So you may have heard that there was an election recently. We all now know that President Obama has a mandate for another four years and Gov. Romney is now leaving the national spotlight. Whatever will we do without those never-ending political ads? But, did you also know that Colorado and Washington State also voted to decriminalize marijuana (or rather small quantities of marijuana).
So, does that mean that the meetings and events industry will be rushing to host conferences in those states? And will they have new gift ideas that they can offer to their delegates – i.e. pipes?
Well, not so fast according to government and tourism officials in those states.
Will Promoting Marijuana Tourism Help the Meetings and Events Industry?
Many are wondering whether Washington and Colorado will become North America’s Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, citizens and visitors can easily and freely enjoy marijuana (albeit in controlled environments). All indications are that this will probably not be the case in Washington and Colorado.
Visit Denver’s president and CEO, Richard Scharf, recently stated that he’s concerned that by relaxing marijuana laws in his state, Colorado’s brand would become damaged. Mr. Scharf fears that this new law may attract fewer conventions in addition to a decline in leisure travel.
Washington and Colorado are already part of a group of 18 states that have legalized medical marijuana. This new law now includes anyone 21 or older. Those that are eligible can legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. In Colorado they can also grow up to six plants. In Washington their books states that you can grow your own.
Washington State has had an annual hemp festival for over 20 years. Currently in Washington State you are not able to be in public with alcohol. Under the new marijuana law, this will not be any different.
Promoting Marijuana Tourism Can Be Risky
Both Washington and Colorado fear that tourism to their states will now be focused on individuals seeking marijuana. Naturally for anyone planning a conference, a location is usually selected because of what it has to offer. Now there’s no doubt that both states have a lot to offer for meetings and conventions. But, will meeting planners now think twice? After all, planners are very careful to maintain a middle-of-the-road position on many social issues. They do not want to be viewed as promoting an event that can create controversy. Unlike politics, it’s just not wise to stake a position on hot button topics like marijuana.
Of course it’s too early to tell what the impact will be as a result of Colorado’s and Washington’s new marijuana laws. Conference planners are always careful to select locations that do not cause controversies. In the Netherlands, where marijuana consumption is tolerated, tourism officials claim that meetings and conventions have not been affected. Whether or not that is the case for Colorado and Washington is yet to be seen.