Cannabis tourism a possibility for Kingston, but comes with challenges

Click to play video 'Challenges of cannabis tourism in Kingston' Challenges of cannabis tourism in Kingston
WATCH: The cannabis tourism industry faces several legal hurdles that prevent businesses from advertising their products and services – Mar 26, 2019

Beginning April 1, 25 cannabis stores across Ontario will be allowed to open their doors, including two retail stores in Kingston. But will opening the door to retail cannabis mean that cannabis tourism soon takes off?

Bill Durnford, chair of Tourism Kingston, says he has heard from several international tourists that many Americans are excited to make the trip north following the legalization of cannabis.

READ MORE: Not all 25 Ontario cannabis shops will be ready to open on Monday

“I spoke with a few farmers from Alaska, and they were making some offhand comments about cannabis being legal in Canada and they are able to smoke up,” said Durnford.

Unlike other retail products or tourist attractions, the promotion of cannabis is hampered by several federal rules.

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“The tourism industry that is interested in exploring the types of services … that include cannabis or cannabis experiences [should] be very careful to navigate the regulatory environment with respect to promotion and marketing because that is heavily restricted in Canada. Not just with respect to the sale of cannabis: it also includes the offering of services related to cannabis, ” said Trina Fraser, a partner at Brazeau Seller Law, in an interview with Global News on March 4.

READ MORE: Canada a global destination for weed tourism? Not anytime soon

The rules that govern cannabis are similar to tobacco, particularly when it comes to restrictions on marketing and advertising. For instance, cigarettes have been kept out of sight at convenience stores for years as part of an effort to protect young people from underage smoking. Now, cannabis retailers will have to follow similar rules that prevent them from using typical marketing campaigns to target tourists.

The current rules allow producers like VIVO in Napanee, Ont., and Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls, Ont., to have tourists inside but not to experience their products on site.  Kingston currently does not have a cannabis plant that could accommodate tours, but if one were to open, Tourism Kingston believes it could draw people from Canada and abroad.

READ MORE: Should parents lock up their pot? Probably, lawyers warn

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Global News spoke to both tourists and Kingstonians about the idea of tours at cannabis production sites, and many said they are intrigued by the process and would be interested in seeing how it is produced.

READ MORE: ‘Bring the fun back to cannabis’: Pot-themed Smiths Falls golf course hopes to boost local economy

Next month, Rolling Greens Golf Club in Smiths Falls will become eastern Ontario’s first cannabis-friendly business.