Top 10 Holiday Destinations For Cannabis Lovers
Tourists looking for the best places for a weed-friendly holiday can check out our list of the 10 best vacation spots for stoners who want a trippy trip.
Love to travel? So do we. We also love weed, and nothing beats a vacation where that’s part of the equation. When exploring a new place, the culture shock can be a vivid experience while high. You’re likely to meet kindred spirits who also love cannabis. You can unwind with an indica or go party with a sativa. Indica for staying “in” and sativa for going out is the simplest way of remembering the distinction.
If you’re not up to speed on your weed knowledge, many weed-friendly tourist destinations have services and tours to educate you. It could be well worth expanding your horizons with a weed-centric holiday. Luckily, more and more destinations offer services catered to ganja-lovers. Many countries are decriminalising small amounts of cannabis or instructing police to look the other way. Other countries, however, enforce strict laws, even the death penalty.
Wherever you’re travelling, we advise you to be responsible, respectful, and discreet. You must be clear on local laws before you get there. In some countries, the laws are very accommodating to the enjoyment of cannabis. There are even legal, regulated industries emerging. The economic activity this creates spills over into one of the world’s largest industries, tourism. Sites like Bud+Breakfast can source accommodations that are friendly for smoking. Kush Tourism can advise you on the world’s hotspots for cannabis-lovers.
Here, we have put together a list of the nicest places to visit for a cannabis-themed holiday. These are 10 destinations with a progressive attitude toward the herb. Each should provide an unforgettable experience. In no particular order, here are ten places with the least restrictive cannabis laws.
1. THE NETHERLANDS
We’ll get this one out of the way at the top of our list. For decades, weed-lovers have flocked to the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam and other large cities of the Holland provinces, from which the term “Holland” emerged. Since the 1970s, Dutch police have been instructed to ignore “coffeeshops” selling cannabis once they followed certain guidelines. These guidelines have changed over the years, including a ban on commercial cultivation only coming under review by the current government.
If regulated cultivation is introduced, the product quality in Dutch coffeeshops could become even better. Already, they have become world-famous as tourists flock to light-up in a variety of coffeeshops. A controversial ID system restricting access to Dutch citizens was eventually rejected by Amsterdam. They see the cannabis subculture as an important generator of tourism revenue, as have other cities; though check local laws to be certain before you travel. Find a coffeeshop with the vibe that suits you, from the laidback and cozy to the high-end or high-energy.
Spain has taken a different approach from the Netherlands in their tolerance of cannabis. It still attracts many tourists who want to experience Spanish cannabis culture, however. Once inside, a “cannabis social club” in, say, Barcelona may look and feel similar to a coffeeshop in Amsterdam. An important distinction is how you get inside. Whereas any adult with ID can enter Dutch coffeeshops, the Spanish cannabis clubs require you to sign up for paid membership first. This way, when you hand them money for high-quality bud, you’re not purchasing it; you’re “donating” towards the cost of the club’s non-profit cultivation for members.
This allows Spanish citizens to access quality cannabis for personal consumption as part of a non-profit co-operative. The clubs are subject to other restrictions, and are usually in lounge spaces hidden from public view. Sometimes they are hosted in a member’s apartment. The guidelines governing clubs varies from region to region, with some provinces not allowing them at all. Be sure to visit a part of Spain where the regional government tolerates cannabis clubs. There are many clubs who offer non-Spanish visitors memberships, but tighter regulations are something to monitor. The Catalan government governing Barcelona, for example, recently passed laws requiring a waiting period of two weeks before activating membership. So do plan ahead.
Jamaica has long been associated with marijuana. This is not just because of the Rastafari religion, whose practitioners were allowed to use cannabis as a sacrament. The connected movement of reggae music also did much internationally to popularise Jamaica’s links to cannabis. In fact, there is a significant community of cannabis cultivators in Jamaica. Its Caribbean climate is pretty much perfect for growing, and the Jamaican government is looking to develop cultivation of medical cannabis plants for research and prescribed medicine.
2015 saw a whole series of reforms, closer to reflecting the country’s tolerant attitude toward cannabis. Possessing less than two ounces (56.6 grams) is now considered a petty offence. And if you have a valid prescription for medical marijuana in your country, you can actually apply for a permit to access medical marijuana in Jamaica. This is a lot more flexible than most tropical islands with stunning beaches and vivid rainforests to take in. There is, however, still no formal legalizing of retail, but well-informed locals should be able to help you find some very good weed to enjoy discreetly.
