When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, travel booking searches for Denver shot up by 75 percent year-over-year for months that followed. The same thing happened in Washington and Oregon when they legalized weed on July 2015 and July 2015, respectively.
According to Hotels.com search data, tourist interest has dramatically increased in states and cities where it is legal to buy and consume marijuana even without a medical license. Entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are also seeing the promise of cannabis, but there are challenges that they need to face.
For one, federal law still considers marijuana illegal, leading to legal and enforcement concerns. Even in states that have legalized recreational weed, public smoking is still prohibited, and many hotels also don’t allow smoking in rooms. Advertising is also a problem, as well as transportation of weed across state borders.
“As of July 1, it became legal to smoke pot recreationally, but there were no distribution channels. Unless you’re growing it on your own, there’s no way to consume it,” said Linea Gagliano from Travel Oregon. “For now, we’re going to stick with those things that we know are compelling reasons to visit Oregon.”
Still, these challenges did not deter the ones who are really determined to become pioneers in pot tourism. An example is My 420 Tours, which provides tours, hotels, and cannabis-related activities for tourists visiting Denver. Founded in 2013, My 420 Tours partnered with hotels that allow marijuana use to tourists so that they can try recreational marijuana without worrying about the public consumption laws.
“On our tours, visitors can safely and legally consume cannabis, as well as get an education and experience what has happened here in Colorado,” said Chief Operating Officer Danny Schaefer.
Another company trying to cash in on the trend is marijuana entrepreneurship consulting firm American Cannabis Partners, which is planning to open the Colorado Cannabis Ranch and Amphitheater – Colorado’s first “weedery.” Slated to open late in 2015, this structure will include open-air greenhouses, an amphitheater for musical performances and community classes, a rooftop bar and restaurant, a dispensary, and a gift shop.
According to founder and longtime grower Christian Hageseth, he wants to take advantage of the curiosity surrounding the cannabis industry. “People have always asked a lot of questions about the industry,” he said. “We want to be open and accepting of everybody from all walks of life. We hope that a group of people can form their own opinion on marijuana from an enlightened perspective.”
The company expects to generate $90 million from the weedery within the first few months of operation. Hageseth is also planning to open similar facilities in Nevada, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, where medical marijuana is legal.
“We may be the first, but we certainly won’t be the last. The hope is that weederies become as popular as wineries and breweries,” he said.
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