Travel Narrative

A Long Strange Trip: Marijuana Tourism in the American West

While I typically try to use only photos I’ve taken here on The Suitcase Scholar, I obviously did not have a suitable shot for this post. So I found this one online.

For decades, Amsterdam has been synonymous with marijuana; I couldn’t even read my Amsterdam travel guide in front of my 8th grade class because they’d all giggle and whisper that Mrs. A must be a pothead (I’m not, for the record).  Generations of backpacking college students add the quaint little city to their must-visit list, not because of the charming bridges and canals, not because of the friendly people or the world-class museums, but because of the lure of coffee shop culture.

Having spent a bit of time in Amsterdam myself, I have to say that it is definitely worth a visit–for the charming bridges and canals, friendly people, and world-class museums.  Not for the coffee shops.  But still, even with a new tourist ban in effect in the Netherlands, the connection remains–you say ‘Amsterdam’ and people hear ‘marijuana’.

And now, right here in the good old US of A, we have two states that are relaxing their own laws concerning the use and possession of marijuana.  As I plan my summer road trip–a road trip that will take me through both of these states–I can’t help but wonder how these new laws will effect tourism in both Washington and Colorado.  While it is still unclear how each state will regulate the growing, sale, and distribution of marijuana, here are my totally not-serious predictions for ways these new laws will affect tourism in Washington and Colorado:

  • An increase in the number of ‘Space-Needle-as-penis pictures’.
  • Senate reconsiders changing the Colorado State Song from ‘Rocky Mountain High’  to something less obvious.
  • Seattle Public Market sees record sales of truffle popcorn and candied salmon.
  • Colorado ski resorts are forced to ban the selling of car-trunk grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Seattle Seahawks fans finally have a reason to gather on Sundays and eat potato chips.
  • Parents actually enjoy their teenager’s Twilight shooting locales tour (because vampires are sparkly).
  • Mrs. A (that’s me) is suddenly unable to read guide books for Colorado or Washington in front of her 8th grade classes.
  • Life and tourism in Boulder continues as always, completely unaffected.

In all seriousness, I don’t think this will have a huge effect on tourism.  After all, there already is a lot to do in both of these states, clean and sober.  When I visit Washington state this summer, I plan on doing a bit of hiking around Mount Rainier, a bit more hiking on the Olympic peninsula, all before spending a few days checking out Seattle.  Colorado was added to my itinerary because of my burning desire to visit Mesa Verde–not my desire to ”burn’ anything else–and perhaps spend some time on a horse somewhere in the mountains.  All of these things–like the canals and museums of Amsterdam–are more than reason enough to visit.  Go for the mountains, go for the cities, go for the vast array of outdoor activities; don’t go for the weed.  Because in my book, that’s a terrible waste of a trip.  No pun intended.

What do you think?  Will the lift on the marijuana ban affect tourism in these two western states?  If so, how?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 



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