Cannabis Tourism in Chicago

Cannabis Tourism and COVID19

As we are now in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic, we are hopefully fortunate enough to be working from home, while socially distancing and trying to stay healthy and well. Hopefully unemployment insurance, small business loans and our savings will get us through the worst part of the the crisis.

To mitigate our stress levels, it is wise to practice mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, yoga and the like.

Another way is to focus on pleasant thoughts. Since we can’t do any travelling now, we can fantasize about the trips we are going to take in the future and do some armchair travelling today.

This post will focus on cannabis tourism and ask the question – will this be a viable industry in Chicago once the threat of Covid19 is over? 

 

Cannabis in Chicagoland

Can we have cannabis tourism in Chicago?

We actually do have it already-at least we did prior to the outbreak of Covid19.

As you probably know Chicago receives fifty million visitors per year. Many of those visitors attend conventions, trade shows and other business related events.

Do we expect to see a rise in cannabis related tourism? We won’t really know until the ban on travel is lifted once the Coronavirus danger passes.

Lets take a look at some of the rules for recreational use.

  • Chicago cannabis laws allow Chicago residents aged 21 and over to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower, up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 500 milligrams of THC in products such as edibles.
  • Non-Chicago residents may possess up to only half as much as residents
  • Chicago weed laws prohibit the use of cannabis in public spaces such as parks, schools, government buildings, hospitals, public housing, buses, or near someone under 21
  • Chicago lawmakers would have to offer proper incentives to cigar and hookah shop owners to feature cannabis on their menu. Having customers walk off the street with their own product makes no financial sense. 

So what do we have to offer so far ?

Chicago was geared up to go with cannabis tours. prior to the outbreak of Covid19.

  • LOOPR offer an experience  for clients to peruse dispensaries before visiting their fully stocked cannabis consumption lounge complete with glass bongs, dab rigs & e-nails, rolling trays, grinders, etc.
  • 420 Tours take you on a themed excursion around the city’s dispensaries. 
  • Herbal Notes is a social club that offers a dining experience, from their website: ‘Herbal Notes is a communal dinner experience centered around culinary exploration and genuine relationships, both new and old.
    Our mission is to cultivate awareness of the healing power that comes from combining community, food, music and cannabis.
    We create beautiful and educational experiences where all people can find common ground and engage in a shared, meaningful dialogue surrounding topics that affect the community – from cannabis reform and equality to urban gardening, food sustainability and agriculture.’
  • Chicago hotels have said no to pot smoking. But Aldrich Guest House, a Bed and Breakfast in Galena, has converted its potting shed to a cannabis friendly lounge.

How does cannabis tourism work in the rest of the USA?

The legalization of marijuana as a means to increase tax revenues, generate new jobs and income and decriminalize and expunge arrest records is a significant move forward. Marijuana has never been a gateway drug and is probably safer than tobacco and alcohol. 

Niche tourism can capitalize on the cannabis industry.

What have we seen the USA so far? 

CALIFORNIA

Weed tourism is becoming the new wine tourism as enthusiasts tour facilities and dispensaries. Though still in the early stages California has an association dedicated to cannabis tourism. From the CCTA website:

‘The CCTA is registered Non-Profit advancing safe and responsible Cannabis Tourism in the state of California. Committed to cultivating open communication, social equity and environmental sustainability, the CCTA was established to represent and support the diverse voices and perspectives of the emerging Cannabis Tourism industry. 

CCTA members and partners include major cannabis brands, tour operators, retailers, transportation companies, hotels, tourism boards, industry associations, media companies, and other organizations for whom cannabis tourism advocacy is important.’

COLORADO

Colorado offers:

  • multi course dining experiences where the plant is paired with food and wine
  • tours demonstrating the entire process from growing to extraction to packaging
  • tours of dispensaries
  • cannabis infused painting classes

Read more from Forbes

What precedent has been set in Amsterdam?

Cannabis tourism has been so successful in Amsterdam that the city is currently overwhelmed with tourists, who impede the quality of life for residents. 

Amsterdam is currently thinking of banning tourists from its cannabis friendly cafes. Canex reports that Mayor Femke Halsema is trying to roll out a plan to reduce the number of coffee shops in the city, in order to target mass tourism.

The Dutch mayor cites a report which estimates that tourism would see a significant decrease if the number of coffee shops was reduced. A newer report estimates that around a third of tourists would return less frequently to the city, should they be unable to enter coffee shops.

Would large American cities encounter the same problems while generating significant revenue? It is highly unlikely. 

 

What can happen in Chicagoland moving forward?

The stigma around cannabis consumption must be removed with proper education that extends to our law makers. 

There a a few impediments to creating cannabis tourism in Chicago, greater Chicagoland and Illinois. 

  • Until we have attractive and  comfortable places to smoke besides lounges attached to dispensaries, the tourism trade will be limited
  • B&B’s or hotels that offer designated facilities for smoking
  • Restaurants, like the Cannabis Cafe in California, that also have a weed menu 
  • Bars that serve infused drinks
  • Adults in the UK and Europe are allowed to bring alcoholic beverages to the beach and to parks, particularly when picnicking. We on the other hand, are treated like untrustworthy children. Perhaps, our lawmakers should consider creating a healthier outdoor culture by allowing for more comfort and enjoyment. Weed smokers, particularly tend to be mellow and non-violent.  

Summary

We could create a thriving cannabis tourism industry in Illinois beyond dispensary tours.

Education of the population and our lawmakers would be a critical step in re-branding and destigmatizing cannabis consumption. 

We love the thought of cannabis floral design, cannabis fueled painting classes, cannabis infused drinks, cannabis paired menus in restaurants, cannabis and meditation classes, cannabis yoga classes and so on. Thinking outside the box can create much needed economic opportunities for cannapreneurs, particularly in the wake of the Coronavirus. 

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