CO: As Marijuana Mainstreams, Bus Tours View Themselves As Industry Ambassadors

Photo Credit: Xandra McMahon

“Welcome to the party bus.”

That’s what tour guide Alyse Morgan told 20-plus tourists who were riding in a marijuana bus tour on a hot May Friday. It was a rare chance for them to consume a plant that’s likely illegal in their home states.

My 420 Tours describes itself as “North America’s original cultivator of cannabis experiences.” It was one of the first companies to help launch pot tourism after Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 — and business industry wide is good.

Sales for concentrates and edibles have sharply risen in the last couple years. In 2017, sales for recreational edibles increased by almost 30 percent. While 477 percent more recreational concentrates were sold than medical concentrates in that same time.

Just in case it wasn’t clear, tour guide Alyse Morgan answered the big question for all the riders on the bus.

“If you couldn’t tell by all the accessories, the rolling trays, the ashtrays,” she said. “You guys can smoke on here.”

Riders are free to consume cannabis in any form they chose — edibles, flower, wax, etc. — but it had to be product they brought with them. My 420 Tours is not allowed to supply any. There are still no businesses in Colorado that can both sell cannabis and provide a space to use it. The chances of any opening soon are slim after Gov. Hickenlooper recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed cannabis tasting rooms.

The Greenhouse Grow & Dispensary Tour is one of many tours and classes offered by the company. It only makes two stops: The Euflora Greenhouse and Euflora’s 3D Dispensary. On the way to the greenhouse, the riders filled the bus with smoke. The crowd was made up of mostly millennials, but the baby boomer generation was represented too.

Photo Credit: Xandra McMahon

That includes Bill Morin, a self-described smoker for almost 50 years who puffed away on a purple, futuristic-looking pipe. “Done quite a bit of growing in my day, all illegal, but,” he trailed off.

Things are much different nowadays compared to decades ago when Morin got arrested for marijuana. “I started out literally smuggling, smuggling dope. Yeah, it’s gone a long ways, come a long ways.”

Morin and his friend Jeff Davis were on a road trip out of Florida and decided to take advantage of their time in Denver by checking out the city’s cannabis scene. Davis, who was “happy to see laws finally be a little relaxed,” echoed some of Morin’s thoughts about how attitudes have changed over the years.

“People finally see it’s not this evil drug that it’s been claimed to be for all these years,” he said. “People are pretty happy and, you know, we just like our weed, sleep like babies.”

Adult marijuana use has held steady, around 13 percent, in the last couple of years according to a 2016 study from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Photo Credit: Xandra McMahon

My 420 Tours marketing director Cynthia Ord said the tour not only attracts all ages, but people with all kinds of reasons — “everything from bachelor parties to concerned parents who want to learn a little more. They have some kids reaching adolescence and they want to be able to talk to their kids from a place of a little bit more education.”

As more states legalize recreational marijuana and it becomes more commonplace, users will eventually stop craving this kind of experience, Ord said.

“As the novelty wears off then visiting a dispensary won’t be such a first time experience for people, right?” she said. “Our classic tour has been this grow and dispensary combination but I think the way we stay relevant is we also add a lot of fun and educational activities that people can do that pair cannabis with other things.”

The setup then becomes something more than a tour, incorporating everyday cooking or what Ord calls their “signature sushi and joint rolling class.” For now though, there’s still plenty of out-of-staters that don’t have access to legal marijuana and are willing to travel to Colorado for the experience.

“We’re gonna come back,” Bill Morin said in a nod to the second tour he and Jeff Davis had signed up for. “Yeah, we’re making a full day of it.”