Giant buds you can hug, a slide that drops into a pool of nugs, and the world’s largest bong are among the promises of Cannabition, an immersive cannabis museum now open in downtown Las Vegas. According to founder JJ Walker, the experience takes guests from “seed to celebration” via photogenic, interactive, and often enlightening installations.
‘Immersive’ is a hot buzzword in entertainment at the moment, describing everything from interactive plays and escape rooms to oh-so-Instagrammable selfie factories, like Candytopia and the Museum of Ice Cream. It was, in fact, the latter that inspired Walker to conceive of a similar concept surrounding cannabis.
Though Instagram is certainly a facet of Cannabition’s design and its many colorful, photogenic rooms, Walker also emphasizes education and—should Las Vegas decide to allow it—possible social consumption.
“I’d been thinking about how [social consumption] would work,” Walker said. “Is it really people just sitting around smoking hookahs? Why don’t we combine the emergence of these immersive museums with cannabis? Vegas seemed like a good option because Nevada was the next legal state and Vegas is the center of tourism.”
Walker worked as event producer in Colorado before opening a dispensary in the Denver area in 2009. He later founded My 420 Tours, a cannabis tourism agency, which connects travelers with weed-friendly hotels and experiences in states where such things are allowed. However, Las Vegas proved to be a surprisingly difficult market.
“When they legalized cannabis, they shut down all consumption,” he said. “You can buy it, but you can’t smoke it anywhere. Hotel rooms, buses, all the things we got away with in Colorado, Sin City said, ‘no way.'”
Cannabition is a way for Walker to engage in cannabis-centric tourism in Vegas, offering a permanent exhibit that can evolve as the law does. Its fun, accessible exhibits appeal to cannabis enthusiasts and mainstream audiences alike, who can snap pictures with friends as they learn about the plant’s biology, history, and culture.
The exterior of the building features a mural by Gear Duran that takes viewers through moments in cannabis history, both positive and negative. For instance, the visage of Jimi Hendrix fades into a cop car adorned with the D.A.R.E. logo.
Inside, you can lounge in a cannabis seed bed, then wander a forest of 7-foot buds which you’re encouraged to embrace. Climb up a staircase that represents smoke being inhaled, then slide through a pair of lips and a series of smoke rings, and plop into a pool of foam nugs. Along the way, learn about the difference between THC and CBD and how cannabis is harvested. Or, learn about terpenes and their effects at the Clear Concentrates’ terpene smelling station.
Notably, Hunter S. Thompson’s 1973 Chevy Caprice is on display, on loan from his widow, writer and activist Anita Thompson. This is not the same car HST and Oscar Zeta Acosta drove between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the road trip that would ultimately become the basis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That car was but a rental. This Red Shark was HST’s own car, and the one used in the 1998 film adaptation of Fear and Loathing.
HST was a daily cannabis user, according to Thompson, and sat on the board of NORML. Though Thompson is not a smoker herself, she wrote a paper on cannabis while studying at Columbia in NYC.
“I started to research prison and the prison system,” Thompson tells High Times. “Three strikes, minimum mandatory sentencing, and the privatization of prisons all happened within a few years of one another, and that was shocking to me. This was the same time that we were losing our labor to overseas factories, so basically we have these prison camps in the U.S. and a lot of these laborers are working for 13 cents an hour [on sentences] for possession of marijuana.”
Thompson frequently hosts NORML events on Owl Farm, the sprawling Woody Creek, Colorado property HST once referred to as his “fortified compound,” and hopes lending the car to Cannabition will not only bring awareness to these topics, but reinvigorate those who remain committed to fighting against the criminalization of cannabis. Additionally, she believes this kind of exhibit will promote HST’s legacy in the right spirit: “integrity and also fun.”
“The car wouldn’t go to a museum that’s funded by Kaiser Permanente or something,” Thompson said. “The need for Hunter’s work is still growing with the crisis we have in our country right now, politically. It’s important to keep his homeland, his archives, and his artifacts, and for the public to have access to Hunter on a personal level.”
The Red Shark will be presented alongside a rotating collection of the journalist’s personal effects, including photographs, manuscripts, pipes, and pages from the his notebook.
Other exhibits include an Indica room where guests can recline on a giant Buddha sponsored by W Vapes, a Pax tree swing, and an oversized Raw joint sculpture in which one end is a kaleidoscope and the other lights up. Perhaps most impressive is the Bongzilla, a 24-foot glass bong designed by Jerome Baker, which is, in theory, operational. Guests may also stop off at the museum’s retail component, where a variety of CBD-infused beverages and snacks are available for purchase. In all, guests should expect to spend 45 minutes to an hour inside.
Walker hopes that Las Vegas will soon embrace the idea of social consumption and that Cannabition will secure the city’s first official license.
“On that day, we could christen the bong with a group of the top leaders and celebrities in the industry,” he said. “Imagine Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg hanging out together, christening this bong.”
Cannabiton can be found in Las Vegas’ Neonopolis, the Fremont Street entertainment complex that already contains axe-throwing bar Axehole, the gutbusting Heart Attack Grill, and geeky video game bar The Nerd. Current hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight. (Hours are subject to change, so we’d advise calling ahead.) Tickets start at $24.20.