Written by Joanne Cachapero
As pandemic travel restrictions have been lifted, travelers are back to visiting their favorite destinations. At the same time, a new trend in cannabis hospitality is emerging in areas where recreational cannabis has been legalized. Increasingly, tourists are able to find “cannabis-friendly” accommodations and activities and add them to their vacation itinerary.
Since the 1970s, Amsterdam, Netherlands has long been considered a premier destination for international cannabis tourists, where consumption is allowed at the city’s famous coffee shops. But now, Americans that prefer a domestic destination or international tourists visiting legal states in the U.S. can book cannabis-friendly accommodations or take a cannabis tour in cities where adult-use cannabis has been legalized.
For travelers interested in accommodations where consumption is allowed on-premises, sites like BudandBreakfast.com and Inndica.com feature short-term rentals that allow consumption, typically in an area designated for smoking and vaping like an outdoor patio or private room balcony.
If a more interactive cannabis experience is what you crave, then cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver have implemented regulations for consumption facilities, including lounges and hotel properties, which are just recently becoming accessible to visitors.
The Bay Area is a hub for cannabis tourism, especially since it’s only a few hours’ drive from the legendary Emerald Triangle region in Northern California where some of the world’s best cannabis has been grown for generations. San Francisco enjoys the bounty of local farm-to-table produce, wines, seafood, and now, cannabis.
Emerald Farm Tours, a San Francisco-based tour company, hosts walking and van tours with sight-seeing and cannabis in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods including Fisherman’s Wharf, SOMA, and the Financial District/Civic Center area, as well as stops at some of downtown’s most popular dispensaries. For all-day excursions, Emerald Farm Tours also books a bus tour to Anderson Valley, located in Mendocino County, where visitors tour a cannabis farm, enjoy wine tasting and experience the classic Northern California scenery.
Across the bay, in the city of Oakland, cannabis has become an accepted part of the local economy. Harborside dispensary, founded in 2006, has evolved to become one of the largest retailers in California, and has pioneered the template for community-based cannabis retail. The store is one of several stops on the Oakland Cannabis Trail, a self-guided route that takes visitors to some of Oakland’s retail cannabis businesses, restaurants, public artwork and local sights – promoted by the city’s tourism bureau.
If SoCal is more your vibe, then West Hollywood is a must-do for the cannabis traveler and others that flock there for LGBTQ and celebrity culture. Adjacent to Beverly Hills, in the heart of Los Angeles, the city of West Hollywood has gone all-in on retail cannabis. Visitors will find several dispensaries to choose from, as well as consumption lounges where they can have a social smoke.
Santa Monica Boulevard is the location of several cannabis storefronts, including The Artist Tree with its upstairs patio lounge. Visitors can purchase products from hundreds stocked in the downstairs dispensary and then go upstairs and take a seat in the lounge area. Glassware, including Stundenglass gravity bongs and PuffCo dab rigs, are available for rent; rolling papers are complimentary. Food and beverages also can be ordered from a nearby restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Nearby at theWoods cannabis lounge, co-owned by actor Woody Harrelson, artisanal cannabis brands on the shelves and a unique outdoor lounge space make for a very chill space. The newly renovated store space gives way to a garden in the back with a koi pond and cabanas that can be reserved for social smoking. On the same Santa Monica Boulevard property as restaurant Norah, guests can easily transition from lounge to restaurant, or vice-versa.
Hop on the highway and head east, until you get to California’s high desert at the Desert Hot Springs Inn. The mid-century modern hotel, located north of Palm Springs, is cannabis- and dog-friendly. The hotel’s luxe pool is filled with water from local natural hot springs that the region is famous for, so, guests can enjoy a smoke, lounge in the sun, and a dip in the pool to beat the desert heat. Take relaxation to the next level with the hotel spa’s massage treatments that can incorporate CBD oil, on request.
Keep going east, southeast, across the deserts’ expanse to the Valley of the Sun and The Clarendon Hotel and Spa, in Phoenix, Arizona. The boutique property offers 16 smoking (no tobacco) guest rooms that allow private cannabis consumption. The cannabis-curious and connoisseurs also can make reservations at the hotel’s Elevations rooftop lounge. Private cannabis club Elevations Nation members and hotel guests (for an added fee) can access the lounge area for socializing, special events, and experiencing the venue’s bohemian style.
In Colorado, the first U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2013, policymakers have been slow to instate regulations for cannabis tourism, though many travel there for outdoor activities like biking, climbing, and fishing, which are available only in the Rocky Mountains. Resort ski areas like Aspen, Vail, and Colorado Springs also have tremendous wintertime appeal.
In Denver, one must-see cannabis-friendly experience is the immersive art installation at International Church of Cannabis, which offers visitors its BEYOND light show/meditation, with hourly shows scheduled seven days a week. The permanent exhibit is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, housed in an early 20th century building that was formerly a Lutheran church. Cannabis use is not allowed at the show but the laser-light production, projected against the church’s richly painted murals, is sure to evoke a meditative, psychedelic mood. Members of the Elevationists group that operate the church also host events for church members including services that allow consumption on site.
In time for the holidays, Denver’s first cannabis lounge on a hotel property is scheduled to open at The Patterson Inn, an 1891 mansion and state historic property that is also reputed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the state. A glimpse of Gilded Age elegance, located in the city’s quaint Capitol Hill neighborhood, the castle-like estate was once the home of a state senator and has long been the subject of local lore. The boutique hotel hosts nine themed guest rooms and a downstairs restaurant, the 12 Spirits Tavern.
The new cannabis smoking lounge will be housed in The Patterson’s attached carriage house, which has been extensively renovated to accommodate up to 30 guests. Hotel guests will be able to pay an admittance fee for a special key that will allow them access to the lounge, with its sophisticated wood and brick interior – and maybe a resident spirit or two.