EAGLE COUNTY — Ganjapreneurs have high hopes for marijuana tourism, and it’s headed for the High Country.
The Marijuana Business Daily claims that once Colorado visitors can buy recreational reefer from retailers, “marijuana tourism could rival Colorado’s multibillion-dollar ski industry.”
Timothy Vee, of High Life Tours, isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon, he’s driving the bus.
High Life Tours will haul you and a dozen or so of your friends on its marijuana-friendly ski buses to Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Eldora, Loveland and Echo Mountain.
“It’s not unlike a Napa Valley wine tour, only they’re marijuana tours,” Vee said.
If you book 15 people or more, it’ll cost you about $75 each, it says on the business’ website.
Vee sat down with some attorneys who told him he could charge for the bus ride and give away marijuana as part of the package. It works just like alcohol on a party bus, he said.
So that’s what they do. You get a little reefer, a little alcohol and a little supervision.
“We practice moderation,” Vee said. “You notice that when people come in from out of town, a little bit goes a long way.”
Speaking of limits, they market tours as far away as Vail from their Front Range headquarters, but like the cannabis capitalist he is, Vee said they’ll go further if you want to pay for it.
“People come to Colorado and want enjoy the beautiful countryside and smoke some as they travel,” Vee said.
Vee has been advocating for legalization for years. He remembers going to 420 rallies in Denver when only a few hundred people showed up. Colorado voters legalized it in 2012 and this year voted to tax it.
It’s a fledgling industry and Vee said he’s figuring it out along with everyone else.
But the marijuana industry is growing like, well … like a weed.
Last April 20, tens of thousands of people lit up outdoors in Denver’s Civic Center Park to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more headed to Denver for nation’s first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, a U.S. version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam.
Why green is growing
Marijuana tourists not only buy cannabis and related products, they also spend money on hotels, food and entertainment, insists Marijuana Business Daily.
“We think it could rival skiing. Not next year or the year after, but down the road,” said Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily.
Walsh used to cover the ski industry for the Rocky Mountain News and has considered this before.
“The Colorado skiing industry is competing with resorts from all over the country and world,” Walsh said. “This could set Colorado’s skiing industry apart from its competitors in places like Utah and California.”
Marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington.
“You’re talking about a potential global tourist market,” Walsh said.
Marijuana Business Daily calculates that the nationwide medical marijuana industry generated $1.5 billion this year. They project that by 2018 it will grow to $6 billion, maybe more.
“Cannabis could easily become a top tourist draw, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax into state coffers and rivaling Colorado’s $2.5 billion-$3 billion skiing industry.”
Al White said he admires their entrepreneurial spirit, but does not share their enthusiasm. He’s Colorado’s state tourism director.
“There’s way too much to see and do in Colorado to use marijuana tourism as a platform for marketing our state,” White said.
Matt Brown is co-owner of My 420 Tours, which gives traveling pot users everything but the pot. Besides tours, they run World Cannabis Week in Denver. Last spring’s inaugural event sold out.
“People are fascinated by what’s happening here, and they want to see it up close,” Brown told The Associated Press. “We want to make sure people don’t come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend.”
Unincorporated Eagle County is home to four medical marijuana businesses, and it’s anticipated that they’ll apply to sell retail pot. Growers can seek permits to cultivate, manufacture and test marijuana in commercial and agricultural areas.
The county staff is hammering out regulations defining marijuana social clubs, which are popping up in Denver.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.