The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

November 9, 2012

Marijuana vote bodes well for weed tourism

— Hit the slopes — and then a bong?

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

Both marijuana measures make marijuana possession in small amounts OK for all adults over 21 — 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 purchase and use 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 at all. 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 law.

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.

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," 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 après lounge where skiers could get more than an Irish coffee to numb their aches?

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

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