How Legal Marijuana Affects the Tourism Industry

How Legal Marijuana Affects the Tourism Industry

Yes we(ed) can

For my final essay in one of my classes, we were allowed to pick any subject in relation to tourism. I decided to base my research project on this question: How does the legalization of Marijuana influence travel to Amsterdam? And what does the future hold for the United States as they follow in Amsterdam’s footsteps? I found my findings very interesting which is why I've decided to share it.

Here it goes:

Tourism is a phenomenon present in various aspects of everyday life. Many themes of tourism continue to develop different types of travel. This includes cognitive, moral, aesthetic, vital, utilitarian, technological, economic, religious and even patriotic reasons to vacation.

Defining and understanding all of the different forms of a modern traveler is often the focus of studies in regards to tourism today. More recently, there has been an increase in the interest of drug tourism, the act of traveling to an area based on the ability to buy and ingest drugs. This is otherwise known as Narco-tourism. The phenomenon of drug tourism is a newly reviewed aspect of the travel industry (Hoffman, 2014).

Today, there are twenty-nine out of all fifty states that have legalized medical cannabis (Evans, 2013). Even though areas such as Colorado seem to be ahead of the game, one flourishing city in the Netherlands started it first: Amsterdam. The Dutch are famous for how tolerable they are, in turn, over thirty percent of Amsterdam are tourists.

The capital of the Netherlands is known for its artistic heritage, unique canal system, and abundant legacies left by people such as Vincent Van Gogh and Anne Frank. However, the small yet eclectic city found another niche in the 1980s, the marijuana industry. Because the city allows visitors to explore in ways other countries permit, a new type of tourism has arisen: deviant tourism or, as stated above, narco-tourism.

Tourism, in general, is a complex industry by nature. Compared to the old forms of travel, more modern versions are commonly associated with the transformation of someone’s everyday life. “People are more likely to accept cannabis as a tourist attraction or amenity that they can experience during vacation, rather than a marginalized tourist interest or a mere extension of their daily habit."

Marijuana has made its way to Amsterdam by American soldiers during World War II. In 1970, the city became a hotbed for crime and drug activity. The country tried to resolve the issue by passing the Opium act in 1979 where a distinction between soft and hard drugs was made. After 1980, a system of coffee shops began to evolve across the Netherlands. Marijuana was allowed to be distributed as long as these cafes were licensed. A third party is in charge of distributing the crop to the coffee shops with a don’t ask don’t tell policy.

Although smoking and ingesting the drug is not exactly legal, the act is not forbidden and is ultimately tolerated. Since the passing of the Opium act, crime and drug activity shrunk drastically. Therefore, in the 1990s, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy followed and shifted their drug policy to mimic that of the Netherlands.

In 2001 and 2004, Portugal and Europe followed foot. Due to these laws, each year Amsterdam is visited by about one and a half million narco-tourists. These tourists represent one-third of all people visiting the city. “As the results of previous studies, the majority of drug tourists there is a high level of awareness about the availability of drugs within the place visited”

In a country where only a fraction of the states has legalized the drug, it is natural for people to seek alternative ways to vacation. “A few reasons why people choose to travel towards legal marijuana states is the loosening of social control, the leisure behavioral continuum, shaping and manifestation of social identity, and smuggling as a deviant career” Although research on drug tourism is rare, it is evident to see trends increasing the more states begin to swing towards the left side.

When thinking about the effects marijuana has on tourism in Amsterdam, it is important to compare against the United States and the up and coming cities that have passed similar laws. Legal marijuana is a multi-billion-dollar industry and continuously growing. Smoking pot becomes more common every day in America as it becomes more accepted.

Because Colorado is the first state to adopt legalization of the drug, it has now turned into a center of massive marijuana tourism growth. Hence, marijuana tourists are seen as a new niche market for Colorado. "Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, cannabis has been considered to be a top tourist draw in Colorado.

It is indisputable that the marijuana market has changed the landscape of the tourism and hospitality industry in Colorado and will be a vital consumption commodity…with legalization, marijuana consumers could be viewed as a connoisseur consumer tourists traveled to search for a uniquely profound experience.”

By opening the opportunity of “experimentation, pleasure and diversion‐seeking, quest for authenticity, and accessible purchasing, people get a different kind of travel experience” This is what makes states such as Colorado appealing to certain travelers. As the marijuana industry continues to grow, Colorado will create separate packages that cater to individual markets. Businesses are beginning to open that is rather unusual. For example, vending machines are hitting the market, bud and breakfasts and so much more.

“Colorado’s experience suggests starting a legal cannabis industry is one of the most efficient ways to generate new economic activity.” There have been positive changes in Washington, DC as well. Arrests for possession, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis have plummeted since the legalization of the drug.

This has saved jurisdiction millions of dollars. In turn, preventing the criminalization of thousands of people. Almost half of all marijuana arrests dropped in Colorado, and ninety-eight percent have shrunk in the state of Washington. Alaska, Oregon, and DC show similar results. More recently, other cities are beginning to fall in line with the success of legalizing soft drugs.

