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Exploring cannabis tourism: Luxury destinations are on the horizon

We’re at the dawn of the cannabis tourism industry and, to be honest, it sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Imagine being able to book a week or long weekend at a premium destination that allowed cannabis consumption, including an on-site dispensary, social consumption areas, infused spa treatments, cannabis-enhanced activities, as well as fresh, local farm-to-table cuisine infused with tinctures and herbals. Maybe a psilocybin ritual experience with a local shaman, too? (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

According to the AirBnB 2022 Summer Release report on trends for upcoming summer travel, “The world has changed, and in 2022 people are traveling differently than they ever have before…Unique travel experiences have increasing appeal to guests.” Of course, AirBnB doesn’t have a cannabis-friendly category – yet. But as the world returns to travel, options for cannabis tourists are on the rise.

“There’s basically two groups of cannabis tourists,” said Dr. Adam Abodeely, chief medical officer at Coral Cove, a “cannabis-centric” resort located in Little Bay, Jamaica. “You have those that are interested in recreational cannabis, and you have some that are using cannabis for wellness. We like to have activities for everyone.”

Coral Cove, which was established in the 1990s, offered a cannabis-friendly atmosphere for years prior to the pandemic. “These areas have a pretty long legacy of cannabis and, so,  it became a place with a lot of people who were just kind of cannabis enthusiasts,” Abodeely explained.

coral cove
Coral Cove main villa

In 2020, when COVID dropped tourism rates on the island down to 20 percent of their pre-pandemic levels, the resort’s investors took the time to regroup and develop a cannabis curriculum that checked all the legal and regulatory boxes, while aiming to offer guests a full range of services and activities that can be enhanced with cannabis products and psychedelics. Abodeely, who specializes in gastrointestinal medicine, was brought on to help develop the resort’s new wellness programming and protocols.

“We’ve got nineteen units here on the property,” he said. “We’ve got a dispensary on site. We’ve got a full wellness program for our guests – but aside from the cannabis-centric attractions, people come because the area here is beautiful. We have a quarter-mile of oceanfront with coral and black lava rock, where guests can do everything from swim to snorkel to kayak, paddle-boarding, spearfishing…We have educational activities, like trips to local bat caves right down the road; the [guano] from those caves has been used by farmers as fertilizer for a long time on the island. We work with a local Rastafarian tribe to introduce guests to some of the local traditions and history of cannabis in the area.”

For guests interested in psychedelics, Coral Cove offers a psilocybin ritual, conducted by a local shaman who meets with guests the day before to prepare them and to learn what they hope to accomplish. The following evening the shaman returns to guide the guests in a ceremony. “It has a cultural aspect, around a bonfire at night, and is very ceremonial,” Dr. Abodeely says. The next day there’s a follow-up session when the shaman returns to meet with guests to, as Dr. Abodeely puts it “kind of debrief and engage on how the experience was.” He emphasized: “These are well-trained, qualified individuals that provide our guests with a full experience.” 

For guests just happy to have options, the resort serves local seafood and farm-to-table cuisine, as well as beverages that can be infused with herbal tinctures and extracts. Wellness activities include yoga, meditation, massage, and a full range of spa treatments.

Coral Cove recently added an oceanfront pool and meeting facilities, enabling the property to host conferences, special events, and large groups. The company’s  investors also have plans for expansion to destinations in Europe and Australia. 

Next, we turn our eyes to another region famous for both its weed and its natural beauty. The cloudy coastal forests of Northern California offer the rustic elegance of several cannabis-friendly venues, as well as the bounty of local vineyards and farms. 

The Humboldt Bay Social Club  (HBSC), located outside of Eureka, California, is a collection of boutique hospitality properties that are affiliated with other local cannabis-friendly businesses, including the Papa & Barkley Social store and day spa, and the Scotia Lodge

Scotia Lodge cannabis hotel

The Humboldt Bay Social Club flagship property is located on the southern tip of the Samoa Peninsula on Humboldt Bay, on the site of an abandoned WWII airfield (formerly Samoa Field) and an adjoining twenty-two-acre 1890s ranch. It includes hotel suites, cabins, and extended stay homes on Oyster Beach, as well as picnic areas, hiking trails, beachfront campsites, dining venues The Lobby Bar and Jetty, and a massage studio. 

“We’ve created a setting that celebrates the culture and community of Humboldt County and embraces lawful, responsible cannabis use by adults in a setting where they can relax, eat and socialize with friends and family,” Aaron Sweat, co-founder of Humboldt Bay Social Club told MJBI. “We embrace our surroundings as they embrace us. Humboldt has more cannabis farms than anywhere else in the world, and we want to share that with our guests.”

