A report from Westword pointed out that the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) has recently begun to feature information regarding a few cannabis businesses on its website.
Westwordspoke with licensed cannabis party bus business owner, Sarah Woodson, confirming that the CTO contacted her last year about her The Cannabis Experience. According to CBS News, her business was the nation’s first licensed cannabis consumption bus as of February 2023.
The CTO website features some of Colorado’s best places to visit and check out, from snow-related activities, white water rafting, hot springs, dining recommendations, and an updated calendar of events on the front page. As of Feb. 5, the front page doesn’t showcase any cannabis-related businesses or activities.
A quick search yields just a few cannabis-related business profiles, which includes both The Cannabis Experience, Colorado Cannabis Tours, Speak Easy Vape Lounge & Cannabis Club, Ambers Alchemy, and a 420 friendly Bed and Breakfast called Arrowhead Manor. It also includes various advice articles about disposing of cannabis when leaving the state, tips for safe consumption, and more, in addition to a few older search results where the landing pages do not work or have been removed. The profiles don’t feature a date of publishing, so it’s unclear how long they’ve been up on the website.
Westword points out that Speak Easy Vape Lounge & Cannabis Club opened with a temporary local permit that expired this year and is now closed. Arrowhead Manor does not hold a hospitality license, so it must conduct business as a private venue.
As of July 2023, the CTO announced that in 2022, the state collected $27.7 billion in travel spending within the state from approximately 90 million tourists. This annual spending was a $5.6 billion increase, or 25% increase from revenue generated in 2021 ($22.1 billion), with an additional 5.8 million visitors more than those who visited in 2021. The press release included a variety of other facts and data regarding its growing tourism industry, which was shared from the Colorado Travel Impacts 2022 (Dean Runyan Associates) and Colorado Travel Year Report 2022 (Longwoods International). Neither of these reports mentioned cannabis.
The CTO is a division under the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), that is managed by the Colorado Tourism Board, which includes 11 people appointed by both the governor and four Colorado legislators. As a government-run agency, cannabis-related hospitality opportunities and events might be tricky to advertise. Currently, public cannabis consumption is illegal, so tourists seeking legal cannabis-friendly tourism must do their own research to find private businesses that cater to that interest.
One of the people who was formerly on the CTO board of directors, cannabis dispensary owner Wanda James, stated that the CTO began allowing certain cannabis businesses to advertise on the Colorado tourism website after a state hospitality law (which was passed in 2019) took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. James added that progress on including cannabis on the website decreased after former director Cathy Ritter was let go by OEDIT.
Advertising a business on the Colorado tourism website is free, but interested business owners must apply on the website. “To get a free listing on Colorado.com, start by filling out the form below. Note: To appear on Colorado.com, listings must be tourism related and have a physical address in Colorado,” the application form states. Toward the bottom, it requires a short description of the business, “so that we can verify you are part of the tourism industry.”
Westword obtained a statement from CTO spokesperson Hayes Norris, who explained that The Cannabis Experience is very much a welcome part of the industry worth advertising. “The Cannabis Experience is a great example of that, as they offer a range of immersive cannabis tours and experiences,” said Norris.”…there have not been any formal changes to colorado.com business rules regarding licensed hospitality businesses and cannabis.”
While the CTO is not yet ready to begin the task of featuring more cannabis-themed venues and activities, organizations such as the Cannabis Travel Association International are more focused on putting the spotlight on cannabis-friendly destinations both in the U.S. and other international locations as well.
While Colorado was the first to implement recreational cannabis legalization back in 2014, many other states are building up their cannabis consumption laws and business as well. In New Jersey, cannabis consumption lounges were only recently approved by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) last month. “New Jersey’s cannabis industry is well on its way to being a billion-dollar industry, and consumption areas will likely bolster that—fostering a communal experience for those 21 and older around cannabis in a regulated and secure space,” said CRC executive director Jeff Brown.
In Nevada, the most batch of consumption lounge licenses was issued in November 2023, while a number of other license holders are eyeing 2024 for the year they hope they’ll satisfy all of the requirements to open. The Las Vegas, Nevada-based Planet 13 announced in November last year that it was eyeing an April 2024 opening, and in December 2023 it confirmed that the consumption lounge would also share a space with the Las Vegas SuperStore to Koolsville Tattoo Shop.
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