This is more off the beaten track than our other suggestions, although word is spreading. Thailand and Vietnam are both popular with tourists, and their visitors are increasingly going to Cambodia on their trips to Southeast Asia. There is rich history and beautiful temples to explore in this country. Now, there is also a relaxed attitude surrounding cannabis that is friendly to tourists. Cannabis is illegal in Cambodia, yet the police seem to have been instructed to tolerate its sale and consumption. Keep in mind, they have been known to selectively enforce prohibition and harsly.
By and large though, Cambodia is tolerant enough to be considered a smoker’s paradise. Weed is often sold openly in marketplaces, and at remarkably low prices. The abundance of cannabis comes from a flourishing cultivation sector. The cultivation methods are simple, with little curing; so quality can vary, with the best weed going to export. But weed can be found pretty much anywhere and is often cooked into recipes. Any place offering “happy pizza” will serve a pizza cooked with cannabis for a powerful edible high. Bon appetit.
5. VANCOUVER, CANADA
Oh, Canada. That surfer-dude-looking prime minister of yours has committed to legalizing recreational marijuana completely at a federal level. This will bring the law in line with Canadians’ positive attitude toward marijuana, and is likely to attract even more tourism. There is already so much to see in Canada aside from their long-standing cannabis culture. Now that each province will be able to open stores for regulated, quality-controlled cannabis, the sights will be enhanced for any visitor.
The legalization of recreational marijuana is scheduled to begin on Canada Day, 1st July, 2018. This will apply throughout the whole country, but will be particularly welcome news to the people of British Columbia. Their oceanic climate on Canada’s west coast has helped them become a major centre of cannabis cultivation. Even before legalization, the city of Vancouver tolerated a number of coffeeshops where cannabis could be smoked openly. With a long-established cannabis culture and views of the spectacular Canadian Rockies, we recommend including Vancouver on your trip to Canada.
6. COLORADO, USA
Dazzling views of the Rocky Mountains in a pioneering city known for reforming marijuana laws? You also have an option for that sort of holiday in the United States. Colorado was the first state in the union to legalize recreational marijuana and set up a retail market. Colorado’s stores do not allow consumption on-site, but a number of lounge spaces have begun to emerge to cater for marijuana smokers. There are now guided tours in cities like Denver to show you the best in cannabis nightlife.
7. ALASKA, USA
Know what would be an incredible nighttime use of cannabis? Watching the northern lights while smoking Northern Lights. Alaska has also legalized the sale of cannabis, so you could actually go and experience that while high. This would be incredible, but perhaps best done at some weed-friendly accommodations. Federal land such as Alaska’s national parks could still harshly penalise possession of marijuana. So be sensible about where you travel and what you’re carrying.
8. WEST COAST, USA
The West Coast of America provides cannabis enthusiasts with plenty of opportunities for the journey of a lifetime. The beautiful forested landscapes of the Pacific Northwest are where early-adopters of legal weed Washington and Oregon opened top-notch cannabis stores. California will now see them flourish too. From the cultivation mecca of Humboldt County in the north to the iconic southern cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, you will have plenty to see and plenty to smoke.
Nevada too has legalized recreational weed. Having such easy access to bud will wonderfully enhance your trip, whether it takes place on the vividly surreal Las Vegas Strip or Nevada’s breathtaking landscapes (though again, we caution you about the penalties of marijuana possession on federal land). Lumping these connected states together is to demonstrate how many Americans already live with voter-approved legal cannabis. We hope that change continues to spread. But where are some smaller places that have always done things their own way?
9. NIMBIN, AUSTRALIA
Our last two destinations are small communities with a big love for cannabis. Australia is a tourist hotspot that has recently introduced medical cannabis. Recreational cannabis remains illegal, with penalties varying from state to state. The state of New South Wales criminalises cannabis, a policy met with considerable resistance by a town close to the northern border of Queensland. Many tourists head this way on Australia’s stunning east coast, along the route between Brisbane and Sydney.
Nimbin is the name of a town with a big reputation in Australia. The community there has attracted hippies from all over Australia. Since the 1970s, they have celebrated cannabis with regular events and open consumption. Before a police crackdown, they had even experimented with a model of coffeeshop closer to Vancouver’s than Amsterdam’s, where cannabis is not openly sold, but allowed to be smoked on-site. The people of Nimbin are friendly, welcoming, and “helpful” to visitors. They sell many hemp products in the town, and paint their buildings with bright colours and elaborate murals. They even have the Nimbin HEMP Bar and the Nimbin Hemp Embassy for all the info tourists need.
10. CHRISTIANIA, DENMARK
Our final destination on this list is a very interesting location indeed. Nimbin is associated with Australia’s counterculture, activist, and underground art movements. Likewise in Denmark, there is a small neighbourhood in the capital of Copenhagen that fills that role through a rich and fascinating history. If you have ever contemplated politics in society, or wondered where anarchism could ever be practical, Christiania is an anarchist collective living on deserted military land in Denmark’s capital.
