Pubdate: Fri, 15 May 2015
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2015 Virgin Islands Daily News
Author: Ted Shorack, The Bulletin


BEND, Ore.- As state lawmakers and government officials with the 
Oregon Liquor Control Commission create the rules regarding 
recreational marijuana use in Oregon, the state is readying itself 
for the beginning of pot tourism.

Portland likely will be the primary destination for marijuana tourism 
in Oregon, but Bend and Central Oregon could also see an influx with 
visitors combining their trips to grow sites with other amenities the 
region has to offer, such as the Bend Ale Trail or a vineyard-style tour.

"Tourism will be part of this new marijuana economy," said Tom 
Towslee, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Commission. "Just exactly 
what that's going to look like remains to be seen."

Recreational growers won't be able to obtain licenses from the 
commission until early 2016, and storefronts selling recreational pot 
aren't expected to begin operating until late 2016. Oregon lawmakers 
are still debating legislation that is expected to tweak Measure 91, 
which legalized pot in Oregon and will go into effect July 1.

Although still nascent in Colorado and Washington, marijuana tourism 
has taken off since those states legalized recreational pot.

Medical and recreational shops in Colorado sold about $700 million 
worth of marijuana in 2014, according to data from the Colorado 
Department of Revenue. Last year was the first for recreational sales 
in addition to medical. That translated into about $76 million in tax 
revenue in 2014 for Colorado.

In Colorado and Washington, lavish tours can be purchased to visit 
growing facilities with a minibus or limousine picking customers up 
from the airport.

Some of the additional options include cannabis cooking classes or a 
"cannabis-friendly" acrylic painting class and other workshops.

"Tours are happening every day of the week sometimes," Nobles said. 
"We're doing tours constantly.

While Central Oregon may be a location for large commercial growing 
operations, a major selling point could be production on a smaller, 
"craft" scale, similar to the breweries the region is known for.

"It's quickly going to become like breweries in Central Oregon and 
become a tourist thing," said Joseph Escobar, a medical marijuana grower.

Escobar said he and his business partner have discussed selling 
recreational marijuana. It depends, however, on what recreational 
licensing will ultimately entail.

"We've got to really be paying attention to the rules and regulations 
until things are set in stone," he said. "Our model is craft cannabis 
products, as in more like a small batch," he said. The company uses 
all organic nutrients and no synthetic fertilizers.

How marijuana tourism will fit with current Central Oregon 
attractions such as mountain biking, kayaking and skiing remains to be seen.

James Jaggard, general manager for Wanderlust Tours in Bend, Ore., 
said the company was approached by medical dispensaries a year ago to 
see whether they'd be interested in offering tours.

Jaggard said as the market develops a marijuana-themed tour is 
something the company will look at, but it's not on the horizon yet.

Visit Bend, an organization funded by the city to promote local 
tourism, doesn't expect to divert considerable resources into 
marketing the city as a destination for marijuana.

"At this point, we have no plans to promote Bend as a recreational 
marijuana destination," Doug LaPlaca, president and CEO of Visit 
Bend, wrote in an email. "We don't have any moral or ethical problem 
with it, we just don't see it as a leading competitive advantage for 
Bend's tourism industry."

LaPlaca said while the organization doesn't plan to focus on 
marijuana tourism, Visit Bend will help marijuana-related businesses 
that would like to be marketed to tourists.

"Visit Bend will provide them with the same level of marketing 
support that we'd give to any tourism-related business," he said. 
"That's our job."

One of the biggest impediments to the marijuana tourism industry 
could be the limitations on when and where marijuana can be used. 
Measure 91 restricts use in public spaces, which is defined as "a 
place to which the general public has access."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom