Pot votes in CO, WA raise specter of weed tourism

Hit the slopes — and then a bong?
Associated Press
Nov 11, 2012


Marijuana legalization votes this week in Colorado and Washington state don't just set up an epic state-federal showdown on drug law for residents. The measures also open the door for marijuana tourism.

Both marijuana measures make marijuana possession in small amounts OK for all adults over 21 — not just state residents but visitors, too. Tourists may not be able to pack their bowls along with their bags, but as long as out-of-state tourists purchase and use the drug while in Colorado or Washington, they wouldn't violate the marijuana measures.

Of course, that's assuming the recreational marijuana measures take effect at all. That was very much in doubt Friday as the states awaited word on possible lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice asserting federal supremacy over drug law.

So the future of marijuana tourism in Colorado and Washington is hazy. But that hasn't stopped rampant speculation, especially in Colorado, where tourism is the No. 2 industry thanks to the Rocky Mountains and a vibrant ski industry.

The day after Colorado approved recreational marijuana by a wide margin, the headline in the Aspen Times asked, "Aspendam?" referring to Amsterdam's marijuana cafes.

Colorado's tourism director, Al White, tried to downplay the prospect of a new marijuana tourism boom.

"It won't be as big a deal as either side hopes or fears," White said.

Maybe not. But many are asking about marijuana tourism.

Ski resorts are "certainly watching it closely," said Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association that represents 21 Colorado resorts.

Any plans for an adults-only après lounge where skiers could get more than an Irish coffee to numb their aches?

"There's a lot that remains to be seen," Rudolph said with a chuckle. "I guess you could say we're waiting for the smoke to clear."

The Colorado counties where big ski resorts are located seem to have made up their minds. The marijuana measure passed by overwhelming margins, with more support than in less visited areas.

The home county of Aspen approved the marijuana measure more than 3-to-1. More than two-thirds approved marijuana in the home county of Colorado's largest ski resort, Vail. The home county of Telluride ski resort gave marijuana legalization its most lopsided victory, nearly 8 in 10 favoring the measure.

"Some folks might come to Colorado to enjoy some marijuana as will be their right. So what?" said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Colorado marijuana campaign.

Washington state already sees a version of marijuana tourism.

Every summer on the shores of the Puget Sound, Seattle is host to "Hempfest," which according to organizers attracted around 250,000 people over three days this year. For those three days, people are largely left alone to smoke publically at a local park, even as police stand by.

"People travel to Seattle from other states and countries to attend Seattle Hempfest every year to experience the limited freedom that happens at the event," said executive director Vivian McPeak. "It's reasonable to assume that people will travel to Washington assuming that the federal government doesn't interfere."

McPeak draw parallels to Amsterdam where an annual "Cannabis Cup" attracts tourists from all over the world and Vancouver, British Columbia, which has lax marijuana rules that have borne marijuana cafes drawing travelers.

Amsterdam's marijuana tourism is in a hazy spot these days, though. The incoming Dutch government suggested a national "weed pass" that would have been available only to residents and that would have effectively banned tourists from Amsterdam's marijuana cafes. The "weed pass" idea was scrapped, but under a provisional governing pact unveiled last week, Dutch cities can bar foreigners from weed shops if they choose.

In Denver, some feared that the Colorado marijuana vote could deter tourists, not to mention business visitors.

"Colorado's brand will be damaged, and we may attract fewer conventions and see a decline in leisure travel," Visit Denver CEO Richard Scharf said in a statement before the vote.

Colorado's governor opposed the measure but said after its passage that he didn't envision marijuana tourism materializing.

"I don't think that's going to happen," Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "They're going to flock here to buy marijuana as if they're going to take it back? On an airplane? That seems unlikely to me."

Colorado's measure specifically bans public use of the drug. But guidelines for commercial sales are still to be worked out. The state's 536 medical marijuana dispensaries are banned from allowing on-site consumption, but lawmakers could set different rules for recreational marijuana shops.

Marijuana backers downplayed the impact on tourism. Aldworth pointed out that pot-smoking tourists wouldn't exactly be new. Colorado ski slopes already are dotted with "smoke shacks," old mining cabins that have been illicitly repurposed as places to smoke pot out of the cold. And the ski resort town of Breckenridge dropped criminal penalties for marijuana use two years ago.

"Some folks come to Colorado and enjoy some marijuana while they are here today," Aldworth said.

The sheriff of the county including Aspen was sanguine about the prospects of pot-smoking visitors.

