Colorado, Washington in a haze over pot tourism

Meaning for visitors pondered as two states approve recreational marijuana

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DENVER — Hit the slopes — and then a bong?

Marijuana legalization votes last week in Colorado and Washington state don’t just set up an epic state-federal showdown on drug laws for residents. The measures also open the door for marijuana tourism.

Both measures make marijuana possession in small amounts OK for all adults 21 and older — not just state residents, but visitors, too. Tourists may not be able to pack their bowls along with their bags, but as long as out-of-state tourists purchased and used the drug while in Colorado or Washington, they wouldn’t violate the marijuana measures.

Of course, that’s assuming the recreational-marijuana measures take effect. That was very much in doubt Friday as the states awaited word on possible lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice asserting federal supremacy over drug laws.

So the future of marijuana tourism in Colorado and Washington is hazy. But that hasn’t stopped rampant speculation, especially in Colorado, where tourism is the No. 2 industry thanks to the Rocky Mountains and a vibrant ski industry.

** FILE ** A worker inspects a marijuana plant at a grow house in Denver in this Nov. 11, 2012, file photo. (Associated Press)

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** FILE ** A worker inspects a marijuana plant at a grow ... more >

The day after Colorado approved recreational marijuana by a wide margin, the headline in the Aspen Times asked, “Aspendam?” referring to Amsterdam’s marijuana cafes.

Colorado’s tourism director, Al White, tried to downplay the prospect of a new marijuana-tourism boom.

“It won’t be as big a deal as either side hopes or fears,” Mr. White said.

Maybe not. But many are asking about marijuana tourism.

Ski resorts are “certainly watching it closely,” said Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association that represents 21 Colorado resorts.

Any plans for an adults-only apres lounge where skiers could get more than an Irish coffee to numb their aches?

“There’s a lot that remains to be seen,” Ms. Rudolph said with a chuckle. “I guess you could say we’re waiting for the smoke to clear.”

The Colorado counties where big ski resorts are located seem to have made up their minds. The marijuana measure passed by overwhelming margins, with more support than in less-visited areas.

Aspen’s home county approved the marijuana measure more than 3-1. More than two-thirds approved marijuana in the home county of Colorado’s largest ski resort, Vail. The home county of Telluride ski resort gave marijuana legalization its most lopsided victory, with nearly 8 in 10 voters favoring the measure.

“Some folks might come to Colorado to enjoy some marijuana, as will be their right. So what?” said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Colorado marijuana campaign.

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