Apr 19, 2024 - News

Why Seattle isn't much of a weed destination city — yet

Marijuana moving illustration

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Seattle trails Denver, Portland, Las Vegas and even Buffalo, New York, as a weed destination city in the U.S., per a recent survey.

Why it matters: It's been more than a decade since Washington became one of the first two states in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use along with Colorado, but industry insiders say Washington has room to grow its reputation as a destination cannabis spot.

State of play: Some cities at the top of the cannabis visitor ranking created by Leafly and Real Estate Witch allow cannabis consumption lounges, including Denver and Las Vegas, which recently approved such parlors under a pilot program.

  • More permissible regulations about where cannabis can be consumed mean Denver and other Colorado cities can offer cannabis-infused tours, classes and various other experiences in addition to lounges, per Mayer.
  • But that's not likely to happen in Washington, at least not under current state laws, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) spokesperson Julie Graham told Axios.
  • Approval of cannabis lounges would require legislators to not only change the consumption laws but also address the Clean Indoor Air Act that prohibits smoking in public spaces, Graham said.

Between the lines: Being the best city for cannabis isn't just about the number and quality of dispensaries — metrics used in the Leafly study — "it's about how cannabis can be embedded into the social fabric of the community," Mayer said.

  • "Right now, Seattle isn't necessarily a 'weed city' but a city that has weed," Mayer said.
  • Short of changing state laws, Mayer said Washington Airbnbs and hotels could explore options to allow cannabis smoking.
  • Cannabis businesses could also try to capitalize on the state's reputation for producing some of the best indoor-grown cannabis in the country, he said.

Stunning stat: The state collected $465 million in excise taxes alone from the sale of cannabis products in fiscal year 2023, per LCB data.

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