The cannabis tourism industry is reported to be valued at $17 billion and could begin to grow rapidly post-COVID. A report featured in Forbes states that 50% of millennials think that adult-use cannabis access is important when making plans to travel, and that 43% of millennials specifically choose a destination because of legalization.
According to Emerald Farm Tours Co-founder Victor Pinho, cannabis tourism has a lot of potential. “They’re tourists and they’re shopping—they are here to spend money in the mecca of weed,” he told Forbes of his business, which is located in Northern California. He also estimated that tour participants sometimes spend $300-$400 when they visit dispensaries, which is much more than the average adult-use consumer.
In 2016, MMGY Travel Intelligence reported that “the net impact on consumers’ decision to travel to states with legalized cannabis use was minimal.” However, an MMGY study conducted in 2020 stated that 18% of American travelers were interested in cannabis experiences while traveling. When the survey data was reduced to include only those who are over age 21, and with an annual income of $50,000, the percentage of who are interested in cannabis experiences while on vacation increases to 62%.
Forbes estimates that $4.5 billion of the $25 billion collected in 2021 cannabis sales revenue was connected to cannabis tourism and related purchases such as hotels, food, local attractions, and more.
With nearly 20 states that have legalized adult-use, the opportunity for cannabis-related tourism rises. States such as Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational consumption in 2014, has a strong reputation of adult-use consumption that doesn’t require marketing. The Colorado Tourism Office only offers a little advice on safety and consumption, and doesn’t currently have any specific data in regards to cannabis-related tourism. “Cannabis is not one of the major drivers in terms of tourism to our state, compared to categories like outdoor recreation,” the office told Forbes.
In other states, the new image of cannabis tourists is beginning to form. According to a report from the Cannabis Travel Association International, the consumer breakdown by sex is fairly balanced between those who identify as male or female, 63% of tourists are millennials or younger, 59% have a college degree, and 82% have a job with an $87,000 annual household income.
Brian Applegarth, founder of the Cannabis Travel Association International, believes that the number of aging millennials is contributing to the rise in cannabis tourism interest. “By 2025, 50% of travelers in the U.S. are going to be millennials,” said Applegarth. “And their relationship to cannabis consumption is extremely normalized compared to the stigmatized industry leaders of today.”
Overall, many states are beginning to bolster and advertise their cannabis offerings to replace funds that were lost due to decreased travel during the height of the pandemic. CEO of Visit Modesto, Todd Aaronson, sees cannabis travelers as the same as any other tourist. In 2021, Aaronson partnered with Applegarth to create the MoTown CannaPass which helps visitors explore local cannabis food, entertainment, and dispensaries. “We wanted the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if cannabis is your thing, and you’re here, we have retail shops that are legal.’ And we have experiences that you can enjoy no differently than if you went to a brewpub or wine bar,” Aaronson said. “They’re all equally regulated. You should have a designated driver for each. Every visitor is welcome. Leave your money here.” He also shared that there was a notable 11% boost in traffic to local dispensaries when the CannaPass went live.
While places like Amsterdam are seeking to discourage cannabis tourism, North America is becoming a premier legal tourism destination. Attractions such as cannabis-related historic tours, various Airbnb or Bed and Breakfast locations, fascinating museums, and countless adult-use dispensaries to explore, there’s a lot of potential to look forward to. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont even recently advertised his state’s many offerings, which includes a country song that sings about everything from online gambling to cannabis consumption.
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