Marijuana Tourism in Washington: Over Before it Even Begins?

Washington State's cannabis tourism is at risk.
What you see in this picture would almost certainly be illegal in Washington State, which means Washington’s cannabis tourism industry is in jeopardy.

In Marijuana Lounges: All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go, I wrote about the problems in opening marijuana lounges in states with legal marijuana. In Washington, marijuana lounges House Bill 2136 has made such lounges illegal. The main goals of HB 2136 are technical fixes to I-502, namely to provide cannabis businesses with some much needed tax relief. But HB 2136 also makes it a Class C felony to operate “a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the primary or incidental purpose of providing a location where members or other persons make keep or consume marijuana on the premise.”

In other words, marijuana and marijuana vapor lounges are banned in Washington State. The question remains though as to how broadly this law will impact Washington’s overall marijuana tourism industry.

Every year people flock to Las Vegas (and to a lesser extent Atlantic City) because it offers something few other places can: legal gambling and lots of “sin.” States with fully legalized recreational cannabis can offer a similar draw so long as they remain a small minority.

Though it’s clear that HB 2136 guts the prospect of cannabis clubs and vapor lounges, its broad language might also serve to prohibit bud and breakfast type tourist lodgings. The problem for marijuana-friendly tourist lodges is that HB 2136 applies to any entity that allows cannabis consumption its the premise, even if the cannabis consumption is “incidental” to the business.

Cannabis crawls and marijuana tour buses have also been thrown under the bus (pun intended). If HB 2136 does not kill them, House Bill 1276, which goes into effect this September almost certainly will. HB 1276 creates an open container law for cannabis by requiring that cannabis products must be stored in a trunk or similar container where passengers do not have access. It would appear that crawls and tours that involve actual consumption will soon be out.

On the flip side, Denver is actively pursuing a city initiative to allow consumption of cannabis in bars and clubs. If that initiative passes and if Washington’s legislators remain so opposed to consumption anywhere beyond the privacy of one’s own home, Colorado will gain an edge over Washington in pursuing cannabis tourists.