Will Canada become the new Amsterdam? Are we the next destination of choice for pot-seeking tourists? With cannabis consumption legal as of October 2018, Canadians are right to wonder about the benefits, economic and otherwise, of so-called “canna-tourism”, especially from American visitors looking to take advantage of the recently-changed weed laws. (Recreational marijuana use is only currently legal in 10 U.S. states, primarily along the west coast.) And while some may worry, Reefer Madness-style, what pot tourism will look like, there are definite advantages – and challenges – to Canada going green.
Tourists don’t always behave as well as they do at home, just ask any car-rental agency. That might mean something as relatively innocuous as leaving a dirty hotel bathroom for staff to clean or, more seriously, getting drunk and arrested. But when it comes to 420-friendly hotel guests, however, it’s often a different story. As Dave Power, a desk clerk at the First Inn of Pagosa in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, told USA Today back in 2015 about his pot-friendly guests, “They don’t make noise, they don’t throw Jack Daniels bottles through the walls.”
The New Amsterdam?
With its cannabis cafes and liberal laws, the Netherlands’ capital is the traditional destination for pot tourists. But a newly-elected Dutch government has taken steps to curb Amsterdam’s reputation as a party city, severely curtailing the opening hours of cannabis cafes located near schools, for instance, in a bid to protect children and make the city more livable for residents.
With two out of three tourist dollars spent in Canada coming from the U.S., that could mean even more American money, particularly cash earmarked for marijuana-related consumption, being redirected here. This would be especially meaningful in larger urban centres like Toronto or Vancouver, the latter of which has a long historical association with cannabis culture.
Canada Has a Head Start
There are signs that U.S. legalization of pot is inching forward slowly. The governors of New York and New Jersey both recently said that recreational pot legalization will be a priority in 2019, and U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr urged Congress to make a national decision on the legality of cannabis. Meanwhile Colorado, one of the first two American states to legalize recreational pot, has seen a 51% increase in pot tourism since 2014, the year it was legalized.
But with cannabis already legal across Canada, albeit with each province and city having its own particular laws and bylaws, we have a head start over the U.S. when it comes to monetizing marijuana. That includes weed-history walking tours, storefront dispensaries, and cannabis catering services.
“Canada is a global leader in the cannabis industry and our licensed producers are leaders among their peers,” says Shaman Ferraro of Gocanna, an independent Canadian business review and consumer guidance group for cannabis tourism. “This offers our hospitality and tourism industry a significant advantage over other countries that do not allow legal cannabis use, and over countries who may legalize at a future time, by providing our operators time to establish policies and best practices that meet the needs of consumers.”
Sean Plummer | Contributing Writer