Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2012
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Laura Bly


Colorado and Washington becoming the first states to legalize the
recreational use of marijuana prompted speculation Wednesday about
Amsterdam-style "drug tourism" and a new round of jokes about
Colorado's official state song, Rocky Mountain High.

The Colorado measure limits cultivation to six marijuana plants per
person, but "grow-your-own" pot would still be banned in Washington.
Both states prohibit public use, and Washington includes a strict
"drugged driving" provision for marijuana impairment.

Tuesday's votes are "groundbreaking," said Beau Kilmer, co-director of
the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. But since no modern jurisdiction
has lifted prohibitions on production, possession and distribution of
cannabis for recreational use, he says, "There are two big issues: Do
the states want a marijuana tourism industry, and if so would the
federal government allow it?"

Richard Scharf, CEO of tourism organization Visit Denver, worries that
an influx of pot-seeking tourists could tarnish the city's and state's
images. In 2005, Denver became the first major city in the USA to
legalize adult marijuana possession of less than 1 ounce.

"Tourism is the second-largest industry in both Denver and Colorado.
If Colorado receives international media attention as the first state
in the U.S. to legalize marijuana in their constitution, Colorado's
brand will be damaged and we may attract fewer conventions and see a
decline in leisure travel," Scharf said before the election.

Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country, a marketing organization
that represents 21 ski resorts, said, "We're holding our breath, so to
speak. People choose to come to Colorado for a variety of reasons, and
if this is one of them, so be it," she said.

European travel guru Rick Steves, a resident of Edmonds, Wash., and
vocal supporter of that state's successful initiative, said he's
"honestly not looking at the tourism aspect. For the immediate future,
I don't even see (marijuana) use going up."

In the Netherlands, where the incoming government has abandoned plans
for a national, residents-only "weed pass" that would have effectively
kept foreign tourists out of Amsterdam's famous marijuana cafes, "per
capita cannabis use is about on par with the U.S., and use among young
people is actually lower," Steves said. "It's a big deal for some
American tourists, but Dutch people couldn't care less."

"You can't go out in public (in Washington state) with a cocktail or
beer," he added, "and this won't be any different."

Meanwhile, Luis Videgaray, the main adviser to Mexico President-elect
Enrique Pena Nieto, said the votes legalizing recreational marijuana
in Washington and Colorado will complicate Mexico's commitment to
quashing pot growing and smuggling.
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