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Tribal Cannabis Tourism and Current Status of Federal Legislation Impacting the Cannabis Industry

As Tribes expand their economic endeavors into the cannabis industry, the growth of cannabis tourism is a natural development. Below, we offer details on how cannabis tourism could support Tribal governments’ economic development efforts. We also provide an update on the status of pending federal legislation that could bring positive impacts to the cannabis industry.    

Cannabis Tourism

With the pandemic continuing to take a toll on the tourism industry, many U.S. states and territories are exploring ways to help that industry recover. One potential savior for tourism is cannabis. As states went into varying levels of lockdown in early 2020, businesses deemed “nonessential,” including recreational facilities, gyms, bars, restaurants, etc. were forced to shut down. However, early into lockdown, cannabis was deemed “essential” in California, a designation other states with functional cannabis markets quickly adopted. In total, nearly 30 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, deemed cannabis businesses essential. This triggered some major changes in the industry, including:

With all of these changes, cannabis tourism has developed into a potentially rewarding industry that Tribal governments might be able to cultivate as part of efforts to recover economic losses suffered by their tourism and other businesses 

What is Cannabis Tourism?

Cannabis tourism is most generally characterized as a destination-based industry that attracts tourists because cannabis is legal in that location. But the industry can take many forms. For example, tourists might visit a dispensary to learn more about the development of cannabis crops, stay at a “bud and breakfast,” tour a cannabis farm or growing facility, or dine at a restaurant with cannabis-infused dishes. Cannabis tourism can also have a positive knock-on effect for many other Tribal businesses.

How can Tribes Participate?

Interested Tribes can create specific cannabis-centered tourist destinations. One example is opening a farm or growing facility that is similar to a wine vineyard, where consumers can tour the facility and sample the products. This concept would serve multiple functions in that the farm would supply dispensaries while providing a tourism destination that would benefit hotels, restaurants, and the local economy. 

Another route is to add cannabis tourism into existing tourism infrastructure. Tribes can take advantage of their land base and natural resources by offering cannabis hikes or camping expeditions, where participants are able to experience nature while partaking. Tribes with resort properties can offer CBD-infused massages at their spa, include CBD and hemp products at their gift shops, or offer travel packages designed for cannabis tourists. The idea behind this approach is to utilize the Tribe’s existing tourism infrastructure to provide new cannabis tourism options.

Federal Cannabis Legislation Update

The following is an update on pending federal legislation that would impact the cannabis industry. Summaries of previous cannabis legislative developments are provided in past articles..  

The Democrats control both the House and the Senate (with Vice President Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 Senate) but passing any cannabis legislation in the current Congress might prove difficult. The filibuster rules require 60 votes for a bill to pass the Senate, so any cannabis legislation would need relatively strong bipartisan support.

The future of federal cannabis law remains unclear, but Tribes interested in the cannabis industry can start taking steps now to establish the necessary framework to support this new area of Tribal economic enterprise.

© 2022 Van Ness Feldman LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 342
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About this Author

Robert Conrad, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm, Washington DC, Energy and Environmental Law Attorney
Associate

Robert Conrad is a  graduate of American University Washington College of Law.  His areas of interest include natural resources, historic preservation, land use, energy and environmental law. Prior to law school, Robert participated in the Conservation and Diversity Project Internship Program with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and interned at the United States Department of Agriculture through the Washington Internship for Native Students program.

Robert is an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in...

202-298-1927
Laura E. Jones American Indian Law Attorney Van Ness Feldman Denver, CO
Associate

Laura focuses her practice on American Indian law, including economic development work, federal regulatory issues, environmental compliance, and federal-tribal consultation, as well as a broad range of civil litigation.  Laura has represented tribal and non-tribal businesses with regulatory and compliance matters, land use issues, and commercial lending transactions.  

Prior to joining Van Ness Feldman, Laura served as legal counsel for a tribal e-commerce corporation and previously worked at an international law firm in their Denver, Colorado office. Laura is a citizen of the...

202-298-1918
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