WHEN OREGON legalized cannabis last year, one of the expected benefits to our state economy was a wave of curious tourists, escaping the tyranny of canna prohibition in far less enlightened places such as Texas, Florida, and about 30 other states.
Even before legalization, it’s not as if Oregon was a vast post-apocalyptic nightmare landscape with nothing to offer visitors. (Looking at you, Tulsa.) Here, tourism is an economic engine that is fed by our ability to offer a great number of unique things to visitors, such as the natural settings that earned us the Pacific Wonderland moniker, as well as craft beers, wines, spirits, and food—so much food—that seems explicitly designed for stoners (see: menus at Salt & Straw, Blue Star Donuts, and Pok Pok). Seriously, it’s a big deal: According to Travel Oregon, tourism generates $10.8 billion a year, creating 105,000 jobs directly, with another 54,800 secondary-impact positions.
But we haven’t exactly opened our arms to those seeking to swoop in and try what is arguably our most sought-after agricultural product. (Not you, hazelnuts.)
You won’t find banner ads for cannabis on Travel Oregon’s website. A source there tells me they “just aren’t quite ready” to promote that particular aspect of Oregon. Our state’s not alone in our highly questionable decision making on this matter. Colorado announced last week that their office of tourism would not be promoting cannabis tourism, largely due to legal weed technically being a violation of federal law. According to their director, Cathy Ritter, even if they could promote canna tourism, they wouldn’t, as “it’s not a major driver for travelers.”
Except that’s wrong. Back in February, the very same Colorado Tourism Office commissioned a study that polled summertime visitors, and found that nearly 49 percent said the state’s cannabis laws had influenced their decision to visit.
We don’t make it easy for those visiting Oregon to partake in our legal cannabis. The state still lacks a comprehensive policy on social consumption (i.e., any consumption that occurs outside the home). We don’t have Amsterdam-style coffee shops, or any outdoor areas designated for lighting up, or even private clubs that provide cannabis and a space to consume.
I recently learned that we do have a provision that allows hotels in Oregon to designate up to 25 percent of their rooms for smoking of tobacco, cannabis, or both. That was news to me, and it may be to hoteliers as well.
I’ve written about a bed and breakfast in Nehalem that allows and even encourages partaking (Cannabuzz, June 8, 2016), and the Jupiter Hotel recently began offering a “420 Package” that includes T-shirts, hats, a vape pen sans cartridge, but not any actual cannabis—or, oh, say, permission to actually consume on site. The fine print states: “OLCC prohibits the smoking of cannabis at the Jupiter Hotel and ANY public place in Oregon. (Sorry, folks... it’s the law.) Smoking in a hotel room will result in a $150 smoke cleaning fee. The Jupiter Hotel supports and encourages responsible consumption of all legal substances.”
So what options do visitors to our fine city have after visiting a dispensary and paying a 25 percent tax? Let’s eliminate the dorm room tactic stuffing a towel under the hotel room door and turning the bathroom fan on high, because fuck that.
You can enter “420 friendly” in the search bar for Airbnb. Turns out there are many folks who are fine with renting you their house, apartment, or even just a room if you smoke weed but not tobacco. (It’s good manners to leave a nug for your host, by the way. I did so once in Austin, and received a seven-star review.)
Or guests can try staying with friends—consumption inside a private residence is okay, provided it’s owned by the residents or they have written permission from the landlord.
While it’s illegal and wrong and I would never suggest such a thing, I’ve used high-end flower vaporizers in a variety of hotels around the country without any problem. That doesn’t mean cranking your Volcano up to eight and hitting a five-foot bag. Just keep the temp lower to minimize the telltale odor, and refrain from shouting, “Hot damn, this Oregon weed is stellar!”