Rise of the tourist-friendly ganjapreneurs
A supporter of legalized marijuana in Denver's Civic Center Park holds up a small blunt as thousands gathered to celebrate the state's medicinal marijuana laws on 20 April 2012. (Marc Piscotty/Getty)
Thanks to recent US legislation that legalizes marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, officials are preparing for a surge of “pot tourism” in key cities such as Denver and Seattle ahead of the 20 April marijuana holiday known as “4/20 Day”, or “Weed Day". In fact, Denver is leading the charge with the first World Cannabis Week starting 17 April, an event run by My 420 Tours that has been described as a cross between “a wine tour of Napa Valley and the best concert or entertainment experience you can imagine”.
"Already, hotels in Seattle and Denver are reporting numerous requests for reservations by pot supporters … and numerous articles have drawn comparisons to the way in which tourism to Amsterdam increased [following] the easy availability of the well-known drug,” travel expert Arthur Frommer wrote after the legislation passed in November 2012.
The legislation allows adults over the age of 21 in Colorado and Washington state to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, one pound of “a solid marijuana-infused product” (such as pot-brownies), or 72 ounces of an infused liquid (such as a ganja green smoothie).
Though some critics have said pot tourism may bring an increase of illegal activity to the US cities, therefore hurting their reputations and keeping out family tourism, most appear to tacitly agree that marijuana will bring money to both states’ coffers. According to CNN, a state-hired consultant predicted tax revenues from marijuana sales will bring Washington state $180 million per year.
That’s led many so-called “ganjapreneurs” to begin brainstorming attractions and activities for the lucrative new marijuana tourism market that’s likely to blossom in coming months. Ideas include cannabis crawls – like a bar crawl, only with stops at pot dispensaries; cannabis cafes, with menus of items infused with or complimentary to marijuana; and glassblowing demonstrations for making your own smoking receptacles. Though some of the ideas are still, well, half-baked, here’s a sampling of marijuana-inspired attractions that tourists in Denver and Seattle can expect in the near future.
World Cannabis Week: held in Denver between 17 and 21 April this year, the event includes such activities as a pro-marijuana rally, a weekend concert featuring the bands Slightly Stoopid and Cypress Hill, and a High Times Cannabis Cup, where judges sample and vote for their favourite marijuana strains and products. There will also be tours of medical dispensaries and marijuana farms, and cannabis cooking classes.
Hempfest: held in Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park from 16 to 18 August this year, Hempfest is billed as “the world’s largest event advocating cannabis law reform”. Besides pro-marijuana speakers such as Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, Washington state senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Seattle-based physician and medical marijuana provider Dr Gil Mobley, guests can expect music from the likes of Klover Jane, Human Revolution and the Highlife, as well as food, information booths and shopping (think hemp goods and pot-related accessories).
Ganja guides: led by Seattle-based startup Leafly, entrepreneurs are scrambling to become the Fodor’s or Zagat of cannabis, with “ganja guides” that help users choose from among the hundreds of marijuana strains sold in city dispensaries.
Pot tours: similar to the marijuana tours available through Colorado’s World Cannabis Week, entrepreneurs in Washington state are envisioning a burgeoning cannabis industry to mirror the Pacific Northwest’s wine tourism industry, with tours through bucolic pot farms, stops at pot dispensaries for “tastings” and critical evaluation of different strains’ composition and quality; however, the ideas are still in very early stages.
A word of warning to travellers: while legislation has gone through, state law in Colorado and Washington state now contradicts federal law, so it remains to be seen which law authorities will enforce.