With more countries and U.S. states either relaxing their laws on cannabis use and possession, or legalising the drug, the opportunities are endless. We are likely to see a huge growth in the rising consumer market and in ‘cannabis tourism’.
I doubt that the likes of Thomas Cook, First Choice or Cosmos will be promoting package deals aimed specifically towards the imbiber of the cannabis plant, but already there is a notable presence of online tour operators.
For over ten years, Portugal has decriminalized the use of cannabis and other drugs. Israel and Canada allow its medicinal use and Uruguay has recently legalized cannabis use, but up until now, Amsterdam has been a beacon shining through the purple, hazy fug for cannabis smokers. But recently, and more conveniently for U.S. smokers, a number of states have rescheduled their approach to the sale and consumption of cannabis. Firstly Washington, Colorado and Alaska have fully legalized marijuana, Oregon is due to follow this year and Washington DC has legalized for personal use but not commercial sale. In addition; twenty-four states have both medical marijuana and decriminalization laws, nine states have legalized medical marijuana, five states have decriminalized possession laws and twenty-two states continue to say that marijuana is illegal, being either a felony or a misdemeanor. However, it remains illegal in America under federal law.
This might appear somewhat confusing to those of us outside of the USA and/or those not interested in taking advantage of the new laws, but many people are keen to explore the new opportunities and are looking to the Internet and a number of new ‘travel’ companies and forums to provide them with guidance.
But it’s not just guidance that is on offer online. A number of bespoke travel companies have popped up providing tours, accommodation and packages for ‘cannabis holidays’, all vying for a proportion of business from the reported 22 million ‘weed’ smokers in America (I noted holiday packages from $1295pp inc. two nights’ accommodation). This is clearly set to be a huge industry in previously unchartered American territory. Each state has the capacity to unlock huge amounts of tax resources, something that may encourage others to follow suit.
So great is its potential, a number of high profile businesses and celebrities have already expressed an interest or invested in some way, even without seeing evidence of its success. The founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, has confirmed an undisclosed financial investment in Privateer Holdings who own Leafy.com (an online cannabis resource site) and controls a Canadian medical marijuana growing operation. Just a few weeks after the first states legalized marijuana, the estate of Bob Marley declared that they are to use the singers name and image on packets of an internationally available brand of marijuana (named ‘Marley Natural’), much to the disgust of those trying to protect his musical legacy. This just so happens to be in conjunction with Privateer, who have signed a 30-year global licensing agreement with the family (it is therefore likely that he will soon become the wealthiest dead music star ahead of Lennon and Michael Jackson). Last week it was also revealed that the 81 year old country singer and self-declared cannabis user Willie Nelson is to launch his own brand of the drug, as well as stores to sell it in.
World attitudes around the use and possession of cannabis are slowly being addressed by governments and campaigners and a creeping veil of legislative change is implemented. But whether the reasons behind the growing consumer market are morally acceptable are debatable. Whilst the CEO of Privateer, Brendan Kennedy, has said that ‘they want to end prohibition and the harm caused by prohibition, and they want to do it by creating a smart, professional brand in a space where most of the brands are so amateurish’, the sceptical amongst us may be left feeling shortchanged. In 2012, Willie Nelson said of the impending change in legislation; ‘It’s coming. It has to, because economically we need the money – why give it to criminals?’ Question is, ‘who really needs the money?’