The statistics seem irrefutable that tourism to Colorado has benefited greatly from that state's legalization of the sale and use of marijuana. In recent surveys, large numbers of visitors have stated that it was pot that most influenced their decision to go there. And those touristic benefits are undoubtedly why Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia have already followed Colorado in permitting use of the once-banned drug.
On November 8, the citizens of five other states—California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine—will vote not simply for a president but also on the legalization of marijuana use in their states. Polls indicate that California is most likely to vote Yes, as are Nevada and Arizona. And thus, the entire west coast of the United States may soon become a marijuana-lawful zone.
Why haven't you heard from the tourist boards of Colorado, Oregon and Washington about the lure of marijuana? It's because they're concerned about the propriety of attracting out-of-state visitors in that manner; on a federal basis, marijuana use is still illegal elsewhere in America. And thus, the states thus far permitting the drug are acting as if they are limiting its use to persons within their borders. Presumably, that hesitation will come to an end if several more states use the November 8 referendums to greatly expand marijuana's use.
Meanwhile, a substantial travel industry has emerged within the marijuana-states, devoted to facilitating the use of the drug. As one example, a large retail travel agency in Denver called Kush Travel is operating daily, half-day marijuana tours on which participants are first brought to several retail outlets for the drug, and then to an area where they are each given an ounce of the leaf, and invited to light up.
Unless the unexpected happens, and several states use the November 8 vote to forbid marijuana's use in their states, we are on the brink of a major new travel movement. With as many as nine or 10 U.S. states or areas—the original several and the new five—permitting the once-forbidden use, we will undoubtedly witness a large, nationwide-marketing campaign, urging Americans to visit those states for the purpose of "relaxing." Arguments will be made that marijuana is no more addictive than beer or liquor; that it is as harmless as a standard cocktail; that it serves various other beneficial purposes as well. And tourism will undoubtedly be aided by the attraction of that new reason for traveling.
One caution: A longtime student of marijuana use has stated that the legalization of marijuana will add tourism only to those states which already have potent reasons to be visited. The success of Colorado, he states, is because Colorado already has important tourist attractions—Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, and the like—to which marijuana lends additional attractions and activities. By contrast, if Alabama were to legalize marijuana, he believes, it would enjoy very little additional tourism by taking the steps that Colorado pioneered. So citizens of the Deep South (other than New Orleans) might give up dreams of attracting additional visitors.
In the rest of the country, the prospects seem strong that marijuana is now about to be added to beer and wine as a permissible product to order. This seems about to happen. Get ready for the era of marijuana—and marijuana tourism.