Photo: Kesneme via flickr
With the passage of Amendment 64 last week, Colorado removed the prohibition on commercial production, distribution and possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes.But residents of the state are unsure whether or not the new law will bring in additional revenue. The ability to sell marijuana over the counter and the corresponding regulations will not take effect until next year, so that debate is being tabled temporarily (keep in mind that marijuana is still federally prohibited, so the federal government could resist the new law).
For now individuals over 21 can legally consume pot in private while possession and transportation of under an ounce within the state is also legal. Does this mean that eager tourists will flock to the state to enjoy this new freedom? And just as importantly, will the state see a corresponding boom in tourism?
The first reaction leans toward yes. Although marijuana isn’t sold in stores, its legality makes it easier and less risky to obtain. But there’s reason to suspect it won’t cause a boom.
In 2009, Breckenridge — a beautiful ski town west of Denver — tried decriminalizing marijuana. “50 per cent of people thought we were doing the work of the devil, and the other 50 per cent thought we were the most enlightened community around,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner noted. Correspondingly, the law had no visible affect on tourism.
But is legalizing the drug in the entire state a whole different ball game?
Opinions are wide and far reaching. “Colorado’s brand will be damaged, and we may attract fewer conventions and see a decline in leisure travel,” Visit Denver CEO Richard Sch arf stated before the election. But others, like Breckenridge Cannabis Club owner Caitlin McGuire, told Mother Jones see it as a potential boon for the economy.
With both sides vehemently defend their point, the Colorado tourism department seems to have a different response: they’ll cancel each other out.
Al White, the director the Colorado tourism office, told Business Insider that he doesn’t think there will be a short term impact, nor a long term one:
The reason people come to Colorado is because of all of our natural beauty, and all of the travel and tourism activities and opportunities that we have. People don’t come to Colorado just to smoke marijuana, and I don’t believe they will. I don’t see that as being a big tourism activity …
There may be some people who decide not to come because they have some vision of what they perceive will be the case, which I don’t think will be the end result. But there will also be people that will decide to come because of it. I think it’s way too soon to really try to predict what the outcome will be, but I think the people who will be put off coming to Colorado will be offset by people who do come. Once again, I think it will be a push.
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