Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but only Colorado and Washington have licensed dispensaries that can legally sell recreational cannabis. Since legalization and sale came to those communities, the budding pot industry in these two states has tried to shape a future of vineyard-esque tours of marijuana farms, and fatty-friendly salons reminiscent of Amsterdam’s cafes. (The phrase “Napa Valley of weed” gets tossed around a fair bit.)
In the meantime, Colorado and Washington still have a ways to go before pot tourism can flourish. Jeremy Bamford, who started the Colorado Pot Guide website in 2013, directs thousands of daily readers to 420 tours and “Bud & Breakfasts,” but official barriers remain. City and state tourism boards still shy away from promoting weed as an attraction, marijuana lounges are still against the law, and hotels tend to give a pretty firm reiteration of their no-smoking policies when you ask about, say, using a marijuana vaporizer in your room, or smoking a joint on your balcony. (Though a few have vague advertisements on Bamford’s site that provide neither their names nor their addresses.)
One of the problems when it comes to official support is the lack of hard numbers. Over the 4/20 holiday, says Bamford, Visit Denver took stock of hotel occupancy rates, and found they were no greater than on an average weekend. Which makes sense, he points out, because Denver’s weed pilgrims are booking cannabis-friendly accommodations instead. The ongoing stigma of marijuana usage among big-name hospitality brands “reflects a bit of a perception problem, because Colorado’s cannabis tourists actually tend to skew older,” says Bamford. This reefer madness mindset is causing hotels to turn away Terry Gross listeners, not Miley Cirus fans.
Still, marijuana-themed tours of Denver and Seattle continue to fill up, and the boom in recreational dispensaries in Colorado and Washington has produced a range of offerings, with highlights and must-sees for newbies and discerning connoisseurs alike.