Matt Brown and James Walker, two Denver-based entrepreneurs, recently launched the world’s first marijuana tourism company, My 420 Tours. A business like this—imagine a guided tour of the California wine country, but with bongs instead of wine bottles—wouldn’t have been possible without Amendment 64, which was passed by Colorado voters in November and essentially makes recreational marijuana use legal in the state.
The first vacation package offered by My 420 Tours will happen during World Cannabis Week in late April; prices range from $499 for a three-day trip to $849 for a VIP five-day tip. The company is offering a series of bus rides, seminars, concerts, and “cooking classes.” Attendees will stay at “cannabis friendly hotels.” If you haven’t booked your travel plans yet, you may be out of luck. We called Brown to get more details.
How long have you and your partner been planning My 420 Tours?
James and I have been buddies for years. In 2009 and 2010, I was the lobbyist who represented the medical marijuana industry. I wrote most of the regulations that we passed in 2010. James was a dispensary owner at the time, which he sold about a year ago. We’ve been in the industry for a while and we’ve definitely been watching it. After the election, we started talking about it. We had a big New Year’s Eve party and we were like, “Let’s put this together and see what happens.”
How many tickets have you sold for World Cannabis Week?
A month ago, I thought we’d be lucky to get somewhere between 15 and 50 people out here. But at this point it looks like we’re sold-out. It’s about 120 people for the five-day extended package. And then individual tickets to certain events during the week, like the Method Man show and the Red Rocks concert, which are around 100 to 120 tickets each. We’re still working on an audit of how many we’ve sold.
And you’re planning on other events?
Absolutely. We’d like to do four big tent pole events throughout the year. Maybe something during the summer and then in October, which is traditionally a slow month for Colorado tourism. We’d also like to bring in smaller groups, between 20 to 50 people, for medical marijuana weekends. We’d bring out maybe a group of 20 little old ladies, we house them at a bed and breakfast in the mountains, and they learn about cannabis in a non-scary environment.
So basically, a resort filled with stoned senior citizens?
More or less, yeah. These are not the kind of people who are going to walk into a dispensary and say, “Give me some weed!”
What about the casual marijuana enthusiast who’s maybe a little younger and not using it for medical reasons?
Sure. What we found is that there is $700 million dollars in tourism already happening in Colorado, and most of the people coming here already smoke pot at least once a year. They come to Colorado, they don’t know where to go, who to talk to. What are they going to do—walk around downtown, asking strangers where to find weed? We want to be their gateway.
When people say, “I want to go see what’s happening in Colorado and experience the future, but I don’t know anybody, I don’t know where to go, I don’t know what to do,” we want to be the ones they call. We will hold your hand and give you the time of your life.
A few years ago, we investigated the “for profit” medical marijuana industry in Colorado, and the consensus by dispensary owners and advocates was “Don’t be too conspicuous.” It may be legal in Colorado, but it’s still a federal crime. Are you worried that if you’re too popular or get too much attention from the media, the feds might come knocking on your door?
I’m not. I’m hesitant in saying that, but I’ll say it anyway. Colorado has not seen enforcement action like you’ve seen in California, where they’re kicking in the doors of dispensaries. And that’s because Colorado has the most sophisticated medical marijuana regulatory system of anywhere in the world. At this point we have 400 pages of regulations and laws, so it’s very easy to tell if this person is following the rules, and that person’s selling 150 pounds out the back door. But we’re still being cautious. We’re not here to poke our fingers in anybody’s eye or annoy the federal government. We just want to help people and make the process of finding weed more normal.
Normal is what we have in Colorado right now. You buy your weed at a store, and it has hours. I was saying to my friend the other day, “Aw man, it’s 7:30, the weed store’s closed. Oh well, I guess I’ll wait until they open tomorrow morning at 9.” That’s normal. That’s what it should be.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.)