Of all the industries that suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was among the hardest hit. The federal government has released statistics that paint a grim picture: employment in tourism dropped almost 30 percent in 2020, with food and beverage services and accommodations suffering the most. To help the recovery, the federal government has earmarked $67 million to boost the sector.
Many people who work in canna-tourism say it has the potential to help the recovery; since recreational cannabis became legal in Canada in 2018, casual use has become more normalized, with a growing number of people keen to incorporate it into their vacations. Travel agencies, tour companies and other businesses in the sector are taking steps to accommodate them, but they continue to face obstacles in doing so.
Regulations restrict access and promotion
Although Canadians can now buy recreational cannabis through the mail or in person at provincially regulated stores thanks to the Cannabis Act, they still face many restrictions about where they can consume it. Those restrictions vary across jurisdictions.
There are other headaches for businesses that cater to canna-curious travellers. For example, farmgate stores, which enable licensed producers to sell their products to consumers on-site, are now legal in Ontario, but the cannabis they sell must be provided by the provincial supplier rather than by the producers themselves.
Furthermore, cannabis companies face onerous restrictions in advertising. Because the law takes the position that promoting cannabis is prohibited, a company authorized to sell or distribute cannabis must adhere to informational promotion or brand-preference promotion.
Cannabis industry experts believe that if all these obstacles were removed, canna-tourism would flourish here just as it has south of the border, where American states that have legalized recreational cannabis have seen an explosion of cannabis-friendly accommodations, lounges, festivals, and other services and activities.
Traditional tourism activities such as tours, outdoor recreation and cooking classes could incorporate cannabis or, alternatively, companies could provide services and events that are entirely cannabis-focused.
“There is an opportunity for cannabis tourism to thrive. This industry is ready to go. It has supply and demand. The only thing it doesn’t have is regulations that would enable it.”Susan Dupej, a researcher at the University of Guelph, recently told Leafly.
Dupej feels that the success of coffee shops in Amsterdam makes it clear that the tourism industry benefits when consumers are able to purchase and consume cannabis in a lounge-type setting, without fear of reprimand by the authorities or judgment by the general public.
Mounting interest for an industry bounceback
Despite the current challenges in the canna-tourism space in Canada, Wendy Forwell, who founded a travel advisory called Cannabis Hotels in 2018, is optimistic about the future of canna-tourism in Canada.
“There is a sense of community in the cannabis space. People want to be with their tribe. One day, we’ll see the opening of many lounges and restaurants that specialize in cannabis consumption,” she says. “It’s clear that the world didn’t end when we legalized cannabis. Authorities now need to start looking towards the future.”
Despite hampering, buzzkill restrictions, travellers eager to indulge with indicas or sate themselves with sativas on vacation still have options. Here are the best tours, hotels, and getaways Canada has to offer.
Grab your weed and explore Canada
Canada High Tours
Canada High Tours offers a variety of cannabis tours and experiences in several Canadian cities. People can consume cannabis while taking part in several activities such as graffiti tours, hikes, and painting.
HiBnb is an online booking marketplace that caters to people looking to enjoy cannabis while travelling or doing other activities in Canada. The company says it “offers opportunities to explore cannabis in safe, supportive, and welcoming environments.”
The Movement Cannabis Tours
The Movement Cannabis Tours provides various cannabis-focused experiences in Vancouver, where it is based, including walking tours, luxury vehicle tours, and custom tours.
Cannanaskis gives cannabis-focused tours in the Rocky Mountains. Based in Calgary, owner Dave Dormer isn’t licensed to provide cannabis to clients, but he educates them about the history of the plant and provides them with food as well as a safe and legal space to consume their own cannabis during tours.
Sir Sam’s Inn and Spa
In 2019, Sir Sam’s Inn and Spa, in Haliburton, Ont., became Ontario’s first resort to openly permit the consumption of cannabis by guests.
“We’re not looking to become a signature pot-smoking hotel or anything like that,” Jon Massey, the resort’s director of business development told The Toronto Sun at the time.
“It’s more about acknowledging it is legal now, we are an adult and couples resort and we do have professionals who like to come up and relax with the setting we provide. Really, it’s a natural progression.”
Edmonton-based producer Aurora Cannabis has a store in the famous West Edmonton Mall that does more than selling cannabis. It offers consumers experiences such as musical shows, comedy evenings and movie nights.
Mary Jane Manor
Mary Jane Manor is a new cannabis-themed retreat in the rural community of Mossleigh, Alberta. It was opened recently by Serena Donovan, the owner of a micro cultivator or processor.
Tweed*, one of Canada’s most well-known licensed producers, has a visitor centre at its facility, a former chocolate factory, in Smiths Falls Ontario. The centre gives consumers the chance to visit their grow rooms and learn about the science and history of cannabis.
The Hotbox Lounge
The Hotbox Lounge in Toronto has a patio – known as “the Potio” – where visitors can consume cannabis as well as a vape lounge available all year. The lounge has music and special events most nights.
The Cannabis Cooking Company
The Cannabis Cooking Company* is a Toronto-based culinary school that teaches you how to cook cannabis-infused dishes, focusing on various strains, terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids.
Toronto Toke Tours
Toronto Toke Tours provides customers with the opportunity to consume cannabis while doing a walking tour of the city. The company also offers massages and yoga classes.
*These locations are currently closed due to Covid precautions but will reopen.