AP Photo4/20, or April 20th, — the unofficial holiday devoted to marijuana — is usually associated with hippie, beanie bag kicking, dreadlocked, guitar strumming stoners gathering to celebrate in a lazy, smoke-filled haze.
My 420 Tours and co-owner Matt Brown could be helping to change that out-dated perception that marijuana smokers are all clones of Cheech and Chong.
Brown equates his version of pot tourism to wine-tasting in a place like Napa.
My 420 Tours, the first devoted marijuana-themed tour operator in the U.S., arranges tours for groups centering around marijuana-themed activities while still allowing participants to experience Colorado's renowned tourist attractions.
Brown, a medical marijuana patient, told Business Insider these tours will allow people to tour Denver — something they'd be doing anyway — but they'll be doing it while high.
"Pot tourism is like all other tourism," Brown said. "The only difference is that for the 10% of Americans who smoke responsibly, they can go on vacation to Colorado and smoke freely. We tried to package all of the cool things that people do in Colorado, and allow people to smoke while doing them."
Tour activities might include a private cannabis cooking class, tours of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, and home-growing workshops. My 420 Tours also arranges transportation to 4/20 concerts and events, like the 4/20 concert at Red Rocks. Even the 4-star hotels on this tour are cannabis friendly, featuring balconies where guests can smoke .
My 420 Tours is currently operating its inaugural tours, called World Cannabis Week. The 3- and 5-day packages range from $500 to $850 (not including airfare or hotels), depending on the length of the tour—sold out almost immediately for the April 20th weekend.
"The response has been overwhelming," Brown told us. "We sold all of our tickets before we got media coverage. When you count airfare, hotel and tour, people dropped about $2,000 a piece on these tours because they were so eager to come and try it out."
Brown said that almost 200 people purchased packages for World Cannabis Week, and he expects this inaugural group will generate about half a million dollars in tourism revenue for Denver over the weekend.
So who's buying these tour packages? It's not who you'd think.
My 420 Tours offers more highbrow experiences that appeal to an older and more affluent clientele. Brown said that the somewhat steep price point is not attractive to young people, and that the average age of tour participants is around 40.
"We got more response from an older demographic than I would have guessed," Brown said. "This appeals to a person who is desperate to follow the law. They're not looking to push the rules or be edgy. It's about coming here and doing the same exact thing they'd do at home, but here it's legal. They’ll be able to get through their vacation and do what they want to do without going to jail."
Brown said that everything on the tours is perfectly legal, the trick being that no one is buying or selling marijuana. Guests are given a small amount of marijuana when they arrive and they'll have access to marijuana throughout the tour, but there is no exchange of money.
"We try to keep people occupied with these tours," Brown said. "From the time they get up in the morning to night, there’s always an event, like a cannabis cooking class, with someone who’s local and has some weed on them and is willing to share with guests."
Brown tells guests that they can smoke freely while in Colorado, but they'll only be given small amounts of marijuana and they can't take it home. He also warns them that they can't buy the drug from Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries, since commercial pot sales won't be legal for out-of-state visitors until January.
"People from out of state are so in awe that this can exist at all," Brown said. "They are just so relieved that they come here and have someone hand them a tiny piece of weed."
Brown said that he sees Colorado growing into a destination for marijuana users, and My 420 Tours plans to expand to meet the need. After this weekend's inaugural tours, he plans to arrange three or four large events every year, along with smaller custom tours for individuals.
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