Releaf Magazine

Colorado Unable To Promote Cannabis For Tourism

rsz-colorado-cannot-promote-cannabis-to-tourists-640x401Colorado Cannot Promote Cannabis to Tourists

The Marijuana Times - By. Julia Granowicz - 9/20/2016

As huge as the cannabis industry is in Colorado, you might be surprised to learn that the growing industry has not been as big of a tourist grabber as you might have thought. It turns out that as little as 5% of visitors say that legal marijuana was one of their main reasons for choosing Colorado as their vacation spot. More surprisingly, only 12% of people visiting Colorado actually report having gone to a dispensary – which means that a lot more of Colorado’s legal cannabis is being sold to residents than we had realized and that the legal industry isn’t bringing in as many tourists as we all would have expected.

While we may not know why it’s not getting more attention from tourists, we do know that those tourists who do choose to consume legal cannabis do not have a clear understanding of how the legal cannabis industry works in the state. Of course, to a degree this should be expected – the industry is relatively new, the laws are new and they are unique to each state that allows legal marijuana – but there also isn’t enough being done to let tourists know about these specific laws (such as not being allowed to consume cannabis in public).

Sadly, even though the cannabis industry could be an excellent tourist attraction, due to the conflicts with federal law the state does not intend to start promoting cannabis to vacationers any time soon. However, they have realized the need for more education for those coming into the state to purchase and consume cannabis products. After all, surveys have shown that the residents of Colorado who have been exposed to the “Good to Know” campaign (intended to educate residents on marijuana do’s and don’ts) had a much better understanding of the laws that were put in place with Amendment 64.

“I do believe we need to make it clear to our travelers what to expect when they come to a state where marijuana is legal,” said Cathy Ritter, director of Colorado Tourism Office. “I’ve had some hoteliers believe that their front desk clerks are paying the price because we do not share information with travelers about that.”

“Because a lot of people, when they come to the state, are unaware that they can’t smoke marijuana publicly; and so it’s really more of an education program that’s needed.”

While they will be adding the information about legal marijuana to the website, they have said that it will not be found on the home page – they will never have a “marijuana tab” where you can go find tourist information; rather vacationers will be able to search “marijuana” on their website and it will provide them with information on what is legal and what still isn’t. Likely it will be similar to the Good to Know campaign, or it may simply refer visitors to that website – there is no deadline for when this information will be included on the website.

So as much of a surprise as it is that the cannabis industry isn’t bringing in more tourism, those who are visiting for that purpose need to have a better knowledge on how the laws work. After all, a regulated market is much different than the black market – it’s more open in some ways, however it doesn’t offer you freedoms such as being able to smoke a joint while driving down the road, or while enjoying a picnic in the park. However, education is the best route here – finding a way to reach these visitors before they end up frustrated with police, hotel desk clerks and bar owners throughout the state simply because they don’t know the law.

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Legal Weed Draws Tourists To Colorado, Washington, For 4/20 Marijuana Holiday

coloradoDENVER -- Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.

More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.

Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.

One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.

The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking – tobacco or reefer – is permitted on room patios.

Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.

Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado – meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries.

Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well.

"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."

The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities. The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend.

"4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."

The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago.

A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 .

After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday.

Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.

The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" – an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies.

"It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it."

Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup.

"It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."

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Traveling high

Marijuana Tourism: Will Colorado Become America’s Amsterdam?

By Amir Khan

Marijuana tourism could become one of the premier tourist attractions alongside the great skiing in Colorado following the passing of the state's Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for personal growth and use.

The state legalized marijuana 54.7 percent to 45.2 percent through Amendment 64, which also puts into place a system of taxation and regulation similar to that on alcohol.

"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."

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But some people feel that Americans will flock to Colorado in an attempt to get high legally, as a sort of marijuana tourism. Some people have already dubbed the state "Aspendam"-- a play on Amsterdam, the Dutch city that features marijuana cafes.

Jennifer Rudolph, with the Colorado Ski Country USA, an organization that represents 21 Colorado ski resorts, said the are watching the situation closely.

"There's a lot that remains to be seen," she told the Associated Press. "I guess you could say we're waiting for the smoke to clear."

Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Colorado marijuana campaign, told the Associated Press that she hopes marijuana tourism becomes a big part of the state.

"Some folks might come to Colorado to enjoy some marijuana as will be their right," she said. "So what?"

Before the vote, "Visit Denver" CEO Richard Scharf said that legalizing marijuana may actually hurt tourism.

"Colorado's brand will be damaged, and we may attract fewer conventions and see a decline in leisure travel," he said in a statement.

But there already may be evidence that marijuana tourism can be a big draw.

"People travel to Seattle from other states and countries to attend Seattle Hempfest every year to experience the limited freedom that happens at the event," executive director Vivian McPeak told the AP. "It's reasonable to assume that people will travel to Washington assuming that the federal government doesn't interfere."

But whether or not marijuana tourism makes Colorado a destination spot, Al White, Colorado's tourism director, said he isn't worried.

"It won't be as big a deal as either side hopes or fears," he said.

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