Missouri Loses Millions of Tourist Dollars

By: Cecil King         

Missouri Loses Millions of Tourist Dollars

Towering 630 vertical feet above the Mississippi River, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch is the number one tourism destination in the state. Four million guests each year visit Missouri to see the world’s highest catenary arch and the tallest monument in the western hemisphere.

Missouri residents benefit from an incredible economic boost of $11.6 billion spent by out-of-state visitors each year. Tourism in the state supported more than 290,000 jobs and generated $1.3 billion in state and local taxes.

Yet, Missourians are completely blocked from participating in one exploding segment of the tourism industry: canatourism. It’s one of the ancillary business activities thriving in states which approved legal cannabis use.

In the new, ever-expanding “green” economy of legal cannabis, entrepreneurs don’t have to grow, manufacture or run a retail sales outlet to profit. Providing cannabis-themed venues including bus tours, limo rides, lodging or cultural events is as lucrative as retail cannabis sales, and with a lower cost of entry.

“We will make as much profit on a four-day tour as a marijuana dispensary makes selling a patient a year’s worth of pot,” reported Matt Brown, owner of Denver-based My420Tours (my420tours.com) to Slate magazine.

Independent property owners and traditional hoteliers are finding it easier to enter this market with a new partnership announced between hospitality technology group Cloudbeds and Bud and Breakfast, which provides cannabis-friendly accommodations worldwide.

“Marijuana tourism is an exploding business,” says Andy Rose, CTO of Bud and Breakfast, Boulder, CO. Travel interest has risen in Washington State and Colorado by 51% and 61%, respectively, since cannabis became legal in those states.

Consuming cannabis publicly is forbidden in these cannabis-legal states. Where tobacco use is restricted, smoking cannabis will also be restricted including hotels, bars, lounges, clubs, ski slopes and stadiums.

Visitors to legal cannabis states will seek cannabis-friendly “places to safely and legally enjoy cannabis for recreational or medical use,” offered Rose in a statement. “Bud and Breakfast is the world’s first travel portal for cannabis tourism.”

Back in prohibitionist Missouri, Governor Nixon claims, “Tourism plays a vital role in Missouri’s growing economy,” and the state “welcomed a record 39.2 million visitors” in FY2014 with a “forecast of 43 million visitors by FY 2018,” in the state’s Department of Tourism 2014 Annual Report.

But Missouri stands to lose millions in unrealized tourist dollars. Of the projected 43 million tourists coming to Missouri, one in ten could be a potential cannabis consumer (based upon the national average adult cannabis use of 10.8%; (2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report: U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services).

Repeal of cannabis prohibition in Missouri and allowing legal retail cannabis sales could amount to $184.3 million in additional sales to tourists using a Colorado cannabis sales model. New ancillary cannatourism businesses would develop and more jobs would blossom in Missouri kick-starting our state economy.

Meanwhile, Colorado is on track to break $1.0 billion in cannabis sales by the end of FY 2016. Tourists purchased 90% of all cannabis in the heavily visited central mountain corridors according to Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in their 2014 report, Market Size and Demand for Marijuana in Colorado. MPP also found 44% of Denver sales were to out-of-state tourists.