The Board of Supervisors and those involved in the cannabis industry are questioning why the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau isn’t promoting cannabis-related tourism.
Lack of effort to capitalize on the county’s reputation for quality cannabis was noted after a presentation by the bureau at the April 3 supervisors meeting.
Tony Smithers, the bureau’s executive director, highlighted Humboldt’s natural attributes, particularly the presence of redwood forests, as a tourist draw. He didn’t mention cannabis tourism, which the county and the state are enabling in regulation and business licensing.
Supervisor Virginia Bass asked about it and Smithers said that this year, redwoods is a marketing focus because of Humboldt’s number one ranking by Lonely Planet and anniversaries marked by Redwood National Park and Save the Redwoods League.
Smithers said the bureau’s board of directors will be discussing cannabis tourism at its next meeting.
The bureau gets hotel bed tax revenue from the county and cities for tourism marketing. Supervisor Estelle Fennell said the cannabis industry is an important part of the county’s tourism mix and its economic development policymaking.
“So I do hope that somewhere along the line, that is going to be looked at because I believe there is quite a bit of economic potential there,” she continued.
“We have been looking at it, in fact we’ve been doing a lot of research,” Smithers said in response, adding that assessing market potential is part of the analysis.
During a public comment session, Terra Carver of the Humboldt Growers Alliance said her group is “very concerned about the lack of cannabis-related content or even a plan to incorporate into their strategy Humboldt County’s newly-regulated industry.”
Saying that farm-based retail cannabis sales, tours and special events are developing and dispensaries are well-established, Carver questioned why the bureau isn’t promoting cannabis.
“Just imagine if Napa didn’t market wine,” she said.
Humboldt’s status as renowned cannabis brand and potential cannabis tourist destination was also highlighted by Chuck Leishman, the general manager of the North Coast Journal. “I know that we have a brand that we need to massage and that we need to grow,” he said.
Mariellen Jurkovich, director of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center dispensary in Arcata, told supervisors that “we would love to see help with the tourism side of cannabis.”
She recommended that the bureau’s board of directors include a representative of the cannabis industry.
Fennell said that “even as an underground economy,” cannabis has attracted visitors and is “actually putting heads in beds.”
Commenting on the redwoods emphasis, Fennell said cannabis could complement it.
“When people in Napa advertise wine, they’re not just talking about drinking, they’re talking about drinking in a beautiful environment, so we’ve got both here,” she said.
Supervisor Rex Bohn is on the bureau’s board of directors and he said cannabis tourism has been a topic of discussion and he expects a “lively discussion” on it at the next bureau board meeting.
During the presentation, Smithers reported that the countywide bed tax collection rate for the fiscal year that ended last June increased by 17.5 percent, a $2.1 million revenue increase from the previous year.