‘Bongzilla’ Roars to Life at Cannabition Museum in Las Vegas

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By, Regina Garcia Cano

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A glass bong taller than a giraffe. Huggable faux marijuana buds. A pool full of foam weed nuggets.

Gabe Williams installs an exhibit Sept. 18, 2018, two days before the opening of Cannabition, a museum celebrating marijuana culture in downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street experience. (Associated Press Photo/John Locher)

Las Vegas’ newest attraction — and Instagram backdrop — is a museum celebrating all things cannabis.

Nobody will be allowed to light up at Cannabition, which opened Sept. 20, 2018, because of a Nevada ban on public consumption of cannabis, but visitors can learn about marijuana as they snap photos.

It’s a made-for-social-media museum where every exhibit has lights meant to ensure people take selfies worthy of the no-filter hashtag.

Aaron Shadab polishes an exhibit Sept. 18, 2018, in the downtown Las Vegas marijuana museum Cannabition, which opened on the Fremont Street Experience on Sept. 20, 2018. (Associated Press Photo/John Locher)

The facility — whose founder says has a goal of destigmatizing marijuana use — will likely land among the talking points officials and others use to try to draw gambling-resistant millennials to Sin City.

It will welcome its first visitors almost 15 months after adults in Nevada began buying marijuana legally starting July 1, 2017, with sales far exceeding state projections.

“Our goal when people come out of this is that they don’t fear the cannabis industry if they are not believers in the industry,” founder J.J. Walker told The Associated Press. “Cannabition is not about just serving people that like marijuana, it’s about serving the masses that want to learn about cannabis and or just have fun and go do a cool art experience.”

The Cannabition museum on the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas is divided into a dozen installations that show the marijuana plant from seed to smoke. (Associated Press Photo/John Locher)

Guests will wander through 12 installations with rooms such as “seed,” where people can lie down in a bed shaped like a marijuana seed, and “grow,” which features artificial cannabis plants in sizes ranging from a few inches to several feet tall and placed under bright lights to represent an indoor grow.

Photo ops are also available under a glow-in-the-dark tree, next to a giant marijuana leaf meant to represent an edible gummy and by a 24-foot-tall, or 7-meter-tall, glass bong that’s dubbed “Bongzilla” and billed as the world’s largest.

At a height of 24 feet, or 7 meters, “Bongzilla” is the centerpiece of Cannabition, a selfie-friendly museum celebrating all things marijuana in downtown Las Vegas. (Associated Press Photo/John Locher)

There is a space with taller-than-you faux buds representing different strains, and another room with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s famous “Red Shark” Chevrolet Caprice.

This museum in downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience entertainment district is not the Smithsonian of cannabis, but it has some educational components. Guests get an introduction from museum guides, see some graphics on walls explain how concentrates are made, and discover the differences between Indica and Sativa species.

In the Cannabition exhibit “grow,” artificial cannabis plants are lined up from tall to short heights to simulate an indoor growing facility. (Associated Press Photo/John Locher)

Museums always evolve with the times to remain relevant, and audience engagement is an important goal for the facilities today, said Gwen Chanzit, director of museum studies in art history at the University of Denver in Colorado’s capital. For those who remember very traditional, no-photography-allowed museums, she said, “that ship has sailed.”

“Once cellphones became ubiquitous, the culture of museum visiting changed,” Chanzit said.

Many of the facility’s exhibits are sponsored by cannabis companies, with their logos prominently displayed. It is common for museums to receive the support of corporations and to place their logo on a wall.

Only adults 21 and older will be allowed at Cannabition. The tour is designed to last up to an hour.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, a Chevrolet Caprice owned by Hunter S. Thompson is on display at the Cannabition cannabis museum in Las Vegas. The museum celebrating all things cannabis with displays that include a glass bong taller than a giraffe and huggable faux marijuana buds is the newest tourist attraction in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Walker, the founder, has invited reality TV stars, models and other influencers to Las Vegas for the weekend with the charge of spreading the word about the facility.

As for those who buy a ticket but their Instagram followers are only in the dozens or hundreds, Walker said, “you’re still an influencer to your friends.”

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