May 19, 2020
The enactment of adult-use cannabis legalization laws in Colorado and Washington is associated with increased tourism in both states, according to data published in the Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy.
A team of researchers affiliated with Berry College in Georgia compared rates of hotel occupancy in Colorado and Washington post-legalization as compared to trends in other non-legal states.
Authors reported a “large increase in hotel rooms rented in Colorado” immediately following legalization. Washington state also experienced an uptick, but it was not as significant. Both states experienced their highest jumps in tourism following the advent of retail cannabis sales.
“[L]egalization in Colorado is associated with an increase of nearly 51,000 hotel rooms rented per month [and] once commercial sale is permitted, there is an increase of almost 120,000 room rentals per month,” authors determined. In Washington, increases were approximately half that total.
Authors concluded: “Marijuana legalization led to a larger increase in tourism in Colorado than Washington. One possible explanation is that Colorado is an easier travel destination than Washington. … Another possible explanation is that Colorado may have achieved a first mover advantage over Washington since it legalized commercial sale six months earlier than Washington. A third possible explanation is that Washington is adjacent to British Columbia which has a strong reputation for growing marijuana and a laid-back attitude toward marijuana consumption (though use remains illegal). While marijuana legalization increased tourism, especially in Colorado, the benefit may wane as additional states including California, Michigan, and Illinois, legalize the possession and sale of marijuana.”
Survey data commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office has previously reported that nearly half of all tourists who visit the state are motivated do so because of Colorado’s liberal marijuana policies.
The full text of the study, “The effect of marijuana on hotel occupancy in Colorado and Washington,” is online here. Additional information appears in the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, and Economy.”