Let’s say you’re looking to open a dispensary. What do you need?
Well, you’ll have to get a license, of course; a steady supply of quality cannabis, and a knowledgable staff—but how about an aerial orb show? Or what about giant interactive lotus flowers? Oh, and don’t forget the interactive LED floor tiles.
This, to some, might sound like overkill, and maybe they’re right. But according to Larry Scheffler, co-CEO of Planet 13, that is kind of the point.
"Everything is over the top in Vegas," he told Civilized, citing the city’s famed dancing waters at the Bellagio and the big, artificial volcano the going off in front of Mirage Hotel. He said that the goal of Planet 13 is to be in the grand tradition of over-the-top extravagance that Vegas is known for.
The location, which, currently stands as the largest cannabis dispensary in the world, is open 24/7, and also boasts a gift shop. The staff is currently working on adding a coffee shop and lounge.
"We’re trying to 'out-Vegas' Vegas," he explained. "We had to have something grand, Something huge. We asked, why not try and build the largest cannabis complex in the world? Just to create the destination."
Given the competitive nature of the business, companies are always looking to one-up each other in order to claim that they are the "biggest" or the "best" in their industry. Scheffler says that he understands this, but that he isn’t too concerned about the possibility that another company might come along and eclipse their business.
"Sure, someone could build something larger maybe five miles off the strip, but to have the size we are this close to the heart of Vegas is very limited," he said. "I don’t see that happening any time soon."
It is true that they secured a pretty prime location for Planet 13. By their calculation, the dispensary is just 2500 feet from the heart of the strip, which Scheffler said "is about as close as you can get."
And you can't miss the dispensary given the giant, revolving red planet out front.
As though the sheer size of the revolving red globe wasn't eye-catching enough, it's also glistening with a steady flow of water and shrouded in mist.
The Ultimate Cannabis Attraction
"Most dispensaries are in strip malls and don’t have room to expand, that’s just the way it is," he said. Even if some did happen to grow as big, he says he would welcome that, saying, "if anything, it creates a little bit of an 'Amsterdam' effect." The bottom line is, he isn’t worried about competition from other dispensaries.
"We just think we’re in a different stratosphere on what we want to do," he said, adding that Planet 13 sets its targets much higher. "We want it to rival some of the nightclubs on the Las Vegas strip."
But how does a marijuana dispensary have a chance to stand toe-to-toe with the liveliest and most illustrious clubs in the world? By focusing on "the experience," says Scheffler. For him, it’s not just about the cannabis itself, or the decor or even their forthcoming coffee shop, which he says he wants to be "one of the top five designs in the world". Rather, it's the opportunity for consumers to take a look behind-the-scenes of how a major cannabis operation works.
"Everything we do, from our tasting room to our coffee shop to our production facility for extraction will be behind glass, like its Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory," he said, proudly. "The customers can see exactly what’s going on, how the oil comes out of the leaves, how you distill it from the leaves."
He notes how tourists love this kind of thing, and, clearly, that is of primary concern for the dispensary. He says that he expects "90 percent" of their customers will be tourists. Still, he’s quick to add that he doesn’t want to exclude locals from the experience.
"Las Vegas is considered the city with no locks and no clocks, but the other thing you don’t think about is all the people that work at these hotels," he said. "Given it’s so close to the strip, those people can easily come over and shop at our store after their shifts."
The old adage states that bigger isn’t always better, and many large businesses tend to fall into the trap of quantity over quality, but Scheffler seemed insulted by this suggestion.
"No," he said. "We’re very concerned about quality. Not only for our regular customers, but for our medical customers. That’s a big part of it."
This isn’t to suggest that he thinks the current version of Planet 13 is perfect—not yet, anyway.
"We’re playing with it," he says. "We’re talking to our customers, asking if they like this, if they don’t like that."
Some tweaks that have already been made involve keeping a smelling station onsite. The Planet 13 team initially decided to do away with their smelling station, as they felt it only served to hold up the process, but the customers disagreed.
"We received a lot of pushback for this and decided to reinstate it," he said. "We want to keep adapting and give our customers the best experience that we can."
One place they haven’t received pushback from? City officials.
"The county commissioners that oversee us love what we’re doing," he says. "Everything is grand, open, bright and cheery. This is what they’d like to portray a real Vegas dispensary as looking like."