Are Marijuana Tourists an Opportunity for Dispensaries or a Trap?

Tony Robertson Source IMG 4203 web e1510175795537
Tony Robertson Source IMG 4203 web e1510175795537

They’re open to new products and experiences, yet need more coddling and tend to browse, but if you know how to serve them, marijuana tourists can provide a healthy boost to your bottom line.

In 2016, some 42.9 million people visited Southern Nevada, spending $35.5 billion—16.3 percent more than in 2015, when they left behind $30.5 billion. Per person, Las Vegas visitors spent an average of $827, up from $721 in 2015. Now that recreational cannabis use is legal, dispensaries expect about 70 to 80 percent of their business will be driven by tourists.


The situation is more complicated than it seems at first glance, though. While tourists can walk into any shop and buy cannabis products, they can’t smoke anywhere except private residences. That presents a Catch-22 that has made budtending in the state more challenging. “I make sure right off the bat to tell tourists that the casinos are hitting people with huge cleaning fees if they find evidence of cannabis use in their rooms,” said Tony Robertson, a former high school teacher turned budtender at The+Source. “That seems to get people’s attention more than any legal stuff.” (Consuming cannabis in casinos, hotel rooms, cars, or anywhere in public carries a fine of $600.)

Many tourists are from states that are not steeped in the cannabis industry, and that presents another challenge: They either have a lot of questions or they’re merely looky-loos. “A lot tourists are just content to browse,” said Robertson, 32. Nevertheless, he has a go-to for quick tourist sales: vapes and edibles. “For tourists, it comes down to discretion,” he said.

Robertson has some other tips.

Keep the tourist experience in mind
“We live here,” Robertson said, “and Vegas has lost a lot of its fantasy appeal.” However, visiting a Sin City cannabis dispensary might be a special treat for a tourist. They may not become a repeat customer; they may never visit Vegas again. But you could become a part of their vacation storytelling experience by introducing them to great products. “I try to make that story awesome,” Robertson said.

Be creative, listen, and know the products
Many tourists have limited experience, and they may not want to stray far from the familiar. “I usually smoke/eat this brand,” they’ll say. “Do you have something with similar effects?” While most shops do offer comparable products, it’s the budtenders job to find the right product, and fast. “The first time someone came in and asked for Brass Knuckles, I was completely lost,” said Robertson. “Then the guy explained that Brass Knuckles makes high-quality cartridges. After hearing that, I was able to help him out.”

Remember: Visitors are on vacation
People visit Vegas for an experience. They want to get outside their comfort zone. For some of them, that might mean recreational marijuana. For more regular users, that might mean trying an exotic edible, dab, transdermal patch, or extract. “Hunter S. Thompson made Vegas a place for weird experiences,” noted Robertson. “And people tend to embrace that ethic. It’s like, ‘Cannabis nasal spray? Why not? We’re in Vegas!’”

4 ways to expand your marketing efforts

Upping your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so your dispensary’s website is the one that pops up first when tourists search the web.

Using social media—including hashtags, to market your dispensary to the tourists you want to attract.

Creating specials like “Tourist Thursdays” that cater directly to out-of-towners.

Partnering with a cannabis tour outfit by offering discounts to their clients.