Five or 10 years ago, the term cannabis tourism was virtually nonexistent. But today, thanks to the growing trend of legalization across the country, business is booming.
Few know that better than Michael Gordon, owner of Seattle-based travel company Kush Tourism. After spending years working for adventure sports publications under the GrindMedia umbrella (Canoe & Kayak and POWDER magazines), Gordon left the publishing industry and connected with his current business partner, Chase Nobles, to found Kush Tourism in 2013.
“Almost everyone knows someone who’s been to Amsterdam,” Gordon explains of the inspiration that led to his company. “It’s not because of windmills and bicycles, it’s because they have legalized cannabis.” But after seeing how places like Amsterdam weren’t exactly keen on providing cannabis access to tourists, he saw a gap in the tourism industry: Cannabis tourism.
“I thought, let's do the exact opposite,” he says. “Let's build the infrastructure necessary for cannabis tourism—with activities, accommodations, things for you to do and a place for you to stay—to be treated professionally.”
Up in Smoke
Kush Tourism provides resources for travelers and locals to better understand the underlying cannabis community surrounding them in cities where it’s legal. The business is so successful that it is now synonymous with cannabis tourism, providing digital resources in hundreds of locations including Oregon, California, Alaska, Barcelona and Jamaica.
These resources range from listings of weed-friendly bed and breakfasts, retreats and concert venues to activities like grow-room tours (where cannabis is cultivated), weed-infused massages, painting classes, yoga sessions and more. For those looking to dip their toes into the culture, Gordon says many cities offer small six-person tours, where attendees can ask questions and learn more about myriad varieties and forms with which the drug can be legally (and safely) experienced.
But it’s not just the tourism industry that’s latching onto this idea; it’s affecting the meetings market, too.
“Seeing how there's a boom in the cannabis industry, a huge number of trade shows have been popping up, booking up the biggest venues that are available,” Gordon explains. “You're going to see the cannabis industry pop up in the meeting industry if you haven't already—it's there. These are good people, and they're bringing a tremendous amount of business to the U.S. economy.”
When it comes to the stigma that still exists over cannabis, Gordon says he is not as focused on fighting against it as he is in changing that conversation itself. “We're just [putting] the information out there,” he says. “We want to help validate and bring credibility to the industry. I think education is the backbone of that mission.”