Marijuana legalization slowly came to Modesto, California, a town of about 212,000 people in the state’s Central Valley, a huge, flat area of farms criss-crossed by highways, new residential areas – and values to the right of the state’s coastal cities.
In Stanislaus County, which is based in Modesto, medical marijuana pharmacies were banned for years. A 2006 Drug Enforcement Administration raid of a medical marijuana pharmacy in city limits – which obeyed state laws and paid state sales taxes – that landed both co-owners in federal prisons set the tone. (One of the former owners, Luke Scarmazzo, is still in jail — one of the last federal pot prisoners in the state.) That was Not Weed land.
Although California voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016, the first legal commercial cannabis dispensaries in Modesto didn’t open until 2019, and then only after the local city council Voted to ban them from downtown.
But now marijuana makes more money for Modesto than hotels and tourism.
In what is believed to be the first sanctioned “citywide cannabis tourism program” in the United States, Modesto’s Official Convention and Visitors Bureau is now officially promoting Modesto’s cannabis dispensaries when tourism picks up with what they call a “cannabis passport”.
As reported by the Modesto bee, Modesto’s Tourism Association began developing ideas to attract visitors to the area – inconveniently located, somehow near Interstate-5 that connects Los Angeles to the Bay Area, as well as the main route from the Bay Area to Yosemite National Park but not directly on both – about a year ago after tourism dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic
According to the city’s books, promoting weed was the smartest move. About 40 percent of the customer base of the city’s roughly two dozen cannabis dispensaries come from outside the city, according to Bee.
And in 2020, they spent enough to raise $ 3.2 million in cannabis corporate taxes for the city. according to budget documents– more than the city’s hotel tax and one-sixth of the city’s property taxes.
As more cannabis stores come to the area, that total is likely to rise again. And with travel resuming now, with vaccines against the novel coronavirus available – and tourism data suggesting 30 percent of all travelers love weed anywhere – Modesto’s status as a byway between travel destinations could work in its favor
Refueling, a detour to In-N-Out – and a detour to the weed shop? Why not?
“In this post-pandemic world we are entering, travelers drive around a lot. They are looking for new experiences. And we promoted Modesto, from the Almond Blossom Cruise to Modesto Loves Dogs to Graffiti Summer, ”Todd Aaronson, CEO of Visit Modesto, told the newspaper. “And if 30% of all travelers are interested in cannabis in one way or another, why not help them find easy access and enjoy the process?
Modesto’s “MoTown CannaPass“Stops offering offers in local pharmacies, like a city might advertise a winery.
Instead, it is “more educated” for the time being, city officials said – which is likely a smart move in a city that launched its legal cannabis industry relatively recently. In addition to official encouragement to patronize Modesto’s legal cannabis stores instead of unlicensed sources, anyone who signed up for a CannaPass could pick up some stickers, a grinder, and a lighter from the local biscuit dispensary.
Modest, perhaps, but a deliberately slow start. And compared to Modesto a decade ago, it’s a step forward.