Legal pot draws tourists to US festival

2013-04-15 12:08
Denver - Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.

More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed to the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a U.S. version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.

Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.

One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.

The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking -tobacco or reefer - is permitted on room patios.

Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.

"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."

Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.

- Sapa-AP

 
Read more on:    travel international

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