We usher in 2016 with the hope that a few states will join Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. as newly minted members of the legal cannabis club. In the meantime, we took a closer look at the states that are currently operating legal retail cannabis dispensaries to see where exactly their visitors are coming from. What percentage of out-of-state folks is curious about what Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have to offer?
We took a look at the last six months of data and broke out visits to Colorado dispensary pages by their state of origin, excluding Colorado so we could focus on out-of-state visitors.
As you can see from the bar graph, the top two states sending traffic to Colorado’s dispensary listings on Leafly are Texas at nearly 33% and Florida at close to 11%. Interestingly, neither state has a legal recreational or medical marijuana market in place, although they did recently pass low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil laws. Florida has selected growers for its program, but no cannabis oil has been dispensed yet. Texas, meanwhile, does not expect to be operational until 2017.
Why are two highly restrictive states so interested in Colorado? An obvious answer is tourism. Unlike Washington and Oregon, which are tucked away in the northwest corner of the United States, Colorado is ideally situated closer to the middle of the country, making it an ideal location to visit. And despite the Colorado tourism director insisting that cannabis is not a major tourism draw for the state, both a state survey and our data suggest there’s definitely growing interest in checking out Colorado’s legal cannabis market.
Colorado is also becoming a more attractive place to live for a myriad of reasons. A number of people from illegal states, dubbed “marijuana refugees,” have migrated to Colorado for legal access to cannabis that can help treat themselves or their family members suffering from diseases. Young college graduates are also flocking to Colorado, and the real estate market has increased by double-digits post-legalization thanks in some part to a population boom and the cannabis industry producing more jobs (which means more people can afford to buy homes). It’s possible that in addition to tourist interest, pro-cannabis or cannabis-curious people who are considering moving to Colorado may be checking out the state’s dispensary pages to see what the legal market has to offer.
As with Colorado’s data, we analyzed the last three months’ worth of visits to Washington dispensary pages.
Nearly 40% of out-of-state visits to Washington dispensary pages come from California, with Oregon taking 2nd place with just over 14%. Both states’ proximity to Washington makes the data largely unsurprising, as it’s a relatively easy road trip or flight away for a quick getaway.
Another possible explanation for California’s traffic numbers is that there’s been a recent influx of people relocating from California to Washington. Between 2004 and 2013, over 339,000 moved from the Golden State to the Evergreen State. Washington’s recent tech industry boom, comparatively cheaper cost of living, and yes, legal cannabis are certainly all perks to moving further north.
Oregon’s traffic data looks like a reversal of Washington’s, with over 39% of out-of-state traffic coming from its northern neighbor and 30% originating from California.
Again, tourism is a likely factor here since Oregon is sandwiched between Washington and California, making it an appealing destination for a quick cannabis-friendly weekend getaway.
Why should dispensary owners and managers care about which out-of-state visitors are coming to their dispensaries? From a business perspective, it’s always an advantage to know your customers and their background so you can cater a personalized experience and convert their interest into a sale. Consider the following tips to help your business seem especially appealing to an out-of-towner:
Educate and Inform.
Out-of-state customers may need a little more education about cannabis, so offer more dedicated customer service and guidance to make your visitors feel at ease. Remember, they’re not experts and may even feel a little intimidated surrounded by a roomful of products that are still illegal in their state, so make them feel comfortable and be available to answer any questions they have. You may even want to put together a pamphlet or binder that contains some basic Cannabis 101 information that may benefit your out-of-state clientele.
Personalize the Experience.
Make your business seem appealing to a diverse pool of tourists or visitors. For example, if you have a retail dispensary in Colorado and know that a lot of people from Texas are likely to frequent your business, consider going the extra mile and work on your Texas charm – talk barbecue, Texas sports teams, local fashion, or anything that might put a smile on your visitor’s face. Or you could offer a few vanity strains, such as Cali Kush to a California native or Blue Bayou for someone hailing from Louisiana.
Offer Out-of-State-Friendly Products.
Pre-rolls are great for visitors since they might not have traveled with a vaporizer or bong, and lower-THC strains or edibles are a good idea as well for any tourists that are new to cannabis and don’t want to feel overwhelmed. (Just make sure you explain proper edibles dosing to your customers!)
Embrace Cannabis Tourism.
Colorado seems to be having an identity crisis with its cannabis tourism and doesn’t want to be cemented as the place to go for legal green. But honestly, what’s so bad about embracing the tourism angle? Sure, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon have a lot more to offer than just legal retail cannabis, but if the appeal of it brings visitors across state lines, it’s a win-win for the local economy. There’s a saying that goes “A rising tide lifts all ships,” meaning retail cannabis attracting visitors from different states brings in not just cannabis tax income, but benefits hotels, restaurants, local attractions, etc. So why not put a smile on your face and greet your out-of-state visitors with outstretched arms and an open mind? They’re bringing you business, after all!