Marijuana Tourism: Prioritizing Connoisseurs over Stoners

Any major tourist destination has its own complex infrastructure designed to deal with and capitalize on out-of-town traffic.  There is even a measurable science to the seemingly ramshackle explosions of growth and economic activity that accompany major regional events such as the Olympic Games, Super Bowl, or World Cup –  and now it’s all been applied to marijuana legalization.

Last year the state of Colorado made nearly $17 billion dollars off a record-breaking 60 million visitors: if only 5% of this year’s visitors partake in Colorado’s recreational marijuana market, that’s still at least 3 million annual customers. Colorado’s medical market only has 113,000 registered patients, yet medical dispensaries statewide report a total of $329 million in revenue from medical marijuana. If the recreational stores are to produce similar profits, the numbers begin to look truly ludicrous.  Tripp Keber is the owner of the marijuana-infused soda company Dixie Elixers, and she is one of many who sees enormous opportunity in the new market.  “These are really exciting statistics,” she says. “There is going to be a huge economic boom.”

A recent article from Slate Magazine examines Colorado’s potential for pot tourism and how it could someday resemble a swanky trip to wine country. Matt Brown, the innovative ganjapreneur behind My420Tours, has his own vision of a swanky marijuana tour:

“Out-of-state visitors, picked up from the airport in 30-seat passenger limousine buses (on which smoking will be permitted), will… receive an all-access tour of the growing operation… owned by a friend of Brown’s: The “mother” room, where the clones are born; the grow rooms, where the plants mature; the trim room…. Afterward, there might be time for the group to take a pot-cooking class at a nearby cooking school—just so long as they make it to the private facility that’s been rented out in time for the tour’s daily ‘happy hour,’ occurring promptly at 4:20 each afternoon.” – Slate Magazine, Jan. 8th 2014

Now doesn’t that sound safe, fun, and sophisticated?  That’s because >weed tourism companies are strategically steering toward marijuana connoisseurs in lieu of the more party-oriented pot heads popularly depicted in and mocked by the media. And because tourists are often more inclined to shell out for steeper prices to have everything packaged up as part of a bourgeois vacation deal, Brown is reportedly fond of boasting that “We will make as much profit on a four-day tour as a marijuana dispensary makes selling a patient a year’s worth of pot.”

Other marijuana tour companies have targeted the same audience.  Addison Morris, the 63-year-old CEO of Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours, strives to put customers “whose marijuana use could jeopardize their careers, businesses, and credibility in their communities back home” at the forefront of her business considerations. And while she might crack jokes like “We are grandma’s new pot connection and we are doing it with style,” the statement holds truth and could pay off in the coming years.

Some citizens may question business owners trying to capitalize on the expected spike in tourism from legalization, citing concerns over spoiling the state’s image. In fact, a recent poll from Quinnipiac University now suggests a 51% majority of Colorado citizens believe that marijuana legalization has hurt the state’s image.

However, regardless of any reputation-risking consequences, ganjapreneurs like Brown and Morris are already taking the word “highbrow” to a whole new level.


Photo Credit: Rusty Blazenhoff

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