It’s not easy being a marijuana tourist these days.
If you head to Colorado or Washington hoping to enjoy some weed while on vacation, there are big obstacles in your way. You can’t smoke publicly, which means no lighting up at restaurants, on park benches, or even in your rental car. Some hotels have designated smoking rooms, but those tend to get snapped up quickly. And even if you are lucky enough to snag one, you can’t smoke on a balcony or by a window where passersby might see you. Smoking in the corner of a dark, dank windowless hotel room is a sure way to kill your buzz.
So what’s a pot-loving traveler to do? Enter Bud and Breakfast, a brand new company that launched at the start of this month with the goal of giving tourists the right ambiance for a marijuana vacation. (And not to be confused with Bud+Breakfast, which is more like a chain of spas–and, what with the similar name and idea, helps illuminate just how frantic this green rush is.)
“We’re essentially the Airbnb of cannabis,” says Sean Roby, Bud and Breakfast’s founder and CEO. “People list their homes on our sites from places where cannabis is legalized, both in the U.S. and also overseas in places like Jamaica and Uruguay.”
For Americans looking to take a local vacation, Colorado currently has the highest number of listings, which is just as well, because many hotels catering to cannabis tourists there are overbooked. (Every single Bud and Breakfast listing was sold out for April 20.)
Currently, Roby is funding the site himself, but as it expands, he says that he might be open to exploring at private equity opportunities. Roby is a veteran of the tourism industry, having launched a Taste of Travel over a decade ago. That company organizes specialized activities for tourists around the country, including wine tastings, sustainable agriculture tours and farm to table experiences. Bud and Breakfast will be a subsidiary of this larger business. Roby has worked closely with Napa Valley tourists, building lodging, and creating events and tours that will allow them to enjoy wine. He believes he can provide similar experiences for marijuana tourists. “I want our locations to be like the Napa Valley of cannabis,” he says.
While the Bud and Breakfat concept is similar to Airbnb, Roby explains that there are significant differences as well. The people who list their properties on Bud and Breakfast try to make cannabis a central part of the experience for their guests. For instance, many will provide strains of the herb and edibles in their homes, together with bongs and other paraphernalia, so visitors don’t have to hunt down some cannabis on their own.
“The most popular locations on our site are the ones where everything is included, so visitors just need to show up, lie in a hammock and smoke a joint,” Roby says. And given that these listings are often on privately owned land, hosts can offer more places to smoke than hotels. If there are gardens on site, for instance, guest might be able to smoke outside, on a terrace or in an outdoor hot tub.
Although the site is still in its infancy, there are already nearly a hundred lodgings to choose from: you could spend $250 a night for an entire wood cabin or $42 a night for hostel-like digs. And Roby says that cannabis tourists come in all shapes and sizes. “We have corporate executives and doctors to full blown Dead Heads coming out,” Roby says. “Just like Airbnb, we don’t cater to just one select crowd.”
While some visitors just want the option of smoking a joint before taking a hike or going skiing, others want their entire vacation to center around the herb. They might attend festivals or events where they can smoke with a whole community of people. Since dispensaries are still a novelty for many people, visitors like organized tours of local retailers much the way wine-lovers might plan tasting tours in wine country. Still others are focusing on the therapeutic effects of cannabis.
“Families who live in more draconian states where their children cannot take marijuana for epilepsy or for autoimmune diseases might come to Colorado for a week to get some relief,” Roby says. “We’re seeing an uptick of people who aren’t coming to get high, but rather to get healthy.”
Some Airbnb hosts in states where marijuana is legal say that guests are welcome to smoke on their property, but many do not, in case it turns away potential visitors. But as the cannabis market grows, Airbnb itself could very well became more cannabis-friendly, offering special listings for marijuana tourists. (The company did not respond to three attempts to reach it for a comment for this piece.)
Should that come to pass, would it spell the demise of Bud and Breakfast? Roby is working hard to make sure that this does not happen by ensuring that cannabis is at the very heart of the Bud and Breakfast experience. By catering to the needs of marijuana tourists he hopes to offer more than just accommodations but also knowledge about how to best enjoy cannabis in that region.
“Every single one of our vendors knows where every dispensary is near their home,” Roby says. “They know the location of every cannabis-friendly restaurant or smoking club. They are a network of wisdom.”
And that network might give Roby’s company a competitive advantage–even against the actual Airbnb.