Kush Tourism's Michael Gordon


Public consumption of cannabis remains illegal in the U.S., but several states have passed their own laws legalizing private marijuana use, and pot-related tourism is growing. One company is Seattle-based Kush Tourism; named for a type of marijuana, it runs its own tours and lists other companies' tours as well as activities, dispensaries, growers and weed-friendly accommodations. The company, which was founded in 2013 and employs about 15 people, has expanded its listings to include five states beyond Washington: Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon and Alaska. Owner Michael Gordon spoke with senior editor Danny King.

Q: What's Kush Tourism's purpose?

Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon

A: We're responsible for building the infrastructure necessary for the cannabis traveler. We list things to do and places to stay where they can have a comfortable place to consume cannabis.

Q: What motivated you to start the company?

A: Everybody knows someone who's gone to Amsterdam because of its legalized cannabis. But the city has always tried to push travelers away or make it more restrictive. I always thought that was a backward approach, and I thought, let's embrace it. Cannabis is legal; let's treat it as such. Why not Seattle? Why not Alaska?

Q: How fast is your company growing?

A: We are more than doubling every year in size, and we reach more than 1 million people a month through print and digital. We have cannabis-tourism maps in more than 3,000 hotels nationwide.

Q: Are more hotels allowing for cannabis consumption?

A: More and more of them are opening their eyes to the opportunity. Airbnb has added a bunch of accommodations [run by] a whole slew of progressives who are more agile than the chains.

We are seeing some hotels accept cannabis; you can probably eat an edible and not get into trouble, but it's going to take a while for a hotel chain to say, 'Yes, you can smoke weed here.' It's a corporate-culture issue. They don't want to be seen as harboring or promoting something that's federally illegal.

They all recognize that they could book more room nights, but if you're a nonsmoking hotel, there's very little purpose to that.

Q: Why haven't more local visitors bureaus where recreational marijuana use has been legalized acknowledged this sector?

A: The bottom line is that the job of these tourism agencies is to bring more tourists, so for people to ignore the sector is irresponsible and counterproductive to their goals, but I recognize that they get federal funding, they have a board of directors, and they have to protect their interests. If they promote cannabis, it potentially jeopardizes any federal funding. You're dealing with the risk-toleration profile of a large corporate structure.

But in Seattle, I don't know anyone who's been busted for smoking in public, and Portland's [Oregon] laws are maybe the most progressive and relaxed of anywhere so far. The reality is that every state [where marijuana has been legalized] is still figuring it out, but all of these states are incredibly progressive in creating a pathway for cannabis legalization to be successful.

Q: Are you concerned about the potential impact of what appears to be an anti-marijuana stance by U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions?

A: No. Marijuana has generated a tremendous amount of tax revenue. And it's a states' rights issue, and it's been shown that Sessions will not be able to break that down. You've got over 50% of the states that have legalized medical marijuana, and California [which last year voted to legalize recreational marijuana consumption] is an absolute powerhouse. We are gaining speed quickly, and I don't think the federal government is in position to slow that down.


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