Some cannabis retailers hope that someday soon, tasting rooms can be added to retail establishments, just as they may be added to wineries and breweries.
And tour companies hope that their offerings can someday include farm tours, cannabis haute cuisine, chef-run restaurants and farms offering cannabis-infused food.
Oregon law says cannabis cannot be consumed at retail outlets, in rental cars, in most vacation rentals and hotel rooms, or even outdoors in public spaces. Anyone 21 and older can buy cannabis, but consumption has to happen in private, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
In Colorado, recreational use of marijuana became legal in 2014. Just this year, voters approved licensed marijuana tasting rooms where customers can sample their purchases. To do so, however, consumers will have to wait until next year, when rules will be established.
Cannabis growers predict in the future, there will be something similar in Oregon.
“I’m in favor of any laws that normalize our industry,” said Gary Bracelin, owner of Tokyo Starfish, a cannabis retail shop in Bend.
Cannabis tour company Blazing Trails has made it through its first year and is heading into peak summer season with bookings already, said Tris Reisfar, co-owner.
Tours are generally three hours and include education about cannabis law in Oregon, a visit to a testing facility, an indoor growing facility, a glass shop and sometimes a walk around a hemp farm.
“We get a lot of older folks,” Reisfar said. “Most people are fascinated by the cultural experience of cannabis. It’s so different where they’re coming from.”
Lesley Jones, executive director of Tumalo Living Organic Farms, said the recreational cannabis industry is still so new that not all the business avenues have been explored. Cannabis has the potential to be like the wineries of Napa with tasting rooms, tours and camping, she said.
“Anything you can do with beer or wine, you can transfer to the niche field of cannabis,” Jones said.
This could open up a new field of tourism and ancillary businesses, she said. Dispensary owners and employees estimated between one-fourth to one-third of their customers are tourists.
Cannabis isn’t included in the marketing tourism plan for the state. Nor does it drive a lot traffic to Central Oregon, said Linea Gagliano, Visit Oregon director of global communications.
“We decided long before recreational cannabis became legal that outdoor recreation and culinary are what drives people here,” Gagliano said. “Imbibing might be something people do while they’re here, but that’s not the reason they plan their trip here.”