AUSTIN, Texas — As Colorado and Washington state lawmakers ruminate about what rules to set up for the legal sale of marijuana, this question rears its head: What are they going to do about tourists?
As Amsterdam’s officials can tell you, legal marijuana can be a boon to tourism. In fact, the Amsterdam City Council likes that boon so much that it has told the government of the Netherlands that it will not enforce a nationwide ban on selling pot to people who aren’t registered residents. That same City Council is asking its federal government to let it start growing marijuana, too, but Dutch media give that situation little chance of approval.
Both Washington’s and Colorado’s voters approved legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana this year, even though it’s still illegal under federal law. The question of how to sell the stuff is still making its way through legislative bodies. Although both states are buzzing about pot tourism, the official folks clearly don’t like talking about it.
When I asked Colorado tourism spokesman Roland Alonzi for a comment on potential pot tourism, he emailed this statement: “There are many uncertainties and issues to be resolved surrounding Amendment 64. Therefore, it is impossible for the Colorado Tourism Office to make any comments or predictions on how this issue will ultimately impact Colorado’s tourism industry.”
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Meanwhile, a celebration took place April 20 in Denver’s Center Park featuring Snoop Lion, the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, tossing joints into the audience. (Two people were injured, though not seriously, when gunfire erupted at the event.) A Denver tour operator eagerly sold packages to out-of-staters to attend the festival, with add-ons including a cannabis cooking class.
A similar celebration was held that same weekend in Seattle, where a tour operator is working on plans for a marijuana dinner cruise this summer. So, it would seem that pot tourism has been launched, whether the states want it or not.
Washington has hired UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman’s Botec Analysis Corp. to consult and make recommendations on how to set up the sale of marijuana there. Kleiman, who actually was willing to talk about the matter on the telephone, says he doesn’t see a lot of people flocking to Washington and Colorado to smoke pot because marijuana is so readily available everywhere in the country.
“Might there be some people who don’t like breaking the law and who wish to smoke who might choose Washington or Colorado over Utah because they can puff away in public? Maybe,” he says. “Is that something the state wants to promote? I doubt it.”
Washington, he points out, is talking about package sales, much like liquor stores. He doesn’t foresee the sort of cafes that Amsterdam has, where joints are on the menu.
Whereas these states might not make specific rules for tourists, both, Kleiman notes, are discussing “export control.” You can legally possess it in Washington and Colorado, but don’t try to take it home to other states.