How Colorado prepared for cannabis legalization and the lessons learned so far
Canada could eventually generate as much as $2 billion in annual tourism revenue related to the cannabis industry once the drug is legalized for recreational use this October – but it will take time to ramp up, according to an industry expert.
It’s been difficult to derive an accurate figure on the burgeoning “cannatourism” industry given that marijuana itself has yet to be fully legalized in Canada. However, Shaman Ferraro, CEO of cannabis tourism guide Gocanna, says Canada should expect a boon in tourism revenue.
Ferraro’s estimates are based on a report that Colorado’s tourism agency commissioned in 2015, which found that four per cent of the state’s tourists visited solely because of legal marijuana dispensaries, and 23 per cent said access to cannabis was a “positive influence” on their decision to visit. It is also based on Statistics Canada data on how much U.S. tourists spend while visiting Canada, Ferraro said.
“The tourism sector is going to be huge for cannabis,” said Ferraro, who spoke to BNN Bloomberg on the sidelines of the Marijuana Business Daily conference last week.
While some family-friendly establishments will likely opt out of allowing patrons to use cannabis on site, Ferraro said he expects a significant number of operators in Canada will be “pot-friendly” and cater to the growing market, Ferraro said.
“There’s going to be some early adopters but as the industry evolves, you’re likely to see more integration of cannabis in tourism hot spots,” Ferraro said.
That being said, Ferraro doesn’t see the tourism sector generating the full $2 billion out of the gate in the first year of legalization. That will take some time, especially after the industry and regulators better understand how to market cannabis to curious tourists, he said.
Ferraro noted that municipalities will have a strong voice on how comfortable they will be with having busloads of cannabis-focused tourists descend on local establishments looking for a tour of a grow-op, for example.
As well, how exactly businesses publicly promote cannabis will be an issue for tourism operators, given current government restrictions established in the legislation that legalizes the drug, said Trina Fraser, partner at Brazeau Seller Law, during a panel discussion on the topic at the Marijuana Business Daily conference.
The legislation consists of strict regulations on how cannabis can be marketed, prohibiting company sponsorships, contests and endorsements by celebrities. Violators will be subject to licence suspensions, fines as high as $5 million or jail time, according to Health Canada.