It’s mind-opening to see people living a truly alternative lifestyle under a system of government where rules only come into being through democratic consensus. This has led to very few laws and an open cannabis trade in the market stalls of “Pusher Street”. Tourists have come to sample the weed in this iconic setting. There have been occasional outbreaks of lethal violence, but the stalls have always bounced back. You will certainly meet a lot of free spirits in this legendary micronation of Freetown Christiania. Make it a stop on your holiday to Copenhagen.
Wouldn't it be lovely to relax with your smoke and enjoy your vacation without wondering if you are safe?
4/20, the marijuana holiday, explained
What is 4/20? And why is it on April 20? Here are some answers.
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Marijuana enthusiasts gather on 4/20. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It’s 4/20, the day tens of thousands of Americans gather around the country to celebrate a drug that remains illegal in the US: marijuana.
April 20 (or 4/20) is cherished by pot smokers around the world as a reason to toke up with friends and massive crowds each year. Major rallies occur across the country, particularly in places like Colorado and California, where marijuana is legal.
But as support for marijuana legalization grows, the festivities are becoming more mainstream and commercialized. As a result, marijuana businesses are looking to leverage the holiday to find more ways to sell and market their products. This puts 4/20’s current iteration in sharp contrast to the holiday once embraced by a counterculture movement largely made up of hippies and others who decried greed, corporate influences, and all things mainstream. And that tells us a lot about how cannabis is changing in America as marijuana is legalized.
What is 4/20? And why is it on April 20?
4/20 is, in short, a holiday celebrating marijuana.
Why April 20? There are a few possible explanations for why marijuana enthusiasts’ day of celebration landed on this day, but the real origin remains a bit of a mystery.
Steven Hager, a former editor of the marijuana-focused news outlet High Times, told the New York Times that the holiday came out of a ritual started by a group of high school students in the 1970s. As Hager explained, a group of Californian teenagers ritualistically smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 pm. The ritual spread, and soon 420 became code for smoking marijuana. Eventually 420 was converted into 4/20 for calendar purposes, and the day of celebration was born. (A group of Californians published documents giving this theory legitimacy, but it’s unclear if their claims are valid.)
One common belief is that 420 was the California police or penal code for marijuana, but there’s no evidence to support those claims.
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images
Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana, hence an obvious connection between the drug and the number. But there are more than 500 active ingredients in marijuana, and only about 70 or so are cannabinoids unique to the plant, according to the Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and Its Constituents as Medicine.
A lesser-known possibility comes from the 1939 short story “In the Walls of Eryx” by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling. The story describes “curious mirage-plants” that seemed fairly similar to marijuana and appeared to get the narrator high at, according to his watch, around 4:20. Since the story is from 1939, it’s perhaps the earliest written link between marijuana and 420.
Whatever its origins, 4/20 has become a massive holiday for cannabis aficionados.
Marijuana legalization is changing 4/20
What 4/20 stands for varies from person to person. Some people just want to get high and have fun. Others see the day as a moment to push for legalization, or celebrate legalization now that more states are adopting it and it has popular opinion behind it.
In the 1970s, 4/20 was part of a smaller counterculture movement that embraced marijuana as a symbol to protest against broader systemic problems in the US, like overseas wars and the power of corporations in America. “Marijuana was the way you said you weren’t a suit,” Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, previously told me.
Joe Amon/Denver Post via Getty Images
In recent years, marijuana legalization activists have tried to bring a more formal aspect to the celebration, framing it as a moment to push their political agenda. Organizers for the 2014 Denver rally — during the first year marijuana sales were legal in the state — put out a statement comparing the battle for legal marijuana to “the time when Jews fled from slavery in Egypt,” a moment commemorated in Passover celebrations. “This year’s rally represents the continuing fight for freedom from economic slavery for marginalized members of our community and a rebirth of creative genius that will get us there,” they wrote.
Businesses are also trying to take advantage of the holiday. Eddie Miller, the CEO of Invest in Cannabis, which seeks to bring investment into the marijuana industry, told me in the early years of state-level legalization that his company was trying to build and sponsor major 4/20 gatherings around the country — similar to what other companies, some of which Miller has been involved with, have done with holidays like St. Patrick’s Day.
“Our perspective is 4/20 is a real holiday — no smaller than St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween,” Miller previously told me. “It’s just nobody knows about it yet. And our company is going to let everyone know about it.”
