The city of Las Vegas sits in the middle of the basin of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. Founded in 1905 after 110 acres were auctioned off next to the Union Pacific Railroad, the city was incorporated by 1911.

The desert town had been nothing more than a weekend getaway for Los Angles rebel rousers as a place to drink, gamble, and get a quickie divorce.

Motor hotels, called “motels” dotted the highway, but by the late 1930s, Thomas Hull, owner of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, built the western-themed El Cortez Hotel, hailed as the most up-scale hotel in the valley when it opened in 1941.

Hollywood reporter Billy Wilkerson dreamed up the Flamingo Hotel on the heels of the El Cortez’s success in an attempt to attract high rollers. The name was inspired by Bugsy Malone’s starlet and sometimes mob-courier girlfriend, Virginia Hill, after her long, skinny legs.

Funded by mobsters, The Flamingo became the start of a string of hotels along what is still referred to as The Vegas Strip.

As a child visiting Vegas in the 1960s with my parents, I remember Highway 15 cutting straight through town and into the lights. It was, and still is, a magical experience to arrive in Vegas, with its metropolis of fun glowing as if it were day during night.

The casinos were built as gaudy palaces, with winding driveways circling fountains and Greek Gods looking on.

My sister and I were only welcome poolside at the casinos or inside Circus, Circus playing pin-ball machines upstairs, overlooking the adult-filled casino below, where my dad played Keno and mom camped out in front of a nickel slot machine.

Weed Traveler Las Vegas: High Rolling in Sin City

Medical cannabis has been allowed in Nevada since 2013. And, though registered voters in the state voted for recreational cannabis use in November 2016, authorized dispensaries will begin selling legal weed as early as July 1, 2017.

Vegas has embraced the cannabis culture, evident in the historic Bonanza Gift Shop, Vegas’ largest, block-sized tourist attraction now sporting cannabis leaf-emblazoned ashtrays and shot glasses, declaring “High Rollers,” in a whole new light. (My anti-Hippie dad would roll over in his grave at the sight.)

It’s no secret that big money is already there, waiting to invest, thanks to all those high rollers. And though federal law prohibits casino involvement into the cannabis industry, the green tourist trade has already begun; giving recession-strapped Vegas a breath of sweet, green air.

Those ahead of the game have set up well funded, state-of-the-art laboratories, indoor farms, and concentrate processing facilities, ready for the expected onslaught of meeting supply and demand.

Weed Traveler Las Vegas: High Rolling in Sin City

Above: Working with terpenes at the state-of-the-art DB Labs.

With dozens of dispensaries poised to serve, two have already been ranked in the top 25 in the country by Business Insider in September 2016. Among them are The Grove and Essence Vegas (pictured below), with three locations, one of which is conveniently located on the Vegas strip – well played.

And, though the need for recreational and accessible weed will be great, something this Weed Traveler has noted in covering states before and after legalization is that with legislation, more people get helped and healed rather than there being more people simply getting wasted.

I believe this is because, for the simple reason being, legalization allows someone who may have been practicing apothecary for years for family and friends to finally be given the option of bottling up that tincture, slapping a label on it, and taking it to market. Legalization also implies safe access, and that alone creates a safe place to get educated.

So, whether you are a high roller or heavily medicated in Sin City, you can rest assured that your weed will be tested, clean, and available on the strip.

Photos above by Sharon Letts.

Weed Traveler Las Vegas: High Rolling in Sin City

Essence Dispensary photo submitted.