How legal weed can transform tourism in NJ
There's much more to a legal market for recreational marijuana than just selling in shops.
The law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in late February opens the door to many opportunities for folks in the tourism and hospitality industry, or those interested in joining the field, according to experts who've been experimenting with cannabis-related events and specialties in other states.
"Contrary to popular belief, it's not just a random stoner that wants to jump in and experience this," said Cintia Morales, co-founder of Higher Ed Hemp Tours, located in Texas.
Morales made her comments as a panelist during a webinar about recreational marijuana's potential impact on resort destinations and the tourism industry, sponsored by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce and the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
The webinar was coincidentally held just days after Murphy signed a legal market into law. According to Rob Mejia with Cannabis Studies at Stockton, individuals are essentially limited to using marijuana in private homes. But he sees "consumption lounges" down the road, where people can smoke or consume products around others.
"Maybe you can turn it into a mini restaurant, live music, comedy shows," Mejia said.
Mejia said folks in other states have been successful with yoga-cannabis classes. In Colorado, a limo service specializing in cannabis education is very popular, he said.
Stockton offers a minor in Cannabis Studies for students, and a $2,000 course for the general public that can get you a Cannabis Certificate.
David Yusefzadeh, a Massachusetts-based chef and founder of a cannabis ice cream company, said many casual users appear to prefer outdoor cannabis experiences — beachfront or farm dinners, for example. Concepts such as party buses, he said, haven't seen as much demand.
"I think most people don't want to be in motion while they're trying something new and they're not sure how they're going to feel," Yusefzadeh said.
Based on a survey run by his own company, Brian Applegarth with the California Cannabis Tourism Association said there are plenty of "cannabis-motivated travelers" who make their travel decisions based on the ability to access cannabis-related experiences — that could include hemp/CBD massages, visiting a dispensary, or just an educational workshop.
The data also showed that smoking is not necessarily the preferred method of ingestion.
"The ones that scored the highest were edibles, drinkables, and topical applications," Applegarth said.
No matter the business, Applegarth added, education among the workforce is key — workers will be speaking with many consumers who may be completely new to cannabis.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.