The Global Cannabis Tourism Industry Is Worth $17 Billion, Analysts Estimate
Over 40% of millennials deliberately choose to vacation in places where adult-use weed is legal, reports indicate.
Published on June 8, 2022

The global cannabis tourism industry is expected to bring in $17 billion this year, and is tipped to expand wildly as more and more countries legalize, according to a new industry report.

The new report, recently featured in Forbes, says that 50% of all millennials consider the legality of adult-use cannabis to be an important factor when booking vacation plans. And 43% of millennials said they deliberately picked a vacation spot where they could buy legal weed. Millennials and younger adults now account for 63% of all global tourists, according to a report by the Cannabis Travel Association International (CTAI).

The percentage of younger tourists in the US is growing as well. “By 2025, 50 percent of travelers in the US are going to be millennials,” said CTAI founder Brian Applegarth to High Times. “And their relationship to cannabis consumption is extremely normalized compared to the stigmatized industry leaders of today.”

Some US adult-use states and cities are deliberately encouraging tourists to come sample their legal bud. In Modesto, California, tourism officials created the MoTown CannaPass, an app that helps tourists navigate the city's legal weed dispensaries, restaurants, and events. Visit Modesto CEO Todd Aaronson told High Times that local dispensaries reported an 11% boost in traffic once the pass went live.

“We have experiences that you can enjoy no differently than if you went to a brewpub or wine bar,” Aaronson said. “They’re all equally regulated. You should have a designated driver for each. Every visitor is welcome. Leave your money here.”

Restrictive cannabis regulations make pot tourism difficult in many states, though. Most adult-use states still ban outdoor pot smoking, and major hotel chains, casinos, and many vacation rentals ban indoor smoking as well. As an alternative, entrepreneurs have created weed-friendly bus tours, AirBnB listings, boutique hotels, and even entire resorts dedicated to helping tourists light up legally.

In 2020, Colorado was the most popular US destination for pot tourism, drawing over 52% of travelers. California was the second-most popular destination, visited by a third of all pot tourists, followed by Washington (13%), Nevada (11%), and Massachusetts (10%). And even though federal law still prohibits people from bringing legal cannabis across state lines or international borders, over half of all pot tourists reportedly bring legal weed home from their trip.

Outside of the US, global shifts in cannabis legalization have led to some surprising shifts in the world's top pot tourism spots. Over the past fifty years, tourists caught smoking weed anywhere in Southeast Asia were at risk of getting locked behind bars for decades. That still holds true for most countries in the region, but Thailand radically revised its cannabis prohibition laws in 2018. Medical marijuana is now completely legal, and the Thai government is planning to make the country the top (and only) pot tourism destination in the region.

On the other hand, one of Europe's former top canna-tourism locations is doing its damnedest to keep foreign stoners away. Amsterdam is currently moving ahead with long-debated plans to ban all foreign tourists from its cannabis cafes. The Netherlands has traditionally allowed both locals and tourists to blaze up in licensed “coffeeshops,” but under Amsterdam's new rules, these cafes will only be allowed to serve native Hollanders.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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