Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Colorado Resort Towns Worry over Pot Perception

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Colorado Resort Towns Worry over Pot Perception

Article excerpt

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. * Business is booming in Colorado's mountain resorts, and the addition of recreational marijuana stores this year has attracted customers curious about legalized pot. But there's mounting anxiety that ski towns have embraced stoner culture a little too much, potentially damaging the state's tourism brand.

That worry flared up in two resort towns last week. In Breckenridge, residents voted overwhelmingly to force downtown's lone dispensary off Main Street to a less-visible location. And just up the road in Granby, town officials used a property annex to prevent the first dispensary from opening there.

The fear is that some families a mainstay of the ski tourism industry will stop vacationing here.

"It's not a morality issue, or that we think marijuana is bad," said Breckenridge councilman Gary Gallagher, who supported legal marijuana but also voted to force the Breckenridge Cannabis Club out of downtown. "Marijuana, it is not in this country's DNA yet. It's a little bit too early."

So far, there's no indication that legal pot has damaged tourism, Colorado's No. 2 industry. The state notched a record $17.3 billion in tourism spending the year after legalization, with a record 64.6 million visitors, and state tourism officials say 2014 is poised to top last year's record.

But it's an open question whether pot has anything to do with it. Officials cite the improving economy and the weather, with healthy snow totals historically being the most significant driver for mountain visits.

The state and its marijuana industry are barred by law from advertising weed out of state, and the head of the Colorado Tourism Office says the state isn't tracking the role of marijuana in tourist behavior.

"It's all anecdotal," Al White said. "I have heard from some angry parents who said they'll never come back to Colorado because of marijuana. And I've also heard from people who say they came to Colorado just to see the marijuana.

"At the end of the day, it may be having a modest effect, but it's not huge either way. …

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