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Study: Legalizing Marijuana Results In Major Tourism Spike

Once Colorado and Washington allowed legal marijuana sales, tourism and hotel bookings saw major bumps.

Virtually no one is traveling around the United States at the moment, but that might change as all 50 states announce some re-opening measures after shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. When travel does resume, a new study finds that marijuana legalization actually increases tourism.

The study, published in the Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy, reviewed data on how legalization impacted outsiders visiting Colorado and Washington state. Researchers compared hotel and tourism trends in both Colorado and Washington post legalization with states where marijuana remained illegal. Researchers concluded that legal marijuana boosted Colorado and Washington as travel hotspots following legalization, with an even higher increase once retail sales began.

Post-legalization correlated with 51,000 extra hotel rooms rented per month in Colorado. That figure jumped to an additional 120,000 hotel rooms rented per month once tourists could purchase marijuana legally. Washington numbers were about half of Colorado’s.

“Marijuana legalization led to a larger increase in tourism in Colorado than Washington. One possible explanation is that Colorado is an easier travel destination than Washington and Denver’s airport is a major hub for United Airlines,” the study’s authors wrote.

RELATED: Is Legal Marijuana The Economic Relief America Needs Post-Pandemic?

“Another possible explanation is that Colorado may have achieved a first mover advantage over Washington since it legalized commercial sale six months earlier than Washington,” they added.

colorado passes bill in state revenue for cannabis
Photo by Bailey Starner via Unsplash

This study isn’t the first to positively connect marijuana legalization with tourism dollars. Penn State researcher John O’Neill concluded in a study earlier this year that Denver hotel revenue increased by $130 million after marijuana was legalized. Data showed a 9% bump in occupancy rates the first year post legalization.

RELATED: Colorado Gov. Suggests Hypnosis To Get Ohio Gov. To Legalize Marijuana

“We found that Denver hotels were able to charge and receive higher prices for hotel rooms following recreational marijuana legalization, and also found increased visitation to the Denver […] resulting in positive economic impact,” O’Neill said.

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