Weed Growing into Sports Tourism via Tailgates at Pro and College Games | Sports Destination Management

Weed Growing into Sports Tourism via Tailgates at Pro and College Games

Dec 08, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

What profit margin is getting high? The one for cannabis tourism, apparently.

From a niche concern when weed was legal in only a few states, to today’s widespreadgrowth in legalization (and resulting acceptance), the wish of individuals (and groups) to enjoy cannabis-based travel has proliferated, becoming a part of the fast-growing agritourism market. It even has its own nonprofit 501(c)(6) trade organization (the Cannabis Tourism Association International).

According to The Conversation, “legal cannabis consumption rose in the US and Europe during the pandemic, with some people turning to marijuana to help them cope with lockdowns and broken routines. Meanwhile, fewer people today view the drug as harmful compared to previous decades.” All that has created an economy that keeps expanding.

This interactive map is kept up to date on where cannabis is legal, and for what type of use.

Little by little, cannabis is seeping into the sports tourism market, although it is unlikely to exert an influence over youth sports. Both markets are distinctly different, after all, in terms of demographics, accommodations, interests, priorities and spending habits. Marijuana tourism is still a niche market; it is leisure travel and participants tend to seek out accommodations where they can light up freely. (In fact, one of the members of the Cannabis Tourism Association is HiBnb, a platform of cannabis-friendly properties, as well as information on related events.)

Where marijuana tourism is starting to intersect with sports tourism, however, is on the tailgate scene for both college and pro sports. And while many stadiums outlaw smoking or vaping within their walls, there is far less policing of tailgate parties.

The phenom was first spotted by the New York Times, where reporters infiltrated tailgates at (of course) a Denver Broncos game, gleefully reporting on details such as the presence of “righteous-smelling marijuana — the sativa variety — in a pipe that is detailed with a neat little Denver Broncos insignia.”

Since then, what is sometimes jokingly known as “herbaceous tailgating” has become a subject to be examined in detail. HBO explored the topic in this video, interviewing users who were lighting up as part of their pregame experience. And, participants noted, it has its advantages:

Agritourism_Marijuana“People who smoke weed are generally non-violent and do not start trouble. Probably the biggest threat you will see in the parking lot when surrounded by stoners is that the seven layer dip will get crushed before anyone else has the chance to get a second bite. Drunk people, on the other hand? How many tailgates have you attended where a fight broke out because at least one, if not both of the combatants were drunk? We’re willing to guess a lot more drunks than stoners are squaring off because someone is wearing the wrong color jersey.”

The reporters at the New York Times seconded that, noting, “The [Denver] fans insist that pot leaves them mellower. They get their orange jerseys and scream fiercely and all that. But this isn’t New York or Philadelphia. Fighting is extremely unchill.”

That may be part of the reason the cannabis industry has put a big bullseye on the university demographic and is rolling out the red green carpet to make it feel welcome.

In October 2021, GreenMarketReport noted, “The college market is a particular focus of these new tailgate-tailored products. Lansing-based Pure Options sent out an invite to Michigan State fans to an all-season tailgate in front of Spartan Stadium. Michigan cannabis company SKYMINT recently launched their Tailgate Collection, which includes cannabis-infused gummies, “Varsity Blue” and “Green Machine,” as well as the terpene-heavy “Tailgate Vape.” To celebrate the annual Michigan vs. Michigan State game, SKYMINT scheduled a tailgate party at their East Lansing location on October 30.”

College students’ willingness to use cannabis trended upward sharply in 2020; at the same time, alcohol usage fell, including lowered binge drinking, getting drunk and overall alcohol use.

“This is all to say,” Green MarketReport added, “that the college tailgating crowd isn’t only primed for some grit and glory on the gridiron, but for a creative range of products and events that offer alternatives to boozy barbecues.”

The economic boon of tailgating in marijuana-friendly states is another area of interest to the sports tourism industry. MerryJane.com reported that following the 2014 Super Bowl, where the Seattle Seahawks emerged victorious, “Seattle area dispensaries reported record sales. While many drinkers may opt not to smoke their way through tailgates, fans who previously didn’t have access to their buzz of choice will be funneling cash into the local community. That means more happy customers enjoying the game on their own terms, and more local businesses and communities thriving.”

There’s even a market for the specific strains of cannabis thought to pair well with the pregame scene. One is known as Tail Gate and is listed as “the perfect bud to get you pumped and ready to chill.”

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