proven strategies and tactics in consultative selling that presently are succeeding in much older and more established industries rather than merely emphasizing selling of products.

About the author:  Woody Goulart is known as “Dr. Woody” since he has an earned doctorate in communications and served as a full-time university professor. He is a certified professional coach for transforming clients’ lives and work based upon his significant employment experience in consultative sales, coaching, and mentoring of adults. His company is a business licensed in Nevada and named B COM LLC for Buzz Community—creating positive excitement and a positive rush or feeling.

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