Cannabis Tourism is Canada’s Next Budding Industry

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The legalization of cannabis is creating opportunities for a variety of businesses, whether it be real estate, food, and most certainly, tourism.

According to one trade expert, cannabis tourism is already an established industry in Canada, particularly on the West Coast.

“Canna-tourism, at its most basic level, is really about support for the traveling cannabis enthusiast,” said Danielle Jackson, founder of and CEO of Dvibz. “BC Bud is an international brand. We already have a canna-tourism trade, and I only see that growing.”

A Budding Industry

Jackson said that the new market serves local visitors and international tourists alike.

“This is going to be particularly pertinent as things heat up at the border,” Jackson said in reference to ongoing reports of Canadians being banned from the U.S. for their involvement in the legal cannabis industry, or even admitting to smoking a joint.

Jackson pointed out that there is a large population of medical cannabis consumers and a growing demographic of baby boomers and seniors who use cannabis therapeutically.

“They want to go to places where they’ll feel welcome,” Jackson said. “For us, it looks many different ways because of the diversity of the community that consumes cannabis.”

Cannabis tourists are looking for things like information about where they can safely acquire quality products, cannabis-friendly events, activities, destinations, tours, and accommodations.

Canna-tourism can also take the form of people visiting different retail models, learning more about the culture, and bringing certain practices back to their areas if they are looking to get into the cannabis industry in some way.

“The craft industry drives tourism,” Jackson said.

Farm Gate Sales

Part of canna-tourism mirrors that of the craft brewery and wine tour industry, whereby consumers can visit where the product is made and purchase directly from the manufacturer.

British Columbia law currently prevents farm gate sales, meaning visitors to cannabis farms would not be able to sample or purchase any product directly from growers.

“Farm gate sales are important partly because they help companies build their brand and share their story directly with the consumer,” said Jackson, who believes that canna-tourism will encourage the government to allow farm gate sales by showing demand for it.

Changing Landscape

Cannabis-friendly accommodations currently exist but are mostly marketed through word-of-mouth. After legalization, Jackson expects that more overt marketing efforts will be made to target this niche of travellers.

Jackson noted that canna-tourism isn’t just for cannabis consumers, but also for people who are interested in getting involved in the industry and want to get into a sector that isn’t cultivation or production.

“People need to understand that marketing to the canna-tourism demographic is not just marketing to a bunch of people who want to smoke joints all the time,” said Jackson said. “We don’t want to create an environment that looks like spring break.”“ Something as simple as the Marriott or Four Seasons having a rack in the lobby with a pamphlet about local access points to cannabis is part of this emerging industry.”

Challenges Ahead

Jackson sees challenges coming within municipalities. These can include banning cannabis retail outlets, prohibiting public smoking and bans on consumption lounges.

“We are going to be able to compare legalization approaches across provinces and between municipalities,” said Jackson, noting that hopefully provinces and territories will learn from one another and adjust their regulations accordingly.

There is also a growing number of concerns from people currently involved in the tourism industry.

“People want to know what their liability is,” Jackson said. “Is it the same as not allowing someone to participate if they have had too much to drink?”

Jackson said that the onus is on operators to understand consumption, recognizing impairment, and understanding how individuals are affected uniquely.

It is also important to train staff about safe practices and what to do if someone gets too high.

Ultimately though, Jackson is optimistic about what legalization will mean for the country.

“Legalization will showcase and enhance tourism in Canada and have an impact on a global scale,” Jackson said.

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