Will cannabis legalization draw tourists to Canada?

By Shauna Hunt

Ganja-preneurs are dreaming big when it comes to making our country a tourist destination for cannabis users.

The possibilities are endless, including pot tasting tours, cooking classes and bachelor parties. How about a weed inspired wedding? That idea belongs Neev Tapiero, a former Toronto dispensary owner turned tour operator who calls cannabis the new champagne.

“Edibles, open bar, the wedding cake itself. This could change the way couples get married,” said Tapiero.

Tapiero’s company Canadian Kush Tours is already taking reservations using the city’s hemp shops and unregulated vapor lounges as tourist destinations.

His dreams of expansion are laid out on his website and include a party limo, pot themed spa packages and romantic marijuana couples retreats.

While this type of tourism is already happening in cannabis-friendly places like Colorado and Amsterdam, in Canada, there are roadblocks.

“The provincial and federal tourism bureaus, I think, are completely unprepared for cannabis tourism. There is no information available,” said Tapiero.

The Hot Box Café in Toronto’s Kensington Market is still unregulated but has been in business for decades. It’s a place where medical marijuana users vape.

Every day about 200 people walk thru the doors and owner Abi Roach says 40 to 50 per cent of their customers are tourists.

“If you go to San Francisco they have legalized lounges, so does Boston and that’s close,” said Roach. “We are going to lose those tourists dollars. I think we need to let go and be forward-thinking.”

Many of the big hotel chains such as The Hilton have said they offer a smoke-free environment and that includes cannabis.

Even Alberta’s beautiful rocky mountain destination of Banff National Park is banning smoking and vaping pot in public spaces.

Whistler, the scenic winter resort town in British Columbia, is banning the sale of cannabis for health and safety.

“I think they are going to regret that,” said Roach. “All they are doing is encouraging people to buy from the black market and smoke on the hills as opposed to having a regulated market with storefronts and regulated places to consume”

An AirBNB style website, Bud and Breakfast, has already launched in Canada that helps tourists connect with cannabis friendly accommodations.

Roach believes regulation for pot cafes is around the corner. “Eventually cannabis will be a product like any other, there won’t be necessarily a cannabis shop but cannabis will be part of our shopping routine.”

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