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Legal cannabis and tourism: the production of experiences and spaces

Authors: Adam Keul*, Plymouth State University, Brian Eisenhauer, Plymouth State University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Legal Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: tourism, cannabis, law
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tourism has been theorized as a driver of both “worldmaking” and “placemaking” through its power to implement social structures and discourses via lived experiences. While marketing and the construction of place narratives play an important role in influencing the geographic imaginaries of touristed destinations, we argue that structural changes in the law and economies of destinations must also shape the development of tourism. These political economic changes are themselves embedded in discourse, yet beyond narrative, they make significant material impacts in communities. Through an examination of the emerging practices of cannabis tourism we illustrate the impact of tourism development in communities and states where recreational cannabis has been legalized. Through fieldwork with tourism developers in the US states of Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Nevada, we show how law has opened new spaces both for the legitimization of the cannabis industry and for the current or future growth of cannabis tourism. While these destinations have seen some similarities in the types of tour offerings, the particularities of place, and more so, the specifics of state and local law have governed the production of these “legal spaces”. Rather than embracing this production of space, some states and communities have ignored the cultural and economic impacts for fear of alienating more lucrative tourism markets. Despite contentions, tourism has facilitated the creation of contexts where consumption of cannabis is celebrated. Following legalization in place-to-place, tourism has emerged as a vital process in the production of cannabis geographies.


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