This California metropolis turned down marijuana. Now hashish is an official vacationer attraction.

Marijuana legalization was slowly coming 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, based in Modesto, medical marijuana pharmacies were banned for years. A 2006 raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration of a medical marijuana pharmacy in city limits – which followed 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 cannabis prisoners in the state.) This wasn’t grassland.

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.

Cannabis is now an official tourist attraction in Modesto, California.

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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 the Modesto Bee reported, Modesto’s Tourism Association began to come up with ideas to draw visitors to the area – awkwardly 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 either – 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, according to budget documents, they were spending enough to generate $ 3.2 million in cannabis corporate taxes for the city – more than the city’s hotel tax and one-sixth of the city’s property taxes.

391492 01: A view of the archway leading into the city of Modesto July 5, 2001 in Modesto, CA. … [+] Chandra Ann Levy, the daughter of Robert and Susan Levy, had just completed an internship with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and was about to return to Modesto for college when she disappeared on April 30, 2000. (Photo by Jason Kirk / Getty Images)

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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 suggests 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?

Following the example of similar promotions across the country for the local beer, wine or coffee industry, Modesto’s “MoTown CannaPass” hardly offers any offers in local pharmacies the way a city could advertise a winery.

Instead, it’s more “education-focused” 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, maybe, but a deliberately slow start. And compared to Modesto a decade ago, it’s a step forward.