If you’re a citizen of Canada or a legalized US state, it’s important to remember that the progressive weed laws you’ve gotten used to are far from being global.
This winter, as you plan how to take the last (or first) of your vacation days, consider whether you’d like your pal cannabis to be involved, because when it comes to accepting travellers’ use of the plant, not all destinations feel the same.
Read on to discover three cannabis-friendly winter travel destinations within a half-day’s journey from most Canadian and US centres, plus three international travel spots that are surprisingly unfriendly when it comes to the good plant.
420-friendly winter travel destinations
Palm Springs, California
Cannabis’s legal status: Recreational cannabis is legal in the state of California.
Palm Springs has an enduring reputation as a popular roost for snowbirds seeking sunshine during the winter months, but it’s also been busy cultivating a new type of tourism niche. With California’s recreational cannabis laws permitting adults 21 and over to use cannabis for non-medical purposes within the state, Palm Springs, one of the warmest corners of Cali come winter, is a literal hotspot for those looking to get high while they get warm.
Cultural draws within the city include museums, spas, gardens, and plenty of places to spend your money on food and drink, but some of the most attractive attractions are outside the centre. Take a trip to nearby Joshua Tree National Park to stargaze or explore (but don’t bring your stash, as possession and consumption remain illegal at the federal level within all national parks).
Speaking of your stash, that can be topped up at any of the 25+ dispensaries currently operating in Palm Springs and the neighbouring communities of Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City.
Cannabis’s legal status: Recreational cannabis is legal in all of Canada.
You don’t have to be a skier to appreciate the majesty that is Whistler Blackcomb in the winter. The resort town is bustling with visitors from around the world enjoying world-class restaurants and shops, including multiple on-mountain dining options like the Umbrella Bar, which boasts a near-360-degree view of the surrounding mountain range.
Of course, the option to wax the snowboard and make tracks on the 200 marked runs is always available, but a massage followed by an entire afternoon spent doing sweet sweet nothing in and around an outdoor hot tub is also totally cool in Whistler.
The strain to help get you into whatever vacation mood you’re after won’t be found in Whistler, however. The community has regulations in place currently preventing cannabis stores from opening up shop, but weed fans will easily find what they need in the nearby centres of Squamish or Vancouver, both of which host legal retailers. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with Whistler’s smoke-free zones, which include parks and the Valley Trail.
Cannabis’s legal status: Medical cannabis is legal for locals and visitors with proper documentation, while recreational cannabis is decriminalized.
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Jamaica’s tourism draw is a contentious issue. On the one hand, there’s often a rather high incidence of violent crime, but on the other hand there’s the beautiful beaches and vibrant culture. On the one hand there’s the country’s draconian laws on same-sex marriage, but on the other hand there’s the weed and jerk chicken.
Regardless of the political state of the Caribbean island nation, its appeal and connection to the cannabis lifestyle is undeniable. Rastafarian culture heavily influenced the modern cannabis movement, with representatives like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh spreading the message of peace, love, and good green across the globe.
Today, with some 32% of all jobs coming from the tourism industry, Jamaica relies heavily foreigners coming to explore their country. So with cannabis laws decriminalizing possession of up to two ounces, it’s no surprise that Jamaica is embracing the plant like never before.
For a full-on, cannabis-friendly all-inclusive-style vacay that’s also authentic, check out Coral Cove on Jamaica’s southwest coast. Located in Negril, the resort advertises itself as quiet and secluded, and has a cannabis leaf right there in the logo. Or, try Hotbox Jamaica, a “Bud and Breakfast” owned by Toronto’s Abi Roach, founder of the city’s famed HotBox Café.
Surprisingly 420-unfriendly winter travel destinations
Cannabis’s legal status: Some medicines containing cannabis derivatives are legal, but possession, sale or production of any other cannabis products is illegal.
The French Alps may seem like one of the most idyllic settings to hole up for the winter, but for cannabis users, it’s far from a paradise. France remains committed to its anti-cannabis standpoint, despite some statistics suggesting that more of its citizens use cannabis than those of any other European country.
So visit the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the vineyards of Bordeaux, and by all means eat a baguette with cheese and some wine, but don’t expect a pre-rolled blunt to go along with it.
Quebec City, Quebec
Cannabis legal status: Recreational cannabis is legal in all of Canada, but you must be 21-years of age or older to purchase within the province.
Cold weather be damned, Quebec has it going on in the winter. There’s the world-famous Winter Carnival, the cool if schticky Ice Hotel and the ultimate winter-weather cheat day food, poutine.
But much like the country that shares its language in Europe, the province of Quebec is not quite as excited about legal cannabis as those around it. While Canada was busy readying itself for legalization 2.0 this fall, Quebec was attempting to outlaw at-home cultivation and passing legislation to increase the provincial purchasing age to 21 . The result is a thriving illicit market servicing the “underaged.”
You can vacation here if you want, and totally purchase and consume cannabis legally. But if you feel like you’re getting ‘le stink eye’ for lighting a joint outside your hotel (a respectful 10 metres outside, naturally), then consider popping over the border into Ontario where the legal age of purchase is 19 and even the premier used to sell the stuff in the 80s.
Cannabis’s legal status: Cannabis is illegal in Sweden.
Dog sledding, northern lights, snowmobiling, saunas, the traditions of the Sami people…Sweden truly comes to life in the winter. Unfortunately, experiencing any of the above under the influence of cannabis poses a problem in the Scandinavian nation, where possession, sale, cultivation, and even use is illegal.
With progressive pro-pot countries like Denmark and the Netherlands nearby, it’s somewhat surprising that Swedes are so sour on cannabis, but they are. Use of the plant is punishable by law—a right regularly exercised by authorities—and generally socially frowned upon.