Recreational marijuana and the charter bus industry – Bus & Motorcoach News

“I don’t want my drivers being bombarded by any kind of residual marijuana smoke,” said Byrd, who has owned the Denver-based Charter of the Rockies for 11 years. “If they want to go, I’ll take them, but they can’t smoke on the bus.”
Someone suggested Byrd consider protecting his driver from a contact high by installing a compartment around the driver’s seat, a sort of clear plastic cocoon that can zipper up around the person. While the concept sounded ridiculous to Byrd, he later saw a company showing a similar contraption in an ad for cannabis bus tours.
“They bought these ultra-modern buses with almost like a spiral staircase near the driver, sort of like a double-decker bus, and they have a sliding door that supposedly seals off once people are inside,” Byrd said.
With recreational marijuana now legal in 11 states, and others considering following suit, it’s not surprising that cannabis tourism has become a legitimate and lucrative industry and niche worth considering for owners of motorcoach fleets.
In 2014, My 420 Tours began with dispensary and grow tours. Now, the cannabis tourism pioneer has added more creative options, such as a grow facility and craft brewery pairing aptly titled “Buds & Beer,” a lesson in the delicate art of “Sushi & Joint Rolling” and cannabis-infused massages. The two-hour to half-day tours range from $59 to $99 and come with two grams of cannabis from the trip’s partner dispensary.
My 420 Tours works with limousine operators in Denver and Fort Collins, which provide party buses for its trips. The vehicles are outfitted with partitions so the driver is separated from the riders and the marijuana smoke, says Cynthia Ord, the company’s marketing director.
Eventually, she says the company will invest in its own vehicles, likely beginning with a 12-person Sprinter van—which doesn’t require the driver to have a commercial driver’s license—to serve smaller tour groups.
As more states legalize recreational marijuana and people don’t need to travel to Colorado or another state to legally partake, will there still be demand for cannabis tourism? Ord says yes.
“We think it’s future-proof in the sense that demand won’t diminish, but it will change,” said Ord, who sees it as similar to wine- and beer-centered tourism. “We strongly believe that it’s a great service that we’re providing to Denver and its visitor community, who, without a structured tour, might be doing things a little less safely and in a less-informed way.”
Byrd is among established Colorado charter bus owners who are taking a pass on the cannabis tourism scene, worried about liability and other issues.
The Rocky Mountain state, through a voter ballot initiative, became the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. The majority of states have legalized medical marijuana use since California first passed a law in 1996.
Charles Murphy Jr., the owner of Colorado Tour Line in Colorado Springs and Denver, says he plans to stay on the right side of federal law, which prohibits any kind of smoking on buses or planes.
“We don’t do any type of marijuana tours. The closest we come is with investors, who go on tours of grow facilities,” said Murphy, whose third-generation business operates a fleet of 90 vehicles.
Despite being the only city in the state to offer marijuana social consumption business licenses, Denver has clashed with marijuana tourism companies over the definition of public pot consumption. The city considers the advertised cannabis tours public, while the operators contend the buses are private facilities because they require passengers to join a private membership club before boarding the bus.
Ord says My 420 Tours can legally let clients smoke on the buses because the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act allows an exemption for hired limousine services.
That definition has already been put to the test. In June, Denver police arrested 30 riders on cannabis tour buses for public consumption and detained a driver for a DUI. Ord describes the police sting, which targeted one of the company’s tours, as growing pains as the city tries to establish what social consumption looks like.
“Our reading of the situation is that the crackdown was an attempt to force the hand of operators who weren’t pursuing this very flawed licensing process,” she said.
The company paid for the legal representation and the fines of its clients who were arrested. The resolution involved the riders pleading to a non-cannabis public smoking citation.
“In a lot of ways, Denver is a sort of guinea pig for what adult-use cannabis policy and regulation look like. As more and more places get on board with legalization, they look to Colorado as a state and Denver as a city to see how we’ve been doing it. So we’re in that role model position,” Ord said.
For his part, Byrd says he is glad to be out of the fray. His charter bus company, with a fleet of half-dozen full-sized motorcoaches and two mini-buses, is sticking with its longtime customer base of primarily school and church groups.
“There are people making money, and it’s obviously something that we’re missing out on, but I don’t think the revenue benefits offset the problems associated with it,” Byrd said. “There’s plenty of work here without feeling like you have to go after that.”
About BMN Extraordinary times demand extraordinary solutions. The North American motorcoach industry needs timely and meaningful communications. It needs a strong, aggressive industry newspaper that informs, analyzes, educates and advocates. It needs a publication that reports today’s actions, events, ideas and issues immediately — not two or three months from now.
When industry operators and suppliers have better and faster information, they can make smarter and quicker decisions. It is for these reasons and others that Bus & Motorcoach NEWS was created. Bus & Motorcoach NEWS supplies the industry with meaningful information that’s fresh and useful. Essential and compelling news, information and analysis are the meat and potatoes of Bus & Motorcoach NEWS. When there’s a significant industry development today, it will be reported and interpreted for the entire industry in Bus & Motorcoach NEWS within two weeks – often sooner.
Bus & Motorcoach News is owned by: the United Motorcoach Association


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *