Pot-tourism: are there econimic benefits of being legally green?

In 2012, the US state of Colorado passed Amendment 64, allowing the possession, recreational use, and personal growth of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. This decision, as well as a similar decision made by the state of Washington, have suddenly flung the topic of legalisation and its effects to the forefront of discussion.

I lived in the United States in 2012, and was treated first-hand to the political firestorm that surrounded these two states’ unthinkable change in legislation. But, despite what many right-wing Americans believed, the legalisation of cannabis has not resulted in wide-spread panic and bands of red-eyed criminals breaking into shops and stealing food. Instead, it’s just sort-of made a lot of money.

In fact, it’s made so much money that Colorado, as a state, may have to give some back to the federal government because it made too much. According to the Associated Press, every Colorado adult stands to receive a tax refund of $7.63 due to a 1992 cap on how much taxpayer’s money the state is allowed to collect. But, with the extreme levels of success that recreational cannabis seems to be attaining, Colorado adults will probably turn around and drop that extra $7 on weed, anyway. Tourism in Colorado has leapt, with stoners from all corners of the country, and even those across the water, flocking to visit one of the many recreational dispensaries that are popping up in Denver and other major cities. According to the Denver Post, 2014 was a ‘benchmark’ year for tourism in Colorado; and it’s impossible to deny the role of cannabis in this popularity.

Weed is a big deal in 2015. Now that Colorado, Oregon and Washington haven’t collapsed in on themselves, other US states are listening and taking note. In the last few weeks, New Mexico has proposed a bill that would effectively legalise cannabis, and even more states are trying to pass bills for medical marijuana. It seems as though, across the pacific, times are changing, and cash registers are dinging.

Here at home, however, there’s a European stoner’s paradise: Amsterdam. When it comes to Amsterdam, you’ve either been, or you’re planning on going. It’s a cultural hotspot, with beautiful architecture, serious historical significance, and some of the best museums that the world has to offer.

On top of that, however, weed is legal, which means that for every art-lover, architect, or bike enthusiast that visits Amsterdam, there are at least two hungry pot-heads munching on space cake. This presents a unique problem to the city- how should it promote itself?

Amsterdam’s drug policy is notoriously lax, with the city seeming to come to accept the prevalence of illegal substances on its streets. But, this is not to say that these streets are totally safe; anyone who has been for a night out in Amsterdam is well-versed in the tendency of suspicious-looking residents to approach tourists and offer cocaine, ecstasy, or other high-profile drugs. These drugs, unsurprisingly, are rarely clean and often result in serious injury or death to the user- which, in turn, brings a bad reputation to the city as innocent people are killed by dirty drugs.

So, is this the fault of cannabis itself? No. Cannabis culture? Perhaps. As Amsterdam continues to attract drug-minded visitors, more and more tourists are falling victim to the promise of Class A’s in their wallets- visitors who, without legal weed, may not have visited at all.

It’s clear that the recreational legalisation of cannabis has many monetary benefits; it attracts tourists, generates tax revenue, and reinvigorates local economies with a new commodity. But, if we are to legalise it, it should be legal in every sense of the word, in that it is removed from the illegal atmosphere of powder and pills. If we can manage that, then I just hope we all get those $7 to spend in the dispensary.


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January 2022
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