WINCHESTER — When Colorado became the first state to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use in January 2014, its tourism industry boomed thanks to people from across the country visiting the state in pursuit of a legal Rocky Mountain high.
Virginia will allow the sale of recreational marijuana starting on Jan. 1, 2024. This follows possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal consumption being legalized in the commonwealth on July 1 for those age 21 and up.
Does this mean Virginia can look forward to lots of out-of-state guests coming here to buy weed?
Probably not, Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Justin Kerns said on Thursday, because there will be plenty of other places where weed aficionados can go to buy a joint. In 2024, there will be 21 states, jurisdictions and territories in the U.S. where recreational marijuana use is legal, and 17 of those places will have dispensaries where anyone over the age of 21 can walk in and buy pot.
That’s a big change from January 2014 when Colorado became the only state in the nation where a person could legally buy marijuana for recreational use. The state’s hospitality industry started promoting “420 tourism” (420 is a slang term for marijuana) with hotels and travel agencies, selling packaged vacations that integrated tours of weed dispensaries and growing facilities with more traditional activities like skiing and sightseeing.
According to a 2019 survey by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, 6.2% of all travelers to the state cited marijuana as a primary reason for their visit, and approximately 16% of all tourists visited a marijuana dispensary while there. The 420 tourists also stayed longer on average than other travelers — 5.1 nights as opposed to 4.6 — and spent more than their traditional counterparts — $2,030