Cannabis culture is booming in North America, and there’s no shortage of business owners and entrepreneurs who want to cash in. And no wonder. In Colorado, legal cannabis brought in 6.5 million tourists in 2016, and that number has been growing since. With legalization freshly arrived in many U.S. states and all of Canada, you might be wondering: Is it time to start a cannabis tour business or to add cannabis tours to your roster?
If so, you’re in good company. New cannabis-related tours are cropping up all the time in what’s starting to look like a newer, greener gold rush.
If you're planning to start a cannabis-related venture, you absolutely need to talk to a legal expert. The laws around cannabis can be complicated and vague, and trying to interpret them yourself is a good way to get into trouble. Cannabis can also be subject to restrictions at every level--from federal laws all the way down to municipal regulations and lease agreements.
It's always a good idea to get a lawyer when starting a new venture. In the case of cannabis, it could easily mean the difference between a booming business and time behind bars
Here are just a few of the ways the tourism industry is embracing legal cannabis:
Exploring Educational Opportunities
Legalization isn’t just exciting for long-time cannabis users. It’s also drawing the attention of people who’ve been curious about cannabis but were unwilling to risk the black market.
You don’t need to limit your audience to cannabis tourists, either. The laws and regulations surrounding legal cannabis can be immensely confusing for locals, and tour providers have an opportunity to fill that educational gap.
The Movement Cannabis Tours is a tour company that caters to the curious. In the days following legalization, it offered free, informational walking tours to educate guests about legal cannabis and the history of cannabis activism in Vancouver, Canada.
“We’re incredibly proud that Canada has stepped up to lead the world in cannabis policy. So we’re doing our part as local cannabis-focused businesses to help inform and educate people on the new recreational system, and how they can enjoy it safely and legally,” said CEO Keenan Hall.
Now that legalization is more established, the company offers guided tours that cater to education and recreation, as well as private educational sessions that users can enjoy in their homes or hotel rooms.
If you’re planning to cater to new users, you’ll need to be educated on the subject. Working with local experts like dispensary owners and industrial producers can help. And when marketing educational cannabis tours, consider your audience. The hallmarks of cannabis culture won’t resonate with these guests, so focus on appealing to professionals, couples, and other curious, nervous newbies.
Going Behind the Scenes
For guests whose educational interest in cannabis goes a little deeper than where they can buy and how they can smoke, some enterprising tour providers are offering behind-the-scenes glimpses into the industry.
These comprehensive tours can take guests to see where cannabis is grown, how it’s processed, and what goes into retailing it. They often include talks from industry experts. They appeal not just to the casually curious crown, but also investors who want to know more about their industry of choice, would-be cannabis entrepreneurs and other interested parties.
For experiences like this, you’ll need good relationships with cannabis professionals in your area. Fortunately, the early days of legalization bring lots of new business ventures with them, and many new owners who might also be looking for promotional opportunities.
Consuming the Culture
Tours that include even unsupervised, unsanctioned consumption might be riskier from a legal perspective, but that’s not preventing a lot of tour companies from finding ways to pair cannabis tours with activities that happen to be more fun when high.
For users looking for recreation, enterprising activity providers have put cannabis together with cooking classes, painting sessions, arcade trips, music events, yoga classes, and just about any other low-impact activity you might consider.
And if you have expertise in food or beverage tourism, cannabis might pair well with your existing tours. Experts recommend caution when mixing alcohol and THC (the primary active ingredient in cannabis), but a lot of craft beer and winery tours have added dispensaries to their repertoires. And food tours are a natural fit, as cannabis is known for increasing appetite and appreciation for food.
Some creative tour providers have even given consideration to what happens after the tour ends, working with local hotels and B&Bs to ensure that guests have cannabis-friendly places to stay.
Legal recreational cannabis is a new frontier for North American tourism, and opportunities are ripe for the picking. For tour operators who learn the risks, find the right partnerships and work with a good lawyer, the future is looking positively green.