The Scotia Lodge, in nearby Scotia, California, is a 100-year-old, twenty-two-room boutique hotel located near the northern entrance to The Avenue of Giants redwood grove. “Reimagined” by the Humboldt Bay Social Club, the hotel was relaunched in the summer of 2021. Onsite dining venue Main + Mill Kitchen and Bar offers an Americana-style menu. Hotel guests also can meet for cocktails at The Wonder Bar. The names of spa treatments available at the Scotia hint at their infused goodness, including The Entourage Effect, The Hour to Flower, and The Full Spectrum. 

These treatments are provided by nearby Papa & Barkley Social’s day spa. Originally famous for their CBD Releaf Balm, Papa & Barkley Social has extended the brand into wellness tourism and hospitality with its boutique facility, offering a day spa, onsite cannabis dispensary, smoking lounge, merchandise shop, and the Pig & Leaf food truck. 

“Humboldt County hotels need to create spaces for visitors to smoke cannabis. Imagine if Napa Valley didn’t offer safe places to drink wine! We are committed to taking care of our guests by offering them a legal space to consume cannabis while visiting,” HBSC co-founder Amy O’Connor said. “For us, normalizing cannabis in hospitality means adding hospitality assets (e.g., food and drink, spa, retail) to cannabis businesses and adding access to cannabis to hospitality locations, like easy third-party delivery options and outdoor smoking areas.”

For cannabis travelers and tourists, to smoke or not to smoke has always been a quandary when staying in hotels. Even in legal areas, smoking is typically illegal in hotels and visitors can be left feeling confused about where to light up. 

But it’s only a matter of time before we see more weed-friendly hotels –The Artisan Hotel Boutique in Las Vegas has been sold to a cannabis-friendly operator and is slated to re-open in the fall after a $3 million renovation. The property was sold to Arizona-based Pro Hospitality Group (PHG) which owns cannabis-friendly property The Clarendon Hotel and Spa in Phoenix. 

The Clarendon Hotel and Spa, a four-star boutique hotel, lets guests explore “cannabis-friendliness,” with sixteen designated cannabis guest rooms that allow vaping, dabbing, and flower, but do not allow tobacco products. Since parts of the hotel still offer conventional accommodations, only vaping and smokeless products are allowed in public areas like the poolside cabanas and rooftop. The hotel is planning on offering a shuttle service that will take guests to and from a local dispensary.

“There has been huge demand for cannabis-friendly accommodations since recreational sales began in Arizona. Regardless of restrictions, the demand has remained the same,” Daron Brotherton, vice president of operations for PHG and co-owner of Elevation Nations, told us. 

“The smoking rooms have definitely generated the most interest and are quite popular amongst all of our guests, from tourists to corporate travelers. We continually receive positive feedback from visitors who appreciate having the freedom to smoke in their room without worrying about extra fees or complaints. We also have a smoking lounge – our skydeck can be reserved for cannabis-friendly functions or private events.”

The hotel recently introduced a lifestyle-driven membership program, Elevations Nation, which will give members an all-access pass to travel benefits, “curated experiences,” special events at The Clarendon and other hotel properties, as well as off-site activities with local partners. 

The amenities at The Clarendon have provided a template for what’s to come in Las Vegas at The Artisan, according to Brotherton.

“Subject to government regulation, when it becomes legal, The Artisan will transition into a cannabis-friendly hotel. We plan on having dedicated smoking rooms for cannabis use, shuttle service to nearby dispensaries, as well as infused dinners. These culinary experiences would be available onsite at our allocated cannabis catering room, or could be booked off-site at a private residence,” he said. 

The Artisan will be undergoing renovations starting mid-July with plans to complete by late fall 2022. The construction includes a full rebrand of the hotel bar, rooms, and lobby.

What does Brotherton think the future of cannabis tourism and hospitality looks like?

“I believe a hotel with a lounge where you can both smoke and purchase cannabis, as well as designated smoking rooms where you can rent smoking paraphernalia during your stay. I envision many destination spots will create a variety of cannabis-friendly spaces, where people can gather outdoors on a patio or poolside, or participate in canna-inspired classes or activities. Also, I foresee partnerships with local growers, so guests can book cultivation tours for a farm to dispensary experience and see how the plant makes its way to the consumer,” Brotherton explained. “In a perfect world, this would be the future of cannabis tourism, so stay tuned.”

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