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This Las Vegas lounge might seem like your neighborhood bar, but with a certain leafy twist

A frothy cocktail viewed from above with a skewer with three berries. Across the glass is a stirrer with a circular top that reads "2.5 mg, Smoke and Mirrors Cannabis Lounge".
Yvette Fernandez
It may look like a regular cocktail, but this one from Smoke and Mirrors in Las Vegas is a "canacocktail" — a cocktail that contains marijuana. Smoke and Mirrors is a cannabis lounge. Cannabis has been legal in several Mountain West states such as Colorado and Nevada for years, but cannabis lounges are a relatively new concept, giving people another way to consume marijuana in public.

Walking into Smoke and Mirrors, it appeared to be like any other bar or lounge in Las Vegas — nicely decorated and welcoming. The drinks seem like those you'd get anywhere else. Mixologist Jasmine Gonzales makes a drink she says is similar to a Mojito. Here it's called “You Don't Bring Me Flowers.”

Gonzales described it like this: “It has passionfruit, it has lime juice, it has mint, it has agave…” and went on with other specialty ingredients. “We top it off with some ginger beer,” she said with a smile.

The topping off continues by pouring in a special ingredient. “They're really tiny, but they pack a punch,” she said pouring the contents of a tiny vial into the drink.

What packs a punch is in that tincture — it contains cannabis.

Smoke and Mirrors bills itself as the first cannabis lounge of its kind in Nevada. In addition to its drinks, it also offers pre-rolled joints and other cannabis products — similar to what you'd find in a cannabis shop — as well as cannabis-infused coffee drinks and beer.

For the drinks, Assistant Manager Christopher Manganero said the punch is in the tinctures, which are small vials that sit in a tray, similar to what you'd see in a laboratory. 

“In every one of these tinctures will be 2.5 milligrams," Manganero said. "And then we have different options, we have Indica, Sativa or hybrid. So what that means is Sativa is going to keep you a little bit more social and up, Indica is going to keep you a little bit more slouchy and more relaxed.” 

A person holds up a glass device that looks like a small plunger. Only the person's hand and part of their arm is visible. It is filled with clear liquid. In the background are bottles of alcoholic drinks.
Yvette Fernandez
A Smoke and Mirrors employee holds up a glass vial with a cannabis tincture inside it. This one measures 2.5 milligrams. These tinctures are added to drinks at the lounge. Just as with other cannabis products, these tinctures come in the same varieties marijuana consumers are familiar with: Indica, Sativa, and hybrid.

A group of friends waited for their order as they sat at a retro-inspired corner couch in the lounge.

“I got the Evolve canacocktail, 2.5 milligrams,” said Christine, a local who didn't want to give her last name.

Christine said she's tried marijuana before. But Cannabis cocktails or “canacocktails” are a whole new experience.

"Ooh (it's) good. Like cinnamon-y and apple-y,” she said, smacking her lips.

Reed, a middle-aged local who didn't want to give his last name, ordered a cannabis-infused drink and a pre-rolled joint.

“I'm waiting on an infused latte and then I got a pre-roll," he said. "And I successfully peer-pressured my friend to take her first hit."

Manganero, the assistant manager, said his team is there to help guide patrons through their cannabis experience. Each of the different strains have varying strengths and effects.

Manganero compares the strength of the tinctures and the other products to different proofs of rum.

“So the pre-rolls would essentially be, you know, your Bacardis," he explained. "Then your infused pre-rolls and dabs concentrates would be more of your 151 which pack a much harder punch.”

And there have been some people who learned that the cannabis in consumption lounges is stronger than they anticipated. CEO Christopher LaPorte recalls a recent Australian customer who claimed to be a “hardcore” cannabis consumer.

“I was like, Are you sure? Because it's illegal in Australia,” LaPorte said. “But the reality was, yeah, he smoked a full pre-roll that was a little above his pace, pay grade, and we had to have him sit on the couch and we kind of hung out with him for a while.”

Staff members are trained to watch for customers who may have an adverse reaction. General Manager Tashambe Rose said servers actively monitor how much customers consume.

“A person can stay here for five hours, but they can't smoke five joints at one time,” Rose said.

And if you're too high to drive, this lounge has a 24-hour “no tow” policy.

Smoke and Mirrors has branded its own signature drinks such as “the Godfather,” named after a Clark County commissioner who supports consumption lounges. La Porte said there are drinks named after local bands as well as famous musicians,

But don't expect an Elvis drink.

“I don't have an Elvis drink. Oh, no,” LaPorte said, feigning a faux pas. “But I have Liberace. I do have Liberace and I do have Celine Dion!”

Like the variety of drinks and products, its customers are just as diverse, something local resident Victoria Wood appreciates.

“I'm a child of the 70s, so, you know, old hippie actually," Wood said. "And so, I think that it's just really fascinating. And a lot of people my age who came from that era, we still enjoy once in a while.”

Like Wood said, cannabis has come a long way. And LaPorte likens this transition to alcohol and Prohibition.

“Sixty percent of what we serve are drinks," LaPorte said. "So, people are drinking their weed.  It’s no different than going to your favorite watering hole."

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio (KNPR) in Las Vegas, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.