Being in one of the first states to legalize adult use of cannabis, the California Cannabis Tourism Travel Association launched to focus on members in the region. With more interest in cannabis tourism, the group is rebranding and opening to the world.
When the California Cannabis Tourism Association was founded in 2017, its focus was shaped by the fact that California was one of the first states to legalize adult use of the substance. Within just a few years, the organization realized that people nationwide and around the globe were interested in cannabis tourism. To accommodate this growing interest, the organization renamed and rebranded to the Cannabis Travel Association International (CTAI).
“When we were posting our online events and facilitating our networking and educational components, we repeatedly saw interest from people from out of state and out of the country,” said Brian Applegarth, founder of the organization.
Applegarth realized that limiting itself to California didn’t embrace CTAI’s full potential. “We saw a lot of the tools that we developed and the services we offered as an association could be applicable to other destinations and regions that were about to go through the same trajectory of coming out of the medical cannabis landscape and into the adult-use cannabis landscape,” Applegarth said. “We decided to shift our geographic footprint and evolve into an international association.”
The goal of CTAI is to bring together the travel and the cannabis industries, facilitating destinations pairing with local cannabis attractions. Applegarth said CTAI focuses on helping people “understand what is and isn’t possible for cannabis operators, what it means to be part of the travel ecosystem, and the different roles people play in that. Also, we look at how can we provide safe and responsible cannabis experiences, and how we can serve the cannabis travel audience in a really meaningful way.”
The geographical expansion of the group comes at a good time, as the economy begins to rebound from the pandemic. The organization suspended dues last year and made most programming free to remove financial barriers. As the travel industry begins to recover, particularly with vaccine availability in the U.S., CTAI plans to return to a traditional pricing model.
With cannabis declared an essential business during the pandemic and having great sales during that time, Applegarth says now is a prime opportunity for cannabis tourism.
“It has opened up a really interesting conversation, especially for adult-use destinations where there are cannabis retailers, cannabis lounges, and cannabis tour companies,” Applegarth said. “When you look at it as a tool for recovery, as something as essential and, arguably, recession proof, it becomes a compelling case of how we include cannabis in a really interesting way.”