Colorado revisits question of how legal marijuana influences tourists’ travel decisions

Access to legal marijuana isn’t a huge factor for the record number of visitors traveling to Colorado, the state’s tourism office announced Wednesday.
2 min. read
A 2010 pro-marijuana celebration at University of Colorado Boulder. (Zach Dischner/Flickr)

Access to legal marijuana isn't a huge factor for the record number of visitors traveling to Colorado, the state's tourism office announced Wednesday.

New research from SMARI shows 36 percent of travelers factored Colorado's marijuana laws into their decision to visit the state. Even less (5 percent) indicated that the availability of legal cannabis was their sole reason for visiting.

Last year, the Indianapolis-based research firm reported marijuana laws influenced vacation decisions nearly 49 percent of the time.

"That figure was discredited by the survey company, and we didn’t intend to share it," said Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

The previous survey question on marijuana's impact on travel was too vague and didn't clarify how travelers were influenced, Ritter said.

In the spring, SMARI revisited the question of how legal marijuana influenced Colorado travelers to address the "widely reported, but misleading" figures.

SMARI asked about 3,000 adults 25 and older who recently visited Colorado five questions about how the state's cannabis laws impacted their travel decisions.

Of the 36 percent of survey respondents who were influenced by Colorado's cannabis laws, 14 percent of travelers said the availability of marijuana negatively influenced their travel decisions. Another 23 percent of respondents said they were positively influenced.

"Overall, only 11 percent visited a dispensary and just 4 percent said the ability to visit a dispensary motivated their trip," the state reports.

Source: SMARI survey of Colorado tourists 25 and older, Colorado Tourism Office; April 2016

Given the new findings, Colorado is not inclined to navigate federal and state rules for marketing the state's marijuana industry as a reason to travel, Ritter said.

Even without cannabis commercials, Colorado attracted 77.7 million visitors in 2015. That's nearly equivalent to every resident in California visiting twice.

The stated reportedly raked in $19.1 billion from travelers and recorded its fifth consecutive year of record-setting growth.

"Colorado has been on a steady climb on both visitation and spending since 2009," Ritter said. "Colorado just offers so many things people are interested in doing... People come here to be inspired, find their better selves and try an adventure."

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at [email protected] or

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