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Survey at Fort Lewis College in Durango: Marijuana not a major tourism driver

Colorado’s pot sales add a slight competitive edge, FLC professor says

Tourists stopping in at pot shops are not coming to Colorado specifically for marijuana, a recent survey by a Fort Lewis College professor found.

Shortly after marijuana was legalized, the survey garnered answers from 325 people exiting five marijuana shops across three Southwest Colorado counties, said Lorraine Taylor, assistant professor of management at FLC.

The survey is part of Taylor’s larger study on the effect of marijuana on the tourism industry that has not been completed.

But the early findings are positive for those who feared marijuana would damage Colorado’s reputation as a family-friendly destination, she said.

“I think a couple years ago, we were really worried – we as in the tourism community – that just hoards of people were going to come and get stoned and sit on Main Street. That’s not what’s happening,” she said.

Instead, most tourists are coming to Colorado to partake in other recreational activities, she said. But being able to purchase legal marijuana in Colorado is “the icing on the cake.”

The attraction of marijuana is likely to diminish as a tourism factor in the coming years because other states are working on legalization efforts, Taylor said. There are efforts in nine states to legalize marijuana in 2016, CNN reported in November.

The study also found that while some people surveyed were purchasing marijuana legally for the first time, 200 of the 325 people used marijuana daily.

“If you are a daily user, you probably have access to product that you wouldn’t have to pay such a high tax on, but yet these people are going to the legal shops as opposed to the black market,” she said.

Many people said they preferred to buy products legally because legal weed is more likely to have been tested. Therefore, it’s safer to use.

The views reflected in the survey came mostly from men younger than 30 because that demographic was the most open to sharing, Taylor said.

Taylor plans to continue her survey work in the spring. At that time, she plans to hone in on the main reasons why tourists purchase marijuana using a methodology that could be replicated by other researchers.

“There is not a lot of academic research on marijuana,” she said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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