May 1, 2017#MarijuanaMoney
That weed vacation you're planning is subject to some serious terms and conditions
WATCH | Tourists from all over the country are jumping on party busses to ride Colorado's pot trail -- and get baked. But if you’re crossing state lines for legal weed, you need to know a few things to avoid the nasty legal fine print. Colorado has effectively become home to America's first pot trail.
Ever since the state legalized pot in 2012, it has seen a surge in tourism with people coming from all over the country to get a taste of the cannabis scene.
"It's kind of blown my mine, you know, I mean, besides this being kind of like a dream the first couple days, is all the different people that we've met," a visitor getting off a My 420 Tours pot party bus told the company of his experience in the Mile High City.
Tourists come to check out grow facilities to see how marijuana plants are grown. To take in the smells of the hundreds of strands dispensaries offer. To learn to roll a joint at a class that pairs sushi with cannabis.
There are experiences for all budgets and all ages -- if you're over 21.
"We have everything from your 22-year-old stoner, to your 80-year-old grandma, to your CEO, to ex-NFL players and everything else in between," JJ Walker, CEO of My 420 Tours, told Circa.
State tourism is soaring.
In 2015, over 16 million people visited Colorado, according to records from the Colorado Tourism Office. Of those tourists, 23 percent said legal weed played a positive role in their decision to visit.
The U.S. legal cannabis market is set to bring in over $24 billion by 2025, according to market research by New Frontier Data. And in Colorado alone, adult pot sales brought in $200 million in taxes in 2016, the Colorado Department of Revenue has reported.
But unlike, say, California's wine country, in Colorado and the seven other states (and the District of Columbia) where adult use is legal, restrictions exist that could limit how big pot tourism grows.
From unclear government regulations to pot's inherent image problem, pot tourism businesses say these things have held them back.
“Your hurdles are the people that are ignorant. People that have never actually utilized the product and realized what the benefits are," Joel Schneider, co-owner of the Bud + Breakfast, told Circa.
Schneider and his wife Lisa Schneider run the Bud + Breakfast. Unlike hotels, which are considered public spaces making it illegal to smoke pot, bed and breakfasts are considered private residences, meaning it's okay to light up.
Business is booming for the B-n-B, which should be a good sign for the future of pot hospitality. But hazy pot laws have caused Schneider problems, like getting fined for letting guests share pot (which they can't do any longer) and having to find an out-of-state processor to do their banking.
"You're taking people and you're bringing them to a state, with the idea that they can come here and use a certain substance," Freddie Wyatt, president of Munch and Co., told Circa. "But we're not giving anybody a safe haven to go use the product."
"We're not giving anybody a safe haven to go use the product."
Munch and Co. helps put on cannabis festivals and parties that draw in tourists from around the globe. In Colorado, while it's legal to buy pot, bars can't offer it, dispensaries can't let you taste it and hotels can't let you smoke it.
A bill that was supposed to provide a framework for pot clubs was stripped down in Colorado. Alaska pot regulators have also delayed similar decisions.
"The idea for cannabis hospitality is basically giving them a place where it's safe to use the substance. It's the most basic idea," Wyatt said. And another major hurdle is marketing their businesses.
"Being a hospitality type of business, but still being related to marijuana... we can't buy Google ads," My 420 Tours' Walker said. "The State of Colorado Tourism Association, they don’t want to recognize us. We don't have access to any of that, people have to find us."
"We can't buy Google ads... people have to find us."
For cannabis hospitality to exist, you have to enable cannabis tourism. Once you do that, "the sky's the limit," Munch and Co.'s Wyatt said. So what does the future of marijuana hospitality and tourism look like? Bud + Breakfast's Schneider is betting on small businesses to drive it forward.
"It's for small entrepreneurs like myself to provide this kind of environment. Tourism's gonna be big. It is big already," he said.