My 420 Tours bills itself as the first company to pioneer cannabis tourism in the U.S. // © 2018 My 420 Tours
Feature image (above): The legal cannabis industry in Colorado was estimated to be worth some $1.3 billion in 2016. // © 2018 Brent Andeck Photography
Something peculiar caught my eye as I opened the door to our luxury SUV airport transfer. There, poised neatly on an ashtray, was a pre-rolled joint of Blue Dream cannabis. Next to it was a lighter, a grinder (for breaking up cannabis into smaller pieces) and a grab bag of candy and snacks. As my friend sparked the joint with a Cheshire Cat-like grin, I knew that we were in for one heck of a weekend in the Mile High City.
My 420 Tours — which bills itself as the first company to pioneer cannabis tourism in the U.S. — arranged our cannabis pilgrimage in Denver from start to end. This meant that our first stop on the way to our hotel was Euflora 3D Cannabis Center Dispensary & Cultivation Viewing Experience, a recreational marijuana dispensary and grow room where visitors can see the plant in various stages of production.
At Euflora 3D, rows of columns hold containers of cannabis flower like ancient works of art. Under a magnifying glass, we inspected flowers and observed shimmering blankets of crystal resin as we rotated the containers back and forth in the palms of our hands. The containers opened just enough to allow us to smell the flower’s intoxicating scent, and a tablet propped beside each bud contained information on the bud’s THC content, medical effects and side effects to a level of precision one might expect from the Food and Drug Administration.
If you haven’t been to a dispensary in Colorado lately, know this: The weed scene has come a long way. Expect all manner of concentrates, bath bombs spiked with cannabidiol (or CBD), cannabinol (CBN) medicinal patches and edibles ranging from buffalo jerky to hot sauce.
“It’s no longer the days of just smoking a joint,” said Danny Schaefer, CEO of Pioneer Industries, the parent company of My 420 Tours. “We make sure that people participate in the industry responsibly and with the right education so they fully enjoy themselves. And I think it’s important for our travel partners to understand that the cannabis industry is not the deciding factor for why people will take an actual trip, but it definitely does highlight their experience when done responsibly. Our objective at Pioneer Industries is to enhance the existing markets and economies through responsible use of cannabis, and a big part of that is through education.”
In 2012, Colorado famously became one of the first U.S. states to legalize recreational weed, and the world has been watching to see the impact of such radical legislation as it unfurls. So, how have they done thus far exactly? Pretty darn well. The legal cannabis industry in Colorado was estimated to be worth some $1.3 billion in 2016, earning approximately $200 million in tax revenue for the state. According to the Colorado Tourism Office, Colorado set all-time records for total visitors, visitor spending and tax generation in 2016 when the state welcomed 82.4 million visitors who spent a total of $19.7 billion.
“Cannabis tourism has been a competitive advantage,” Schaefer said. “For the last five to six years, Colorado has been on record-breaking highs for travel and tourism — and I think cannabis has contributed a huge part of that. Moreover, cannabis tourism has helped let out the secret about how amazing Colorado is in general.”
Currently, nine U.S. states (including Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. Twenty other states have legalized medical marijuana, while at least 12 states are poised to consider cannabis legalization this year.
More Offerings From My 420 Tours
No other state, however, can hold a candle to Colorado’s cannabis tourism infrastructure. This was apparent from the moment we checked into our “420-friendly” hotel as the front desk associate handed over a vaporizer to use in our guestroom and pointed out the location of the open-air cannabis smoking lounge on a map. This prompted my friend and I to high-five each other. We embarrassingly missed each other’s hands completely, settling for an avant-garde head-butt of sorts.
“If there was any question on whether or not I need more weed right now, the answer is obviously ‘no,’” my friend joked.
Well, more weed was in store for us that afternoon as we joined My 420 Tours’ 3.5-hour Budz and Sudz experience. The Budz and Sudz tour incorporates a craft brewery visit with an opportunity to tour a large-scale grow facility and two dispensaries. The excursion includes 420-friendly transportation on a party bus where guests are encouraged to puff, puff, pass. The high point (pun intended) for me was hanging out at Brewability Lab, a microbrewery founded by a special needs teacher who employs and trains adults with developmental disabilities. Our informative brewer, a young man on the autism spectrum, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery’s operations and sparked our curiosity (and our thirst for beer). My favorite craft brew on our tasting menu was Brewability’s coffee porter, served with a Nutella-and-coconut-shavings rim.
“The focus of our Budz and Sudz tour is not on getting intoxicated, but on the connoisseur,” Schaefer said. “Colorado is known for not only cannabis but also for our microbrewery scene. Beer is made from hops, which is a sister plant to cannabis. So, this excursion is a really cool opportunity for guests to see and understand the association of hops to the cannabis plant and get to sample and dabble in both industries.”
My 420 Tours has a knack for pairing things that go oh-so-well together. Take its Sushi and Joint Rolling class offered every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Perfect for a date night, the class includes expert, entertaining instruction from executive chef Patrick Bailey, who teaches attendees how to create salmon, tuna, crab and vegetable rolls on the fly. The class includes two grams of cannabis for joint-rolling (to be picked up at a partnering dispensary before class) and everything else guests need to whet their appetite.
Other classes on offer include a Marijuana Concentrates Class, a VIP Grow & Dispensary Tour, a Cooking with Cannabis Class and the newly-added Verde Wellness Tour in which guests take a deep dive into the medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis. For those interested in selling these excursions or partnering with My 420 Tours, the best way to fully understand the product is to try out a couple of experiences for yourself.
“To any approved and qualified travel partner, we offer a range of different complimentary experiences so you can see and participate firsthand in the wide range of offerings,” Schaefer said. “Outside of training material, we provide sales collateral, booking widgets, commission tracking and reports. It’s a very turn-key and streamlined process and transparent commerce for both parties.”
My 420 Tours offers up to 15 percent commission when booking group tours and activities as well as when booking its standard all-inclusive vacation package. Travel planners also receive a special wholesale rate on customized package tours, and white-labeled packages are available for travel agencies to brand and sell as their own.
“It's a great product for agents and agencies to have on hand to suggest to a curious and increasingly mainstream clientele,” he said. “We service the widest range demographic you could possibly imagine from all over the country and, in some cases, all over the world.”