Although cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance at the federal level, more and more states are legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use. The list now stands at 21 plus Washington D.C. – and counting. Since many of these states are still hammering out policy and licensing, we looked to the west to uncover travel trends from destinations who first blazed the legalization trail. We’re also touching on what’s happening in the tour operator and hospitality spaces to give you a fuller picture of cannabis tourism.
THC in CO
As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, Colorado has been riding the high of cannabis tourism for years. In the Colorado Travel Year 2017 Report, 11% of overnight leisure trips identified marijuana tourism as a specific interest – tied with exceptional culinary experiences and only beaten out by brewery tours/beer tasting (12%), cultural activities/attractions (19%) and historic places (28%).
Interest in marijuana tourism only increased in the two years that followed as the state’s cannabis market matured. The number grew to 12% in 2018 and 14% in 2019 when marijuana tourism actually pulled ahead of exceptional culinary experiences and brewery tours/beer tasting. NOTE: We did not look into data beyond 2019, as the pandemic virtually extinguished travel in 2020 and overall visitation is only beginning to course correct.
Acting (Mostly) Locally
In Washington, another early adopter of legalized weed, city tourism boards have taken the lead in promoting safe cannabis tourism. The Visit Seattle, Visit Spokane and Visit Bellingham websites each feature dedicated pages that detail what visitors need to know about responsible marijuana use in their cities – and the state as a whole. Local and regional DMOs in Oregon have taken a similar approach – you can check out Travel Portland and Eugene Cascades and Coast – but the state tourism site is also doing its part.
In California, the Southern Humboldt Business & Visitors Bureau positions itself as “America’s Cannabis Heartland” and dedicates the majority of its Visit Southern Humboldt site to marijuana tourism. To a lesser extent, the Humboldt County Visitors Bureau shares an informational page on its Visit Redwoods site, as does Visit Greater Palm Springs and Visit Oakland, to name a few. Meanwhile, the Visit California site features content articles that mention (but don’t center on) cannabis tourism – like this one: So You Think You Know Mendocino?
Tours For Toking
Just as winery and brewery tours have long been a go-to experience while on vacation, cannabis tours are cropping up in destinations where recreational weed is legal. Lonely Planet showcases the Best Marijuana Tours in the U.S. on their site –at least seven of them are in the states we detailed above. Rather than simple cannabis consumption, they often feature pairings with another activity popular with leisure travelers such as painting, cooking, yoga, meditation, glamping, dining, sightseeing and even sushi rolling.
Even in states where recreational marijuana is legal, public use is widely prohibited in public spaces, leaving travelers in a hazy situation. Entering the chat? Bud and Breakfast which bills itself as a “comprehensive website that links cannabis-using tourists together with sympathetic hotels, inns, residences, and resorts.” The site’s listings are continuously updated and – at the moment of this writing – it boasts 664 properties worldwide.
Navigating the labyrinth of varying local and state laws and striking the right messaging to travelers is tricky. If you want to learn how your destination or hospitality brand can tap into cannabis tourism to spark more visitation and hotel stays, contact Lynn Kaniper at 609.466.9187 ext. 117 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.