Chuck Grimmett

Cannabis Tourism Promotions Are a ‘Very Sticky Issue’ for Regulatory Agencies

Promoting cannabis-related tourism in legal states is a challenging proposition as businesses associated with the industry and officials charged with regulating the sector are at risk of breaking federal law, according to a report from Travel Weekly.

David Blandford, Visit Seattle’s vice president of communications, said the agency supports cannabis tourism, but cannot advertise anything related to recreational cannabis. He says Visit Seattle gets several questions from tourists about the details of the law, but answering those questions is tricky because while visitors older than 21 can legally purchase cannabis, there is nothing in the law that allows them a place to partake – public use is banned and it’s up to the individual hotels whether or not to permit cannabis use and many have strict no-smoking policies.

“We’ve certainly been very dedicated to being a resource and answering questions and helping travelers understand the law,” Blanford said in the report. “Marketing to [tourists] is just premature for us. It’s very difficult to work through the federal interpretation of promotion. It’s a very sticky issue.”

Marcus Hibdon, senior media and public relations manager for Travel Portland, said that because of the growing use of vape pens and the proliferation of edibles it’s not hard for tourists to partake in public, but the agency is still beholden to federal law when it comes to promotion.

“We’re not going to promote anything contrary to the law,” Hibdon said. “With each passing month, it appears as though it’s getting easier for consumers to consume it legally, and that helps us from a promotional standpoint.”

In Colorado, three Bud & Breakfast locations offer marijuana-friendly accommodations which include Wake ‘n’ Bake breakfasts and a 4:20 happy hour. The city’s My 420 Tours provides outings to dispensaries and greenhouses, joint and sushi-rolling classes and cannabis-infused massages. Pedal Bike Tours offers an 11-mile cycling tour of the Portland scene.

Carly Holbrook, a representative for the Colorado Tourism Office, said that the effect on tourism will be clearer as more states legalize, and tourism officials will be able to fully embrace the industry once the federal government either loosen their rules, or outright legalize the drug for personal use.

“There will be more opportunity to market it, and it will be less taboo, more widely accepted,” she said.   

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