"For me, it's going to be live and let live. If people want to come to Colorado because pot is legal — and that's the sole reason — it's up to them," Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo told The Aspen Times. "I am not the lifestyle police."




It's against the law to burn leaves but not to burn a joint. Yea, we got problems with our liberal government.


Well donut, you could go buy a pack of papers and roll up some dead leaves from your yard. I'm certain that isn't against any law.


From the article:

"The Colorado counties where big ski resorts are located seem to have made up their minds. "

Sking and ganja huh?

Only more fun could be guns and alcohol.


Think Sonny Bono....:)


geez. Maybe some here would not be so cranky with a toke or 2. pffttt.

Darwin's choice



Let see.

We can get our shelter, food, utilities, transportation and cell phone supplied by our government and sit around and legally get high all day.

Ya gotta love this country.


The Late John Denver said it best-"Rocky Mountain High".


It's the will of the people so what's the problem?


Problem: Fed law trumps state law.

You'd think that the ol' choom gang member in the WH would be all for it wouldn't ya?


I'm betting Donutshopguy has never had any fun. If the people spoke, the people spoke. I guess you can just not go there than huh??? Majority rules. I think it should have been a nation-wide poll. I bet it would pass in ohio if they asked us.


@ rickross2:

OH voted against ObamaKare and then helped re-elect the ol' choom gang member. Reads confused to me.

Smoking, texting and driving - fun for the whole family!



If you mean living off the government as "fun" you are correct. And I believe in a national vote the recreational use of marijuana would also of passed.

How about we tax it like liquor and use the money to pay for obomacare. Another sin tax.

I believe in rule of the majority.


If you can make your own beer and wine at home for personal use I wonder home much pot you can grow for personal use?


@ dsg:

Just need the seeds, then ya grow your own. A legalized system would fall apart quickly. Anticipated tax revenue would fall far short of expectations.

Decriminalization, 'not' legalization.

Besides, with all the legal and employment prohibitions against tobacco use, the idea that another known carcinogen will be legalized is IMO doubtful.


Not if there is money in it for the government.


@ dsg:

Believe it when I see it.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what the Justice Dept. does.



One thing I don't understand when they make this legal is how the mental and physical injury from smoking pot will affect Obama Care. All these people will be taking from the health care system and we have to pay for their negligence. It just jacks up more expense for the government to hand out to these irresponsible people who think nothing of ruining their health and allowing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. The government should get a hold of this real fast. I don't wish to pick up the tab for someone's stupidy that puts their health at risk.


Oh please, before you rant and rave about the "ill effects" of marijuana, go to the main campus of Bowling Green State University and READ the studies on marijuana.

What God pushes up out of the ground, mankind shouldn;t be regulating. Read Genesis 1:12.



It's all about money. Generate a new revenue stream. Use capitalistic ideas to promote a socialist agenda.


I'm not sure that word means, what you think it means....
Legalizing pot has zip to do with socialism.


The taxation of pot will generate dollars to support the government's free health care, housing, food, utilities, ect.

The government is in debt. It needs to generate money from taxes to keep these programs. Or maybe we should just raise taxes on the 51% who pay for all these social services now.


@ donutshopguy:

So just keep 'em stoned so they'll vote for more cash and prizes?

How about a federally subsidized pot program for the poor? :)

"In essence, this is a vote-buying scheme by the Status Quo: the top 1% control the policies of the State in alliance with the State's own Elites, and together they buy the complicity of the bottom 60% majority."

"In this facsimile democracy, citizenship has devolved to advocacy for a larger share of Federal government swag."




Will we have MADS- Mothers Against Driving Stoned?


Vote Lebowski/Spicoli in 2016!

BTW: The '95 State of the Union speech was the first time in U.S. history that all three men who occupied the dais (Clinton, Gore and Gingrich) had admitted to smoking weed at one time in their lives.


Admitted being the key word.

Darwin's choice

"I didn't inhale......."


If you de-criminalize you slow down the fastest growing sector in the US, Prisons. Watch the federal government strike this down as fast as possible as it will lead to 10th amendment issues that if the Federal government loses it will revolve back to the Healthcare deal.


Marijuana has many great medicinal qualities. It is not all about getting high or all about THC. Marijuana could prevent many medical conditions due to stress. Do some research. Use the internet for research. Stress causes many medical conditions. Marijuana can stop stress. Big Pharma wants to keep Americans sick so that they can sell their expensive drugs with many side effects. Stop stress and stop the medical issues due to stress. Simple. What a great way for American health care. So simple, a plant that can offer so much to human health.