Budtender Awards Become MGM Resorts First

The Budtender Awards will be held at MGM’s Mandalay Bay casino this weekend despite Las Vegas casinos adopting a zero-tolerance approach to on-site cannabis use. This anti-weed policy exists even though recreational marijuana use has been legal in Nevada since January 2017.

Vials of different kinds of cannabis at a cannabis dispensary

The Budtender Awards will celebrate marijuana dispensary staff and the medical and recreational marijuana industry. ©Business Press

The awards, which will be held on October 11 and 12, are being touted as an opportunity to  celebrate the industry and the budtender. A budtender is a staff member of a cannabis dispensary where medical or recreational cannabis is sold, and who often has to possess a deep knowledge of the diverse range of products.

Around 2,000 people are expected to attend the awards, which is being described by promoters as “the  first-ever cannabis event on an MGM property, as well as the first-ever CBD (cannabidiol) sales, distribution and sampling event.”

According to Keith Allen, the CEO of Round Meadow Holdings, which is hosting the event, he believes MGM was welcoming to Budtender Awards because of  its focus on the educational aspects of cannabis and celebrating how budtenders inform consumers on how to make responsible choices in choosing products that are right for them.

“Our event is designed to promote the front line, the budtenders… It’s a networking opportunity for the brands and the dispensaries and the people within the cannabis industry to come together to talk about education.”Keith Allen, CEO, Round Meadow Holdings

Despite the allowance of the event to be held at MGM’s Mandalay Bay casino, the organizers have had to keep the state’s strict regulatory restrictions in mind. This is because according to the policies outlined by then-Governor Brian Sandoval’s Gaming Policy Committee,  cannabis consumption is barred in Nevada’s casinos.

Weed and the Las Vegas Strip

After recreational marijuana was introduced in Nevada in 2017, Sandoval’s 12-member Gaming Policy Committee deliberated on how cannabis would fit into the gaming industry. It eventually ruled in favor of banning cannabis use on licensed gambling properties because the federal government still considers  marijuana an illegal controlled substance.

In an industry that is already heavily regulated and under intense scrutiny, further interference with federal powers was seen to pose too high a risk. A resolution in March 2018 approved that conferences about the cannabis industry could be staged in resort convention areas.

This year, the Las Vegas City Council approved a measure to  allow marijuana social consumption lounges on the grounds that they were at least 1,000 feet away from casinos and schools. This, however, would not affect the Las Vegas Strip, which is overseen by Clark County and not the Las Vegas City Council.

Before many social consumption lounges were set to open, Assembly Bill 522 was ratified to put a  two-year halt on licensing the venues. It is believed by some that this period may be long enough for federal laws to change regarding recreational marijuana, allowing casinos to cash in on it.

The social consumption market is projected to become a billion-dollar industry. Currently,  Americans spend $10 billion a year on legal marijuana, a number that is set to triple within the next three years as more states look to legalization. There are only 11 states in the US that allow recreational cannabis consumption.

The Budtender Awards event will be the  first cannabis convention of its kind held in Vegas, meaning all eyes will be watching how the event unfolds. Event organizers and representatives of MGM have ensured that they will meet standards, but regulators will nevertheless be attending to ensure laws aren’t broken.

The Budtender Awards

Stall at Cannabis Conference in Niagara Falls, with patrons viewing cannabis products on show.

The Budtender Awards will be the first conference of its kind in Las Vegas and will allow visitors to sample hemp-based products.©Niagara This Week

With tickets to the event ranging between $189 and $599, the Budtender Awards are promising to offer patrons the chance to sample a huge range of products from over 100 vendors. There will also be a lifetime achievement award given to weed-loving hip hop group, Cypress Hill, who is also set to perform.

The  products to be sampled will be hemp-based, meaning that whilst they still contain hundreds of the anti-inflammatory compounds that are believed to have healing properties, they contain a nearly imperceptible amount of the psychoactive compound THC.

Regardless, many vendors are set to be selling high-THC products, with much of the conversations and networking at the conference expected to be around THC products in particular. As for future events, Keith Allen expects that  conferences will only get more popular and relaxed with regulations as the years go on.

“This is going to be an ongoing event,” he said. “Major brands are already discussing their involvement with Year 2. We see this as an ongoing event that we’ll do every year in Las Vegas. We have a great relationship with MGM,” he said.

Following the Budtender Awards, the Marijuana Business Conference will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center in December. Perhaps the biggest event will occur in April 2020, when Caesars Entertainment’s Paris resort will host the 2020 Cannabis Conference.

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Aerial view of the Mandalay Bay Resort exterior

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