Marijuana Tourism: The New Hospitality Industry

Marijuana Tourism: The New Hospitality Industry

Though marijuana legalization has taken away the legal burden for both aficionados and newcomers alike in Colorado, there are still many who have yet to experience this new change — if only they knew how to approach it. Thankfully, there’s a solution to this; a game-changer in the area of tourism. Enter: marijuana tourism. From daylong outings in stretch Humvees and weeklong guided excursions throughout the state, to all-inclusive ski packages, marijuana tourism combines the best destinations and attractions in Colorado, coupled with the best marijuana it has to offer.

There’s even an option to be chauffeured around in a Lamborghini for the day, called the “Bustin Jeeber Pop Star Pot Tour”, for a paltry $1,800. [PICS?] If you want to save some of your green to buy more of the other green, Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours (CRMHT) in Denver may be just the ticket. For $350 a person, a white stretch Humvee becomes a chariot for you and your group between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. for its daily tours. You get much more bang for your buck than just the luxury ride. Owned and operated by Addison Morris since its inception on January 2, CRMHT provides an all-inclusive mini-vacation, taking customers to three different dispensaries, followed by lunch or dinner at one of Denver’s finest restaurants — though patrons are responsible for purchasing any marijuana products at the dispensaries. Each guest receives a personal “stash bag,” containing a lighter, pipe, and munchies.

“This is the best stuff my guests have ever smoked. I mean, we had really good s**t back in college, but it wasn’t this good,” Morris said. CRMHT also provides cannabis concierges along with their tour to help customers new to marijuana choose products at dispensaries and advise them on consumption — they’ll even make last-minute schedule changes for guests. “My guests are here to get high, but they also want to experience something while they’re high. Colorado is so much more than just pot,” Morris said. “If my guests want to change the schedule I’ll tell the concierge to take them up to Red Rocks, or to a restaurant up in the mountains, or to all the parks. My concierges also know a lot about the history of the area and what’s going on in town. So they truly are a concierge.” Along with Morris’ staff of concierges providing a safe and informative environment for her guests, budtenders working the dispensaries along the tour afford an added peace of mind to those who’ve are new to other, non-smoking forms of marijuana.

“Thirty percent of our customers are looking for medical cannabis, and they’re asking questions. Thankfully we have some of the most experienced budtenders in the state, and they’re old school medical so they can answer very efficiently. There are also other resources we can direct people to,” said Christie Lunsford, operations director at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, and one of major dispensaries on the marijuana tourism circuit. Most of Morris’ guests are between 40 and 75. Once marijuana was legalized, Morris found it difficult to utilize and enjoy the newfound positive turn of events due to her age. “As a 63-year-old woman it was difficult for me to make use of this newly passed law. I asked myself, ‘How do I go and buy this? And now that it’s legal, where do you go?’ So I saw a market to create a tourism business that caters to a more mature, professional adult,” Morris said. “I get grandma and grandpa, and their children who are in their 40s. I get Red Hat ladies, people who are in town for business, and couples celebrating their anniversary. It works just like any tourism business does, the only difference being that it involves pot smoking, gourmet munchies, and a meal.”

3D Cannabis Center has also seen an array of tour enthusiasts walk through the door to purchase marijuana and view their grow operation in the back. “The tourism consists of people from all over the United States and international travelers,” Lunsford said. “They tend to be slightly more affluent because they’re traveling, which is not available to everyone. Generally, 70 percent of them have some kind of relationship with the plant, even if it’s 30 years ago. Now they’re in their late-50s here skiing and are like, ‘Oh, adult-use marijuana? Let’s go check that out!’” The stops at the dispensaries are brief for tourism guests, and constitute a minimal amount of the tour time, leaving the duration of the tour for partaking instead of shopping. “If they don’t have to stand in line, it’s six to ten minutes in the dispensing area. Then they get to come see our amazing 80-foot long viewing corridor where we grow our own marijuana so they can see the product they’re buying is well taken care of,” Lunsford said. “You can come and see your plants being grown. It’s also just a real friendly environment here.”

Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours isn’t the only tour company that enjoys a visit to the 3D Cannabis Center, nor is the marijuana group tour the only form of marijuana tourism to take advantage of the legalization of marijuana. 3D Cannabis center works with three to four tour companies, and many private limo drivers.
“There are several private car services where they’ll pick up a businessman in a limo at the airport, pull up in front of the store and a gentleman will come in and purchase what he needs, and he leaves happy,” Lunsford said. “The drivers know to pick him up at the exit door. They’re brilliant!” Driving around Denver in a vehicle filled with a plume of marijuana smoke can be dangerous because drivers may be subject to a contact high — or worse, they’re already high. Morris, in her maternal approach to this business, already considered these as real possibilities and addressed them before it became an issue.

“All the limo drivers we use have to be absolutely drug free, and not use any drugs or any pot while on the clock. We do everything we can to protect our drivers from second-hand smoke,” Morris said. The safety of the drivers is only exceeded by the attention to the safety of the guests, who begin and end their tour at the front door of their hotel. “The benefit of what I’m doing is allowing people to get high in a safe, comfortable, controlled environment,” Morris said. “The clientele I’m going for are used to luxury, not getting into one of the party buses with the stripper poles. They want the comfort of a limo, they want their bottled water, they want gourmet chocolate chip cookies and snacks, and a great lunch in a private and discreet environment. We’re eliminating all risks.”

While the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado was covered by legislation, the tourism element was not. This has allowed the marijuana tourism businesses to flourish in the absence of any legislature overseeing its perimeters of rules and regulation. Unfortunately the red tape may be on its way to ending marijuana tourism before it ever has the chance to really take off. “It’s coming. While everyone wants to jump on this green express, I do believe they will initiate bills and amendments that will cover tourism. This is not a long-term business, it has a two year run,” Morris said. For now the marijuana tourism industry is burgeoning and healthy, and is as much of the experience of legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado as the dispensaries and the cultural change of legalization itself. For more information on marijuana tourism, go to: coloradorockymountainhightours.com

BY SHANE CHANT
STAFF WRITER

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