Cannabis tourism has been a subject of interest for many in the nascent space. The combination of cannabis and travel makes a great deal of sense. It is more than fair to say that there is an overlap between the two interests. People love to travel, from urban adventures to sprawling nature. On the other hand, marijuana has played a part in people’s adventures ranging from concerts to hiking to wellness retreats to dining experiences and countless other endeavors.
By 2018, top names in the space were calling tourism the next big thing in the industry. Those championing the sector cited rapid growth in early-adopter states, like Colorado, where tourism spiked 51% between 2014 and 2018.
The excitement around cannabis tourism has grown incrementally. As markets legalize and improve access, ideas and possible options are becoming a reality. Today, travelers have the option of taking in nature and the craft beer scene of Colorado just as much as they can the bright lights and entertainment of Las Vegas. Other destinations are becoming home to wellness retreats, while social consumption laws begin to show what infused dining may have to offer.
With the market slowly but surely taking shape, your next trip may have to include some cannabis. These are some of the options and destinations that can get the ball rolling for you and scores of cannabis travelers.
Tourism Options Today
Cannabis tourism options are now beginning to expand as laws and access improve. That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that legalization itself brought the first tourist destinations: dispensaries. While challenging for out-of-state visitors to go inside a medical dispensary, adult use laws have torn such barriers down for visitors.
“Today, the most common “designing for cannabis” concepts can be found in retail, where customers are going into dispensaries, purchasing products, and leaving,” said Josh Held, vice president, director of entertainment for Wimberly Interiors.
Held has helped bring Marquee nightclub, Dream Downtown, TAO Las Vegas, Chroma Nightclub in Seoul and other marquee event spaces to life. He told Green Flower Media the shortcoming in today’s common design for cannabis. “In this transaction, there isn’t an opportunity to sit and mingle with other people, just purchase and leave,” Held said of the retail tourism experience.
While his industry doesn’t see substantial shifts all too often, Held believes marijuana is the exception to that scenario. “I think cannabis in hospitality is the beginning of a new era with nothing but immense opportunity,” he said. The events space expert highlighted three key areas cannabis can stand out in: casual spaces, entertainment-driven hospitality and hotels.
Food and beverages are a consistent driver in the tourism space, cannabis and beyond. Carm Lyman runs Lyman Agency in California, where wine country and craft growers are prepping for the opportunities that lie ahead. Lyman explained what may come. “From educational tours to terpene tastings and intimate dinners, many here believe it’s just a matter of time and actively planning for the future.”
Lyman spoke of other tourist-type happenings, including some of Sonoma’s top hotels offering cannabis products in its amenities menus.
Infused dining parties, tasting menus as well as “Buds and Breakfasts” are all options in legal marketplaces as well as illicit markets with popular destinations, such as New York City. Full-fledged restaurants are slowly coming to the mainstream as well. Fall 2019 saw the opening of Lowell Cafe in Los Angeles. Now known as the Cannabis Cafe, the sit-down eatery represented the first legal THC-infused menu in the U.S.
Cannabis has found its way into the wellness space too. Numerous retreats include the plant as part of their retreats, which center on art, yoga and other aspects that promote a positive, healthy experience.
Limitations to the Market
Cannabis tourism may seem like a slam dunk of a business venture. And in many cases, that may be true. However, restrictions do hold back the progress of any market. Such hurdles include current laws and a lack of accurate data.
Consumption laws are some of the main hurdles in place. While progress has been made in small pockets of the country, most states and municipalities do not allow for social consumption. Even if the public demand is there, state and/or local laws could damper that from happening at restaurants, hotels or many other popular places.
Then there are the numbers. While figures like the ones mentioned above do shed light on the market, much of the concrete findings remain uncertain. In cannabis or any other space, without the data, a business will have a heck of a time determining if a decision is right for business. While, in theory, a cannabis-themed tourist package sounds great, how many people will actually come? Does the company understand its demographic, or is it based on a hunch? Without the data, making sound decisions become exponentially more difficult.
Top Canna-Travel Destinations Today
Those seeking a marijuana-minded trip in the short-term should look for the trailblazers in the industry. Like California and Colorado, states such as Oregon and Washington are known for their guided tours and stunning scenery of nature and their cities. Those looking for a beautiful outdoor environment may want to head further north to Alaska. There, guided tours may have you seeing the Northern Lights while smoking, well, Northern Lights.
Don’t forget to look at additional sites from Vermont to Missouri, where slivers of cannabis tourism are already taking shape. Stay tuned for any breaking news on the state you want to visit, as well as any news on the local level at travel destinations where they may rule on social consumption laws itself.