A study was done to demonstrate the similarities between San Francisco and Amsterdam. San Francisco was chosen due to the comparable nature of the two cities. Both are highly urbanized port cities with a diverse population (Reinarman, 2004). Furthermore, they are ”financial and entertainment hubs for larger regional conurbations and they have long been perceived within their home countries as cosmopolitan, politically liberal, and culturally people’s view is moving more toward recreational activity, this phenomenon will generate more visitors traveling specifically for marijuana as a recreational amenity.”

Although it seems that these cities seem to have it all figured out on the drug front, there are still some changes that could be made to benefit the economy and tourism industry as a whole. Every area that has legalized cannabis in some form should create a more transparent system when it comes to the buying and selling of their drugs.

Buyers want to know what they are getting and where it is from. Some fear that ingesting a drug without knowledge of the background can have potential health risks. If people are unaware of what goes into their product, they will be less inclined to partake. In Amsterdam, being that city is thirty percent tourists, by creating a more transparent system, outsiders will feel more safe and willing to experience.

There are only about one hundred and seventy-five coffee shops that still stand in Amsterdam, about half of what existed in the nineties. By creating a fully transparent system, quality will become better, and the price will not be as high. Given the concept of supply and demand, this will drive demand to skyrocket.

This will bring even more tourists to create a more safe and comfortable environment for those not well acquainted with the city. This will also drive up medical tourism in the area. Patients will know what they are ingesting, which is essential when traveling for medical reasons.

In Maine, legalization would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity in a state that “ranks near the bottom of the nation in total economic output.” It is clear to see the economic benefits that come along with legalizing cannabis.

With these benefits in mind, it is important to understand that with a richer economy, tourism is bound to increase. People are more likely to travel to areas that are financially stable and cater to their specific needs. Those who smoke recreationally or medically will be inclined to travel to areas that promote the act of smoking and ingesting pot.

It is evident that, by legally regulating the sale and use of cannabis, people can experience more responsibly and safely. This benefits the citizens and the government as a whole. Marijuana advocates claim that marijuana taxation, licensing, and industry could generate almost nine billion dollars in government revenue by the year 2020. Pot is a stronger economic driver than ninety perfect of sectors active in Colorado.

“Legal weed created 18,005 full-time jobs and added about $2.4 billion to the state’s economy last year (Evans, 2013).” In Arizona, pot is taxed fifteen percent and would likely generate over one hundred and ten million dollars in revenue between the years 2019 and 2020. These facts back up the idea that “the direct economic benefits of legalizing marijuana outweigh the costs.

In conclusion, drug tourism is an apparent niche that continues to grow in popularity as the legality of marijuana becomes more widely accepted by the masses. People choose to travel for many reasons. Whether that be for leisure, work, or medical purposes, everyone has different desires that spark them travel.

The thrill-seekers and curious humans of the world are interested in freely consuming a substance without the fear of negative repercussions. By traveling to an area where the drug is not restricted, people will feel more at peace and able to experience more deeply.

Those who aren’t afraid to break the law may want to travel just to feel what it’s like to not be breaking the rules. “Legalization has changed and expanded how marijuana consumption is viewed in the tourism discipline, which may create the paradigm shift from viewing marijuana as a forbidden fruit to the goose that lays golden eggs” More knowledge will continue to evolve as Narco-tourism thrives as a special interest segment in the travel industry.

Cover Image Credit: Michael Fischer

Popular Right Now

If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.

I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Stop Trying To Make Life So Black And White

Consider that you being right doesn't make someone else wrong by default—and vice versa.


Life isn't black and white.

Perhaps that sounds like an obvious statement, but nonetheless, it still needs to be said.

Furthermore, life isn't just one giant grey area—it's several shades. There are so many twists and turns, so many unknowns and layers, that it's impossible for something to be 100 percent one way or the other.

At least, that's how my mind works.

It's difficult for me to stand stubbornly behind my own viewpoints without first listening to someone else's. For me, looking at things from their perspective is second nature. I could be spitting angry at someone, but I can't walk away from them because their perspective is glaring me in the face.

"Yes, what they did was wrong, but I get why they did it," is a line often uttered. This stance, of course, has its drawbacks. It has kept me in toxic situations far longer than it should have. It has allowed all sorts of people to walk over me like a common doormat. It has built up resentment in me for not having my efforts reciprocated.

It has also opened my eyes.

Democrat, Republican, Christian, Atheist, Religious, or Non-Secular—let's find common ground. Let's understand each other because, at the end of the day, we're all human. We all want to be loved and understood.

Maybe the first step is hearing each other. No, I don't mean listening until you can rebut, I mean really hear them. We all have our worldviews for a reason.

Why do you think the way you do? Probably because of how you were raised. Probably because experiences molded your mind and opinions.

We all have different walks of life. We each grew up differently than the other, so it's only natural that we should view the world through different lenses than our neighbor.

Next time, before you pass judgment on another person, consider the fact that maybe they aren't wrong. Also, consider that you being right doesn't make them wrong by default—and vice versa. Life is too layered for us to be right or wrong. Two people can be saying different things and both provide valid points.

Life isn't black and white, it's high time we stopped trying to make it that way. Besides, a picture is infinitely more interesting when it's shaded in and has more variety.

Related Content

Facebook Comments