4/20 is becoming a commercial event
Originally 4/20 was a counterculture holiday to protest, at least in part, the social and legal stigmas against marijuana. Marijuana legalization undercuts that purpose: As big businesses and corporations begin to grow, sell, and market pot, marijuana is losing its status as a counterculture symbol — and that, Humphreys speculated, could bring the end of the traditional, countercultural 4/20.
“If a corporate marijuana industry adopts 4/20, it would still be a celebrated event, but not with the same countercultural meaning,” Humphreys said. “People celebrated Christmas long before it became an occasion for an orgy of gift-buying and materialist consumption, but the meaning of the holiday for most people was different then than it is now.”
Companies such as Invest in Cannabis admit they’re already leveraging the holiday as another opportunity to promote the industry and its products — much like beer and other alcohol companies now do with St. Patrick’s Day.
“The media is covering 4/20 as a consumer interest story,” Miller of Invest in Cannabis said. “But some portion of the media is covering 4/20 as a call to arms for the industry — so [in 2015] there are multiple competitive business conferences that are happening in Denver, the [San Francisco] Bay Area, and Las Vegas.”
Joe Amon/Denver Post/Getty Images
The pot industry has also gotten directly involved in 4/20 events. The Cannabis Cup, for example, has become a major event at a select city’s 4/20 rally, where hundreds of vendors show off their finest marijuana products to tens of thousands of attendees. The event has steadily grown over the years, featuring big concerts from notable musicians like Snoop Dogg, Soja, and 2 Chainz, as well as a wide collection of marijuana businesses as sponsors.
The Cannabis Cup is only one of many events, which also include comedy shows (like Cheech and Chong), marijuana-friendly speed dating, and trade shows for glass pipes and bongs, offering businesses and celebrities various opportunities to push their products and brands.
Some people don’t attend the public festivities at all, choosing instead to stay home and enjoy a joint (or more) with their friends. For them, 4/20 likely remains a more casual affair void of big sponsorships and marketing.
But in public, 4/20 is increasingly becoming a commercial holiday.
4/20’s shift shows how marijuana legalization will change cannabis
The shift in 4/20 from a counterculture holiday to a more corporate one shows how legalization is changing marijuana.
To many legalizers, this is a sign of their success. Legalization campaigns often adopt the tagline “regulate marijuana like alcohol.” That this is actually happening as the cannabis industry takes a form similar to the alcohol industry is a sign that legalizers are winning.
But to some drug policy experts and legalizers, this is a cause for alarm. The big concern is that a big marijuana industry will, like the tobacco and alcohol industries, irresponsibly market its drug to kids or users who already consume the drug excessively — with little care for public health and safety over the desire for profits.
To this end, many drug policy experts see alcohol as a warning, not something to be admired and followed for other drugs. For decades, big alcohol has successfully lobbied lawmakers to block tax increases and regulations on alcohol, all while marketing its product as fun and sexy in television programs, such as the Super Bowl, that are viewed by millions of Americans, including children. Meanwhile, alcohol is linked to 88,000 deaths each year in the US.
Meg Roussos/Getty Images News
If marijuana companies are able to act like the tobacco and alcohol industries have in the past, there’s a good chance that they’ll convince more Americans to try or even regularly use marijuana, and some of the heaviest users may use more of the drug. And as these companies increase their profits, they’ll be able to influence lawmakers in a way that could stifle regulations or other policies that curtail cannabis misuse. All of that will likely prove bad for public health.
Now, the situation almost certainly will not be as bad as alcohol, since alcohol is simply more dangerous than marijuana. Pot’s risks, for one, tend to be nonfatal or at least much less fatal than alcohol: addiction and overuse, accidents, non-deadly overdoses that lead to mental anguish and anxiety, and, in rare cases, potentially psychotic episodes. Marijuana has never been definitively linked to any serious ailments — not deadly overdoses or lung disease. And it’s much less likely — around one-tenth so, based on data for fatal car crashes — to cause deadly accidents than alcohol.
Given this, the focus for drug policy experts tends to be the risk of addiction and overuse. As Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, has told me, “At some level, we know that spending more than half of your waking hours intoxicated for years and years on end is not increasing the likelihood that you’ll win a Pulitzer Prize or discover the cure for cancer.”
But these risks are still risks. Yet as the marijuana industry grows, it’s likely that the dangers will be issues that the industry just doesn’t care much about — and it will market its product excessively for as much profit as possible, even if it means more public health or safety problems along the way.
Today, 4/20 is an example of this shift in action — showing cannabis’s evolution from a counterculture symbol to just another commodity that big companies can make a lot of money from.
For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.
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What is 4/20? Why is it on April 20? What does it have to do with marijuana legalization? Here are some answers.