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The First Government-backed Marijuana Tourism Campaign Launches in Northern California

Modesto's "MoTown CannaPass" aims to encourage visitor spending in the cannabis industry.

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This story originally appeared on Leaf Report

Federal law in the United States still outlaws cannabis, but states and cities are becoming so comfortable with legal marijuana that they’re starting to build tourism around the plant.

Local officials in Modesto, a medium-sized city in California of some 215,000 people, announced Friday what’s believed to be the first ever government-sponsored cannabis tourism initiative anywhere in America. The educational campaign is focused on supporting the city’s dispensaries while also teaching visitors how to properly shop, smoke and dispose of the plant.

The free MoTown CannaPass is available online and offers a variety of perks and discounts to those who sign up.

“We wanted to create a program centered around education because cannabis is as legal as beer and wine and whiskey,” Visit Modesto CEO Todd Aaronson told the Modesto Bee “We want to make sure the community and users are all comfortable.”

The campaign kicked off this weekend with buy-one, get-one-free tickets to Cheech & Chong’s “Up in Smoke” tour stop at the Modesto State Theatre as well as a similar offer for a showing of popular stoner comedy “Pineapple Express.” Aaronson said the site will offer a slew of additional discounts when the campaign makes its public launch this week. Visit Modesto partnered with cannabis travel consultant Cultivar Strategies, as well as Cookies, a local marijuana retail dispensary, to put the program together.

RELATED: Can I Take Marijuana on a Plane?

Tapping into the weed market

The idea for the CannaPass came during the COVID-19 pandemic last year when the city’s tourism industry came to a screeching halt. Aaronson said his group found untapped opportunities in marijuana. A group survey found that 30 percent of visitors were interested in marijuana and that 40 percent of product sales at local dispensaries went to tourists.

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in California since 2016, when voters passed Prop 64 to allow adults 21 and older to buy the plant through licensed dispensaries. Recreational sales began in 2018 and Modesto now has over 20 marijuana stores.

The CannaPass also provides information, resources and specials to help users buy and experience the plant. That includes products with psychoactive THC as well as medicinal hemp and CBD products. The site helps users to pair their local cannabis experiences with local food, art and outdoor activities.

“We found that people who participate in cannabis, hemp and CBD are also foodies, into wine tourism and enjoy the outdoors,” Aaronson said. “We just wanted to make sure they could do all the things they like.”