While cannabis tourism isn't yet a fully national industry, a number of states with adult use markets have welcomed visitors from around the country and the world, looking to soak up the local cannabis culture.
States with legal cannabis are seeing startups and programming that reflect the demand for 420-friendly experiences. Tourists want to interact with the actual plant, to partake in infused meals or cooking classes, and to experience the industry first-hand.
Any cannabis tourist from a prohibition state who ends up having a great time in the promised land of legal weed may return home as a cannabis evangelist, while someone who has a mediocre or bad experience could continue the stigma. This is why tour guides, travel agencies, concierge services, and social clubs are offering the equivalent of cannabis training wheels to naive consumers visiting a legal state.
Here’s what experts from the cannabis tourism industry think about the top destinations for legal weed.
When someone is new to Colorado, but not new to cannabis, the state's elevation and vastness can be a powerful combination. Bright and bold, Colorado is strikingly beautiful, but also carries a small town vibe.
Here, adults can possess up to one ounce of cannabis, but are not allowed to consume publicly. Private cannabis social clubs exist, but for the most part, people consume privately. There are even slight nuances in the regulations that try to prevent overindulgence, such as a 10mg THC maximum for a single edible dose on the adult use market (the medical market has higher limits).
Lauren Mundell, founder of Hi-Curious and East Coast native, knows firsthand what it’s like to fall for Colorado. “Long before cannabis became legal in Colorado, people came here to experience ‘The Rocky Mountain High,'" she said. "The big blue sky and chill, outdoorsy vibe make an impact on you whether or not you choose to consume.”
Activities are the draw here, and people visit year round to get outside amongst Colorado’s massive 14,000 foot mountains and numerous hiking trails. Mundell says Colorado is the greatest cannabis destination thanks to the state’s focus on healthy, balanced lifestyles.
The states demonstrates what a wellness lifestyle, coupled with cannabis can do for you, she says, noting that Colorado cities always make it to the top of the 'healthiest places to live' lists. "Intentional cannabis use for wellbeing is a growing concept and Colorado is leading the way in sophisticated adult use.“
Nevada has two major tourist hubs: Reno-Tahoe and Las Vegas. While the former is a no-brainer for nature lovers who also love weed, Sin City on the other hand, both strange and exciting, could exhibit a more relaxed vibe, especially in casinos, thanks to its newfound foray into legal cannabis.
The laws in Nevada are roughly the same as in most other adult use states, with a purchase limit of one ounce of bud and 3.5 grams of concentrate. Stores can stay open pretty late in Nevada, but a ban on public consumption poses a slight problem in a city full of visitors. Cannabis is bringing in revenue to the state, and lawmakers are beginning to authorize designated consumption sites, recognizing a need to have safe spaces for tourists to imbibe.
JC Coats, a partner at Las Vegas-based StripSide Solutions, thinks people have tons to see in Nevada when they visit the weed scene. “We have some of the largest and most fabulous dispensaries ever built," he told Civilized. "With lounges and open consumption venues opening in 2019, it is the experience factor that will always make Nevada a sought after cannabis destination.”
Las Vegas is home to the Cannabition Cannabis Museum, where visitors can take in cannabis history while enjoying immersive installations — those Insta-perfect photo ops that are everywhere — like the world’s largest bong.
Meanwhile, the population in Reno-Tahoe peaks multiple times every year for quality snow activities and summer water sports on beautiful Lake Tahoe. It's also the original casino hotspot from the Sinatra days.
California takes the cake for cannabis tourism. Vast and diverse, it can satisfy any type of traveler, cannabis enthusiast or not.
Victor Pinho, CEO of Emerald Farm Tours and California Director of the Cannabis Marketing Association, connects tourists with first-hand cannabis experiences. His business treats visitors to cruises, farm trips, and seed-to-sale tours in the Bay Area. “California has a special romantic mystique to the American cannabis consumer — the 'Wild West of Weed,'" he told Civilized. "We have over 40 years of growing culture, almost 30 years of legal medical cannabis, and the largest cannabis market in North America.”
Like Colorado and Nevada, in California public consumption is prohibited, but often tolerated, as many people bend the rules to risk a fine if they're caught. Possession limits are on par with other states, with an ounce of flower and eight grams of concentrate being the rule.
Pinho says that when tourists experience what nature and dispensaries have to offer, they may not want to leave. “With over 251 million visitors into the Golden State every year, California sets the bar for domestic American tourism,” he said. “Our state has something for everyone — from the sunny beaches, to the majestic Redwood forests, and even the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Lake Tahoe.”
April Black, CEO of cannabis travel agency Higher Way Travel, is also enamored with California's wealth of cannabis and entertainment options. “For art and music enthusiasts, you have the counterculture history of the Bay Area, the exciting nightlife and glamour of Los Angeles, and for culinary connoisseurs there's the fine dining offered in wine country areas of Napa Valley and the Central Coast — not to mention San Diego's legendary beaches and surfing culture,” she said.
Though there’s something to do in every cannabis-friendly place, getting the most for your mileage is easiest done in super saturated California. However, this could be only temporary, because when New York City’s 62.8 million tourists start to buy legal cannabis (after the state eventually legalizes), the coming could boost sales in the cannabis and tourism sectors may become a competitive force in both industries.
For now, take your travels to the west and enjoy the fine cannabis, culture, and nature. These are the states that comprise the foundation of the cannabis industry we know today, and provide important historical context that you can use to guide your all of your future voyages.