All photos courtesy of Planet 13
Nevada has always been America’s pleasure garden. Since the state’s inception in the 1860s, brothels could openly operate, to varying degrees. In the 1930s, Nevada’s first licensed casino, Pair-O-Dice, defied two decades of gambling prohibition in the U.S. It was just a matter of time before the Silver State’s most famous city, Las Vegas, brought our favorite vice to its world-famous Strip. Or as close to the Strip as legally permitted, anyway.
Planet 13, which became the world’s largest pot shop when it opened its doors to the public on November 1, is located about a block west of the glamorous Las Vegas Strip. But Planet 13 is more than just a glittery spot to buy weed. Described as a “cannabis superstore,” the 15,000 square-feet dispensary resides within a 40,000 square-foot entertainment complex that houses a dazzling sea of interactive lasers, glowing sculptures, and animated 3D displays.
Planet 13 isn’t the first of Vegas’ go-big-or-go-home weed attractions, either. Last year, the Paiute-owned NuWu held the crown for world’s largest cannabis retailer, nestled within a 16,000 square-foot building. In September, Cannabition became the world’s first “immersive” marijuana museum, featuring huggable bud art alongside the biggest bong ever blown. And MJBizCon, our nation’s most popular cannabis business expo, will conduct its sixth annual conference in Vegas later this week.
Planet 13’s cofounder and co-CEO, Larry Scheffler, is the creative mind behind the complex. He’s lived in Nevada for nearly half a century, and 40 years ago he founded Las Vegas Color Graphics, the state’s largest commercial printing company. He brought his expertise with design and eye-catching aesthetics to Planet 13 in order to bring something more than just another weed retail store to a city that already has two dozen dispensaries.
“We wanted to offer things that’ve never been seen before in Vegas. And Vegas is pretty over-the-top, as you know,” Scheffler told MERRY JANE by phone. “What we’re trying to do is out-Vegas Vegas.”
In a town with daily circus acts and 15,000 miles of neon, how exactly does Planet 13’s team plan to show-up Sin City?
Planet 13 is essentially a place where stoners can saturate their senses before, during, or after getting blazed. Besides a massive dispensary with high-rise ceilings, the complex showcases giant lotus flowers. Visitors can change the colors of these flowers, to create a fluctuating floral rainbow across Planet 13’s rooftop. Additionally, every ten minutes, flying orbs synchronize to the beat of the pot shop’s background music. After an aerial dance, the orbs fly away to recharge. There’s also a light wall where tourists can unleash their inner Jackson Pollocks or Picassos, using a laser gun to temporarily splash a message or design on the wall display.
But that’s not all. Even though Planet 13 is currently open to anyone 21 and over, there are more earthly delights on the way, as Scheffler explained in our interview.
MERRY JANE: Let’s start at the beginning, first. How did the grand opening of Planet 13 go?
Larry Scheffler: It was fantastic. First, we had the VIP grand opening on October 30. It was absolutely packed. High-profile people and a lot of politicians from around the state came to enjoy it. We opened November 1 to the public, but we had to close on Halloween to stock everything. We’ve been going gangbusters over here.
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You said some politicians were there. Were they there to check out the place, or were they there to buy weed?
They were all here to check it out, first, to see what was going on. They wanted to see what we’d done. Some of them had given us our license, and that included the Chair of Clark County Commission, Steve Sisolak, who got elected governor last week. [Senator] Tick Segerblom was here, and he’s kind of the Godfather of Cannabis in our state. He’s in charge of the district that controls the Strip, and he’s very pro-marijuana. You might remember he made the first purchase for recreational cannabis here in Nevada.
We had people representing Senator [Dean] Heller’s camp. And now-Senator [Jacky] Rosen’s camp came here to give us some awards, even though it was the grand opening, the first day. The mayor of North Las Vegas [John J. Lee] was also here — just a ton of people.
About how many people showed up?
We’re guessing 1200 to 1500 people were at the grand opening. Of course, that’s not at all one time, but over the course of the day.
When I looked up Planet 13 on the map, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly close it was to Trump Tower. It’s basically in your backyard. Was that placement intentional?
It wasn’t intentional to be close to Trump Tower. It was intentional to be as close as we could to the Strip. By law, dispensaries must be outside of the Gaming Corridor. The Gaming Corridor usually runs about a mile on either side of the Strip. But about 800 feet from here, I had my first shop, a printing company, for 21 years. I know the area.
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Casinos are federally regulated, so dispensaries have to be so many feet away from the casino entrances, correct?
Exactly. As I was doing the analysis with Bob, my business partner, we determined where the zoning would work as we got closer to the Strip. We wanted to get closer. We found a “donut hole” that was zoned outside of the gaming corridor. That’s how we’re able to get this close to the Strip: it used to be an industrial area. It used to be the Coors distribution building. Oddly enough, this is the only walkway, period, that lets you go west of the Strip from the Strip.
Las Vegas may soon become one of the only places in the U.S. to allow social consumption, clubs or bars where adults can smoke weed together. What are your plans if that happens (fingers crossed)?
We’re not only close to the Strip, but the sides of the complex with the entertainment were also part of our vision. We have 72,000 square-feet to expand in to. We’re hoping after December 31, after the newly-elected politicians go into office, hopefully we’ll have the social consumption rules made so we can have smoking or consumption lounges. We have a lot of room to grow, such as a drinking or hookah lounge.
Everyone on the Strip has a balcony, so we have a stairway that leads to a balcony that will have a six-inch-deep splash pool. If it’s the summer, you can splash around, and you can smoke your marijuana at the consumption lounge. The club will be over the top [of the complex], and it’ll rival any other club on the Strip when we’re done.
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From your vantage point behind the scenes, where would you say Nevada is right now with implementing social consumption?
Again, you have to do it legally. We have 55 million visitors here each year, but you’re supposed to consume in your home or private residence. Law enforcement is pretty understanding, unless you’re being obnoxious, like if you’re at the front entrance of a casino, and you’re smoking away, and the smell is going inside [of the casino]. They’ll ask you to leave. But everyone seems to understand that.
Since when you’re smoking flower you can smell it, most tourists are looking for vapes or edibles or gummy squares or THC “potions” that we have, which you can put into your Sprite.
You mentioned a sizable expansion coming soon to Planet 13. What are some of those expansion plans besides a balcony where folks can blaze?
We have a coffee shop coming, about 2,500 square feet. The coffee is non-infused, though. There’s a giant greenhouse inside of the complex, which the cafe will complement. The coffee shop will appear in the center of the room. They’ll prepare sandwiches and what have you in the small greenhouse. We’ll have a baking center there, so people can see the pastries being rolled out. Tourists love to see that. In the back, we’ll have a mezzanine, so you can look down on the greenhouse and observe people entering the center of the facility.
I’ve also heard you’re planning to roll out a tasting room for weed beer.
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Yes, we’ll have a tasting room, but it’s also non-infused. The law says we cannot have alcohol beverages infused with THC, so the beer in our tasting room has no alcohol and no THC. I can’t say who is producing our beer — they don’t want me to say yet — but I can say he was with one of the biggest craft breweries in the world.
No alcohol or THC? What does the tasting room offer, then?
People can try the beer in our tasting room, and if they like it, they can head over to our dispensary where they can buy the THC-infused versions of that same beer.
It looks like you’ve got a ton of entertainment for everyone who stops by, intoxicated or not. How many non-smokers come just to play at Planet 13?
That was our whole thought. Maybe there’s a group of friends, and just one guy wants to buy cannabis. [The entertainment] is all free. This is the first permanent installation in the Western hemisphere for the floating orbs. The light wall that came out of England is the first installation in the Western United States, for sure.
The lotus flowers are the first permanent installation [of their kind] in the world. They were on demonstration one time — similar, but not this good — at Burning Man in 2014. We found someone out of Los Angeles after reviewing hundreds of applications from designers around the world. He also did the 3D map we have on a 30-by-40-foot screen.
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What you do at the light wall is stand 30 feet away from the wall, and you have a “spray can” with a laser on the top, and the laser can change colors. You “spray” this laser on the wall, and the 3D mapping will write out whatever you’re doing with the “spray paint.” You can put on, “Suzy, will you marry me?” or “We’re here on June 18.” Visitors like to do that so they take a photo to put on their social media.
When will the next phase of construction be completed?
It’ll take about 30 days to go through the county for the permits for the coffee shop. That’s already built out, though. Altogether, it should take about 60 days. We’re waiting until the end of the year when we think the [social consumption] ordinance will be done with the county to start the consumption lounges. Those will take us about nine months from the time of launch. About 120 days from now, the tasting room will be done. And in about 180 days the 10,000 square-foot production facility should also be done.
We want to keep on changing. Even some of the special effects in the club today, that are blowing people’s minds, we still want more stuff that people haven’t seen in Vegas. We’ll keep it unique.
So Planet 13 is going to look very different a year from now?
Given last week’s election, it looks like we may have a Congress that’s a little friendlier to cannabis, and Michigan legalized recreational weed. Are you concerned that legalization’s spread across the nation could take cannabis tourists away from Vegas or Nevada?
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No. Think of Vegas’s history. When other states started doing the riverboat casinos, Vegas was scared. When Native Americans got casinos, Vegas got a little scared then, too. “What’s it going to do to our tourist industry?” All it did was take us over the last twelve years from 40 million visitors to 55 million a year.
In essence, people enjoy gambling in their local areas, but then they want to go to the mothership in Las Vegas and really see what it’s like [laughs]. It hasn’t hurt Vegas a bit. It’s only grown more. I think the same thing is going to happen with cannabis. I’m not worried about it at all.
The “13” in Planet 13 comes from the 13th letter of the alphabet, M, which stands for “marijuana.” That number is considered unlucky though. Most casinos don’t list a 13th floor for this reason. Why’d you settle on 13 instead of some other number that could also represent marijuana?
Well, there’s no Row 13 on the airlines, either. You see it here, true, but you see it everywhere. The name didn’t bother us at all, and we felt it was unique. But the 13th letter in the alphabet is M, and this is Planet Marijuana.
I’ve had people ask us, “Did you have a big ol’ think tank to come up with the name and the logo?” And I’d point to myself and Bob and say, “The think tank is right here.” [laughs]
For those of you attending MJBizCon this week, Planet 13 is making it easy to shuttle to and from the conference and the Strip. Two 21-passenger vans will make regular routes between these three points over the course of the three-day event. Contact Planet 13 for more details.
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