Can “cannatourism” become upscale? These entrepreneurs say yes

“Cannabis has finally passed the era of excess,” said a recent press release from Fabric and Flame, an Arizona-based corporate and private events company. “It can now be tastefully enjoyed by adults. ”

The brand’s director of business development, Tracy McGinnis, expanded on this theme in a recent interview in which she described Cloth & Flame’s new “Verde Series”, which hosts stylish alfresco dinners infused with cannabis. . “We wanted to launch an event that was really one of a kind, in that it was elevated and upscale,” said McGinnis.

“What we saw happen [with the increasing legalization of marijuana] There were a lot of people who had stoner parties, where the goal was just to get people as high as possible.

So, will the high-end efforts of Verde and other companies succeed? Can cannabis escape its lingering image of giggling college kids passing joints in someone’s living room? A growing number of cannabis and experiential tourism companies are betting the answer is yes. Consider:

Cannabis-infused tours are organized by travel agencies like First row trips – with (pre-pandemic) trips to Jamaica and South Africa; Higher travel, offering glamping tours of the California Emerald Triangle; and Emerald Tours, promoting “weed and wine” experiences as well as tours of cannabis farms.

In fact, weed gives the California wine country a hard time, both in culture and in tourism. Wine spectatorThe June 30 cover story looked at the competition between cannabis growers and wine growers. What the magazine found, editor Jeffery Lindenmuth shared in an email, that the reaction of wineries to the explosion in cannabis cultivation and touring in their area is “mixed.” to the wine-growing landscape as problem areas. Others “see cannabis as a ‘complementary crop’.

· “Consumer salons” are springing up in about seven states that are legal to them, including – unsurprisingly – Nevada. These lounges are essentially bars, alcohol-free – where consumers can legally smoke or vape products they purchase from a nearby dispensary. Cannaffornia Connection is a 100-acre desert resort slated to open Aug. 21 in Imperial Valley, at the southern end of California.

· Tyson Ranch, the cannabis retail company of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, is working on a cannabis-friendly resort in the town of Desert Hot Springs in Southern California. Previous reports have described plans for 412 acres of growing facilities, a hotel, glamping and more. A first shovelful of soil for a 40-acre marijuana farm, with the participation of Tyson, took place in 2019. Currently, Chief of Staff Gary Trock reported in an email that the project “is thriving “. He wrote: “Obviously COVID has made it difficult to build some things and there are always changing restrictions as everyone navigates the new world we live in, but we haven’t been seriously affected. . More news on the project, he said, will arrive later this year.

Returning to those Verde Series cannabis infused dinners, McGinnis, the business development manager, pointed out that her business is not a licensed dispensary; so his next elegant alfresco dinner, scheduled for Sept. 25-26 in the Sonoma, Arizona wilderness, must follow strict rules.

The first rule is that the ticket price of $ 200 for the 80 participants does not pay for the cannabis served. Instead, a “private individual” McGinnis will not name donated the weed, purchased from Arizona-based Cooper State Farms. Plus, Verde dinners aren’t all about getting high. The cannabis content of the whole dinner, in fact, is a modest 10 mg. of THC. “We wanted these events to be accessible to people who may have never even tried cannabis or may have touched it lightly,” McGinnis explained.

Rule two requires that the main chef of the evening, Nick Rusticus of Phoenix, never touch the plant. An infusion / dosing expert (also anonymous) will supervise the infusions in oils, syrups and juices. Non-alcoholic cocktails and food will be infused. An example: the pesto of leaves infused with cannabis.

The prize includes a social justice donation to the Last Prisoner Project, as well as a focus on sustainability – with everything from trailers to dishes, specially brought in for dinner parties. “All of our events are about community and bringing your neighbors together around a table,” McGinnis said. “The beautiful thing about these events is that there is no judgment.”

Judgment is certainly not a factor in these cannabis tours attracting consumers as the country reopens. In a recent webinar hosted by Excelsior College, which offers a cannabis certificate program, Victor Pinho, founder of Emerald Farm Tours in California, touted the low costs of starting his cannabis business category and the fun that it gives him.

But Pinho also noted the stigma that still surrounds cannabis entrepreneurs. “I say to everyone I meet – I made it a mantra – ‘I’m not a cannabis company. I am a tourism company. ‘ Changing that image, he said, can be frustrating: getting banking services and insurance is a hard sell; local licensing rules are constantly changing. Then there is the modest profit that tours generate: “If you are lucky you are making a 50% margin,” Pinho said.

Finally, there’s this 100-acre resort that will open next month and will feature not one but two consumer lounges. In an interview, Tim Wright, a former casino executive, now CEO of Shasta Management, described the four buildings at Cannaffornia, each measuring 9,000 square feet. Two, which are stand-alone, will each include a 2,000-square-foot dispensary and a 5,000-square-foot consumer lounge (with restaurants, distribution, manufacturing and cultivation facilities slated for next fall).

Dispensaries, of course, will be the main source of income; and Wright’s Queen of Dragons brand is the store’s first licensee. This business will compete with a second store called The Other Guys, which will stock 11 major brands. Tastings and special events will be on the program.

In an interview, Wright said he believed the resort’s proximity to the Mexican border, which attracts thousands of legal workers every day, as well as a major highway, Edwards Air Force Base and the Arizona Line, will attract both medical and recreational clients. But Wright was also realistic: “I don’t know if there is any money to be made in consumption,” he said. “It’s more of a pleasure, but a pleasure that is powerful; you can try it before you buy it.

A broad appeal to the growing number of recreational consumers will be emphasized, Wright said. And The Other Guys store will reflect this theme of luxury cannatourism. It will be “the bourgeois store: upscale, super chic,” Wright said. “This is where the ‘luxury’ part comes in.

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