By Taylor R. Avery, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tamara Smith sat with her laptop open, waiting to see if she had won the lottery.
Minutes later, the magic numbers appeared on her screen. Smith had hit the jackpot — a prospective license to operate a cannabis lounge.
“I screamed so loud, and I jumped up for joy because I was the only one in my house at that moment,” Smith said.
Last month, cannabis regulators approved that license, making Smith, 48, the first Black woman in Nevada to hold an independent consumption lounge license.
The historic moment was met with applause and praise from Cannabis Compliance Board members.
“Congratulations on being a woman of color in this industry first of all, but to be the first is outstanding. So proud of you,” said board member Jerrie Merritt.
It was a moment that made Smith feel she’s doing what she’s meant to do, bringing full circle a nearly two-year journey.
In late 2021, a close friend sent Smith an article about cannabis consumption lounges in the state. After reading it, she decided to pursue a license.
“I think it chose me, not me chose it,” Smith said. “I just ran with it. It felt good. It felt right.”
After months of research and paperwork, Smith applied for a provisional lounge license using her own savings. Higher* Archy was born.
In October 2022, the state granted 20 licenses for retail cannabis consumption lounges, which are attached or adjacent to an existing dispensary. The state also issued 20 provisional licenses to “stand-alone” lounges, including Higher* Archy.
To date, four independent consumption lounge licenses have received conditional approval, all of which are located where local jurisdictions permit consumption lounges.
Despite not having an established supply of cannabis products like dispensaries with lounge licenses have, Smith said she isn’t concerned about supply issues or drawing customers in.
For Smith, Higher* Archy is the chance to create an unforgettable experience.
Smith is currently negotiating the lease for a 9,000-square-foot building on Las Vegas Boulevard, near the Fremont Street Experience. And that’s where she envisions welcoming locals and tourists alike to experience cannabis like they never have before.
Part of that experience will be cannabis, yes. But Smith said she hopes to have actors playing different roles and live performances in what she described as an upscale venue.
“This is Vegas. Why would you not do a whole experience?” Smith said. “You got to make it Vegas approved.”
Smith also said she hopes to change the theme of the venue every week, a feature she hopes will give customers a reason to keep coming back.
“It’s going to be a very surprising, amazing adventure,” she said of the lounge, which is expected to open next spring.
Smith said she hopes the lounge gives people — even those skeptical of cannabis — a memorable experience.
“So many people scrutinize the cannabis industry,” Smith said. “I want them to feel like there’s no reason to scrutinize it.”
The lounge also offers an alcohol-free experience, something Smith said she’s heard others express a desire for among Las Vegas’ world-famous bar and club scene.
And whether you’re a tourist looking for a buzz or a local looking for something to do, Higher* Archy vows to “push the envelope a bit.”
“You’re enjoying your cannabis and you’re enjoying the atmosphere and you’re loving the experience,” Smith said. “We’re going to provide that to them. It’s just so much more than just pot. Let’s do more.”
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