Pubdate: Thu, 14 Sep 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Mark Rendell
Page: B3


As Canada looks to legalize marijuana by 2018, companies are starting
to develop cannabis-tourism business plans

Canada's red-and-white tourism branding could turn a shade greener in
the coming years with the legalization of recreational marijuana
opening the door to cannabis-based travel businesses across the country.

Federal legislation for recreational use is still a year away, and
many legal question marks surrounding advertising and distribution
remain, even with the government of Ontario clarifying some rules
around marijuana sales on Sept. 8. Nonetheless, companies in the
cannabis sector are starting to develop tourism business plans,
dreaming up everything from winery-style grow-op tours to
weed-and-yoga retreats in the Rocky Mountains.

"A nation legalizes and the world pays attention," said Michael Eymer,
chief executive of Colorado Cannabis Tours, a travel company based in
Colorado that organizes marijuana-oriented trips in a number of U.S.
states. Ahead of legalization, he's been eyeing British Columbia -
long regarded as a centre for cannabis culture - and plans to offer
dispensary and grow-op tours to cruise-ship passengers arriving in
Vancouver starting next summer. "My instinct tells me that Vancouver
will get the lion's share of cannabis tourism," he said.

Calgary native Darrin Zeer, who also lives in Colorado and runs
marijuana-friendly yoga trips with his company, 420 Yoga Retreats,
plans to start offering retreats in the Alberta Rockies next summer.

"We still have a bit of a grey cloud over us [in the United States]
because federally it's illegal," Mr. Zeer said. "So the idea of
Canada, in one fell swoop, becoming legal nationwide - companies are
going to be so much more incentivized to start a business and feel
confident that the federal government is not going to shut them down

It's too early to quantify the potential impact marijuana legalization
could have on Canada's overall tourism numbers. Tourism industry
organizations seem to be in wait-and-see mode, with Destination
Canada, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Tourism
Industry Association of BC all indicating that they're waiting on more
defined legislation before focusing research on the impact of marijuana.

Other jurisdictions, however, have been tracking the impact of
legalization, and have seen largely positive movement. In Colorado,
the global leader in legal marijuana tourism, 15 per cent of visitors
participated in a "marijuana-related activity" in 2016, according to
research commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office. Five per cent of
tourists cited the availability of legal marijuana in Colorado as
their main reason for visiting the state.

Colorado data from 2015 showed that 23 per cent of visitors were
positively influenced in their decision to visit the state by the
availability of marijuana, although 14 per cent said marijuana had a
negative impact on their decision.

In Canada, people are already beginning to take advantage of
increasingly liberal attitudes toward marijuana, even ahead of

There are about 20 Canadian properties listed on,
an Airbnb-style property listing website focused on cannabis-friendly

"Generally it's a joint on the pillow, or a gram by the side of the
bed, or some people are doing infused mints," said CEO Sean Roby,
whose company lists more than 1,000 properties worldwide.

"We do have some bud and breakfasts that are all inclusive, where you
wake up in the morning and there's cannabis blueberry pancakes and
cannabis hollandaise sauce."

He expects the number of Canadian "bud and breakfast" listings to
skyrocket following recreational legalization. And this, he claims,
could provide Canadian property owners who are already listing on
accommodation-sharing sites another avenue to make money.

"If someone has their place listed on multiple sharing economy sites,
such as HomeAway, Airbnb, they might be at a 60per-cent occupancy
rate. Generally we get them up to 90 or 100 per cent, because there is
no shoulder season with cannabis," he said.

"Our average booking is around $400 and it's for three nights, so
generally we're getting about a $1,200 average per booking. It's
generally a fairly highend traveller."

As with other aspects of the emerging Canadian cannabis industry,
however, there are legal unknowns that could trip up the nascent
tourism industry. For example, the announcement from the Ontario
government that it is limiting sales to Liquor Control Board of
Ontario-run stores will make it illegal to sell product on-site during
winery-style tours.

Maxim Zavet, president of Emblem Cannabis Corp., a publicly traded
licensed producer based in Paris, Ont., still plans to run public
tours around the 100,000-square-foot facility his company is building.
But the rules from the Ontario government could make it hard to
attract would be grow-op tourists.

"Consumption of the product has to be in the equation in order to
attract people," he said. "What's the point of a tour if it doesn't
exit through the gift shop?"

Other provinces could still choose more liberal distribution laws.
However, Alan Young, a law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and
expert on cannabis regulation warns that, "until you know more, you
can't really talk about vacation stays at pot farms."

Given strict rules around marijuana advertising and relatively
conservative attitudes toward things like public drinking, Prof. Young
doesn't expect much of a tourism industry to develop around marijuana,
at least for the first few years after legalization. "I don't see a
lot occurring in an overt way, although maybe if we're one of the few
jurisdictions where it's legal people will sort of drift here," he

"An important point, though, is that with each year legalization goes
by and people realize the fabric of Canadian life isn't
disintegrating, many restrictions could be removed and we might see
more of an industry developing."
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