The use of medical marijuana goes back as far as 2900 BC, but, honestly speaking, it’s not the medical uses that marijuana users are after. The recreational use of it is much more popular, and the fact that many states have already legalized both possession and retail of marijuana has increased its popularity even more. Whether it’s for medical or recreational purposes, legalizing marijuana has positively impacted the nation’s economy on many levels. The job growth increased tax revenues, and investment opportunities are just some of the ways through which marijuana has boosted the economy. So where does the tourism industry stand from these benefits? Let’s take a closer look.
Joining the Cannabis Wagon
Following the approval of using marijuana by adults only in 2012, Colorado was the first state to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana. Washington followed six months afterward. Not long after, its legislation became wide-spread in 29 states across North America, Mexico, and Colombia. Meanwhile, Canada joined the wagon to be the second country in the world to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
In most states, the legislation is limited to selling marijuana in licensed establishments only. The only sovereign states that allow both the consumption and sale of cannabis are Canada and Uruguay. Meanwhile, a lot of countries have only legalized medical marijuana, and these include Australia, Germany, Finland, Cyprus, Colombia, Switzerland, Peru, and others.
The Impact of Legal Marijuana on Tourism
According to the studies made, legalizing recreational marijuana has resulted in a remarkable economic boost in the tourism industry for their countries and states. This had been especially noted in Colorado, the first state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. For instance, the founders of The Pig ‘N’ Whistle Dispensary in Denver, Colorado note how their business has started blooming ever since legislation. It’s not uncommon to find baseball stars and boxing legends to travel all the way there just to relax by the pool. This dispensary is just one of the multiple businesses in Colorado that have welcomed tourists looking for an opportunity to chill with open arms.
In fact, a study looking into the impact of legalizing marijuana on the tourism industry showed interesting findings. When comparing the industry growth in states that hadn’t legalized marijuana with both Colorado and Washington across the period between 2011 and 2015, the results showed the extent to which these two states were transformed into travel hotspots.
Following legalization, the touristic industry in Colorado witnessed an increased rental of 51,000 hotel rooms. Once the legislation extended to include the retail of recreational marijuana, the numbers increased to an extra 120,000 hotel rooms per month. The numbers in Washington were also remarkable, although not as impressive as Colorado’s. Experts contemplate that perhaps the six months gap is the reason why Colorado is leading, but another factor may be Colorado’s unique location that makes it easier to reach than Washington.
All in all, what we do know is that legal marijuana had a great positive impact on the economy of both states. The boost that followed legalizing possession of marijuana increased monthly hotel booking in Colorado from 2.5% to 4%, and by about 1% in Washington. Once legal sales began, Colorado’s booking rates jumped from 6% to 7.2%, and Washington’s increased by 3.5%. The room prices also increased in both states, rising by 2.8% in Colorado and by 3.8% in Washington. In terms of revenue, monthly profits increased by $23.71 million in Colorado following the legalization of sales.
The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Decline of Tourism
Despite the positive outlook that the tourism industry was expecting, 2020 had other plans. Tourism was one of the industries that were hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic that took the world by storm. Cities and states the economy of which relies heavily on tourism faced a crisis. Even though the lockdown was lifted and most businesses had reopened, these states are still reeling from the virus. It certainly doesn’t help that we’re currently facing the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown policies are on the doors.
In such difficult times, business owners keep looking for creative ways to keep their businesses profitable. Although there’s little they can do about the second wave lockdown, they need to be prepared for when businesses will resume as usual. When that happens, marijuana legalization may be one such savior.
Can Legal Marijuana Save the Tourism Industry?
It may sound appealing but, frankly speaking, marijuana is no miracle cure for the virus. That being said, marijuana has the potential to boost the economy if used correctly. Imagine how it would be to open a recreational space that abides with all the necessary safety measures to keep everyone safe. Social distancing will be enacted, hand sanitizers will be available, and testing incomers will be strict at the gates. These measures will be enough to create a safe bubble in which everyone can relax and unwind from the stress of everyday life. If that’s not enough to attract tourists, then we don’t know what could.
Many challenges could hinder the effect of this idea, especially since most cities have yet to make their stand on whether marijuana use is allowed in places that are not private residences. Legal restrictions can prevent people from traveling or considering the idea altogether. Although it’s widely accepted by the public nowadays, the economic impact of legalizing marijuana will be as profound as the federal and governmental efforts exerted into promoting its use in the industry. It stands to reason that such measures can significantly alleviate the catastrophic impact that the pandemic had on the tourism industry.
It’s amazing how legalizing marijuana has transformed the way businesses operate across different states. States who were quick to enact their marijuana legalization laws witnessed the most economic boost. It stands to reason to wonder if such an act can alleviate the negative impact that a world-wide pandemic had had on the global economy. With the right strategy, and with the help of federal and state governments, it may just be achievable.