Cannabis advocates are always talking up the economic benefits of legalization, and tourism tops the list of sectors primed for growth. Colorado now has some solid numbers to back up that claim. Canada - and other states for that matter - should take note.
Nearly half of all tourists visiting Colorado said cannabis laws influenced their decision to visit the state, according to a report commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office. And more than 20 percent of visitors said Colorado's laws were "extremely influential."
Danny Schaefer runs My420Tours, which hosts upwards of 200 guests per week. He told The Denver Post that the Colorado cannabis industry is like wine country in California.
This is absolutely validating. The state of Colorado has had an amazing opportunity to embrace this industry. It's a complete advantage for Colorado to become the Napa Valley and Sonoma County of cannabis.
Colorado doesn't yet know the final tourism numbers for 2015, but last year the state set all-time records, welcoming 71.3 million visitors who spent $18.6-billion. That represented a 7.4 percent increase over 2013, and translated into $215 in taxes collected for every resident of Colorado.
Canada could reap similar benefits
With Canada gearing up to legalize and regulate nationwide, a few favorable factors may collide at once for provinces with traditionally strong tourism from the United States, particularly east of British Columbia where neighboring Washington state has already legalized.
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada points out in their 2015 Annual Report that Canada has a travel deficit internationally. Canadians are responsible for generating 2.7 percent of all international tourism dollars while only 1.5 percent of the same pool is spent inside Canada.
If Canada were to become the first G7 nation to legalize, it could prove a significant market advantage over international travel destinations, and help to rebalance the tourism deficit.
A weak loonie is good for Americans visiting Canada
The falling value of Canada's currency is already attracting Americans to Canada in higher numbers than in previous years, when the value of Canada's dollar was relatively close to the American dollar. The weak loonie means cheaper lodging, cheaper meals, and with legalization, presumably good deals on weed.
And if you don't believe our bullish projections based on Colorado's success, just ask Canadian comedian Rick Mercer: