In some US State, like Colorado and Washington, marijuana tourism has become a niche industry. In the meantime, visitors to British Columbia could be forgiven for thinking that Canada has already legalized marijuana. Dispensaries can be found all over cities like Victoria and Vancouver and in many small towns.
Many of these places have knowledgeable “budtenders” and lounges where people can use the product they buy without, usually, being bothered. However, these storefronts are not actually legal and could be subject to police raids. Most foreign visitors don’t want anything to do with police, making legalized purchasing a more attractive prospect.
The legalization of recreational marijuana comes into effect in Canada on October 17, 2018. Nevertheless, marijuana tourists will still face challenges such as the fact that:
- The only regulated store that will be ready to open on time is in Kamloops
- Everything bought in Canada needs to stay in Canada
- Some hotels, campgrounds or other lodgings will be intolerant of smoking marijuana
- Smoking lounges and using the product in the store where you bought it are not allowed
- Edibles will not be sold immediately, but will be allowed later
- Police could crack down on dispensaries that aren’t part of the legalized market which could intimidate visitors, especially, if they provide the only places where it can be smoked
- Smaller towns may enact bylaws and other hurdles to keep marijuana out;
- Any type of residue or paraphernalia can cause problems at the border when entering the United States
- Testing positive for THC behind the wheel can result in criminal charges even though tests can’t accurately determine how recently a person has used marijuana.
Another issue facing BC is the fact that most western US states have already legalized marijuana making it cheaper and more convenient for people to use it in their own areas.
BC has adopted one of the more liberal plans for recreational marijuana use, but the policy says marijuana will be allowed anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed.
In Vancouver, cigarette smoking is allowed outdoors, but not in public parks or near the entrances of buildings. Smoking is not allowed in any place where an employee is required to be present. For example, people can’t smoke in bars.
In practice, smoking is constrained to the street and private residences. Even then, many apartments, condos and hotels ban smoking.
The BC government is permitting private store sales; however, one cannot consume marijuana in the store under the rules, which means no lounges where an out-of-towner might safely partake.
Marijuana tourism opportunities
Despite those challenges there are opportunities. Bed and breakfast, Airbnb, motels and boutique hotels could capitalize on the need for a place to use marijuana. One might even see booking websites specifically targeting this market.
Other activities may result from legalization, such as tours, tastings, festivals, glassblowing demos and conferences.
Like winery and brewery tours, marijuana tours generally provide a bus or limo in states where marijuana is legalized.
What is the size of the market?
Despite the fact that BC will be surrounded by other places where marijuana is legal, there are still large numbers of tourists from other countries and states that visit the province. Secondly, don’t forget that marijuana is contrary to federal law in the United States and can’t be smoked publicly. Official tourism boards may refuse to promote marijuana tourism for this reason.
Some estimates of the market can be gleaned from US states. In a recent Colorado study, it was found that marijuana played a positive role in 23 per cent of the visits made, while 11 per cent of visitors actually went to a marijuana dispensary.
BC’s reputation for high-quality weed is well established and a number of production facilities are expected to crop up to serve the market. This is one reason that people might choose BC over another province or US state.
As an tourism driver, marijuana comes with both challenges and opportunities. What do you think? Would you come to BC just for the legal weed?