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Après Ski

Getting High in the Rockies

Will cannabis tourism drive more skiers to Canada’s slopes this winter?

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Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
“A shot and a doobie, please.”Photo courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb

On October 17, 2018, Canada officially became only the second country (after Uruguay) to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana nationwide. Elated Canadians celebrated the landmark legalization by lining up outside government pot retailers, some in the middle of the night, in anticipation of buying their first state-approved joint when the doors opened in the morning.

Which begs the question: is this the beginning of longer lines at Canada’s ski lifts? After all, we don’t need market segment reports to know that quite a few skiers like to get high.

If Colorado’s 2014 legalization is any indication, there might be some initial hype that drives vacationers to destinations where recreational weed consumption is kosher. “When it started three years ago it was kind of the rage, and marijuana tourism was kind of a big deal,” Aspen, Colo.’s mayor Steven Skadron told The Star. It seems weed is still kind of a big deal in the mountain resort town of about 7,000. This year marks the first year that Aspen’s marijuana shops pulled in more revenue than the town’s liquor stores.

Now Canadian mountain towns like Jasper, gateway to Marmot Basin, are hoping for the same kind of hype to attract more tourists and revenue to their towns. Tourism Jasper general manager James Jackson told The Star it’s too soon to say if legal weed will prove to be a significant attraction that will in itself draw more tourists to the resort town.

“We’re a busy tourism destination year-round, and I hope that the cannabis legislation will just add to the attractiveness of our community,” Jackson said.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em.Photo courtesy of SkiBig3

If legal weed alone doesn’t draw skiers from states and countries where pot is not yet sanctioned to Canadian resorts this winter, we’re willing to bet the combo of newly added Ikon and Epic Pass benefits and the idea of enjoying legal pot will indeed drive more skiers to resorts from Tremblant to Whistler this season.

For those scanning the list of Canadian resorts included on their season pass and are already planning the ultimate Rocky Mountain High ski vacation, here are some things to know about Canada’s new weed laws:

1. Marijuana laws will vary by province

While weed is now legal across the country, Canada’s 13 provinces and territories set their own rules when it comes to where and how you can purchase recreational marijuana. In some provinces, weed will only be available for purchase in government brick-and-mortar stores, or online from a government-run site. In others, you’ll only be able to buy from private retail stores.

2. Public consumption laws will also vary by province

In Ontario, B.C. and Alberta (outside Calgary), you’ll be able to smoke weed wherever you can smoke cigarettes (excluding parks and beaches in B.C.). But it’s worth noting that across Canada, many hotels are banning marijuana, and ski resorts like Whistler have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to toking on the hill and in the resort’s establishments.

2. Edibles are not yet legal

As of now, you’ll only be able to buy fresh or dried flower, seeds, plants and oil in Canada. Cannabis-infused edibles and concentrates won’t be legalized until next year.

4. Driving while high carries a stiff penalty

Expect a fine of at least $1,000 CAD and possibly time behind bars if caught driving under the influence.

5. Remember that weed is still not legal across the U.S. 

You’d do well to remember that marijuana is still forbidden by U.S. federal law, so don’t be trying to take legal weed from Canada across the border to the U.S. with you.