Could Canada become the Napa Valley of cannabis tourism?

In a country already known for its geography, cannabis cultivation could be elevated as another attractive feature of our landscape, boosting international tourist appeal, researchers suggest.

Could cannabis and tourism be the perfect pairing in Canada, akin to California’s celebrated Napa Valley wine region and tourist hotspot?

That’s one of the take-aways from a new study from the universities of Waterloo and Guelph.

Researchers found the recent success of Canadian cannabis tourism has both normalized a formerly “deviant” leisure activity and opened the door to other potentially lucrative forms of cannabis-related tourism, such as complete growing, consuming and experiencing tours.

“Tourism is as an already existing social institution. Packaging cannabis and tourism together at the federal level has broken-down moral barriers to legal domestic cannabis use,” says study co-author Sanjay Nepal, from the University of Waterloo.

“This broader social acceptance could convince decision-makers to embrace Canada’s reputation for cannabis. Like California’s reputation for wine for example.”

READ MORE: Cannabis tourism in Canada: The problems … and the potential

Nepal and researchers from the University of Guelph created a database of all Canadian cannabis tourism businesses and found significant growth in public acceptance of cannabis if it’s presented to tourists as legally separate from other illegal drugs.

“It is critical that a Canadian perspective on cannabis tourism be developed because currently we are a leading country in the world with federally legalized cannabis tourism for leisure and recreational consumption purposes,” says lead author Susan Dupej of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management.

The study serves as a blueprint for researchers around the world to examine how legally disassociating cannabis from other illicit drugs, and presenting it as a legitimate tourism option, can unlock new tourism revenue streams while advancing social acceptance for domestic users.

“For Canada we believe the success of cannabis consumption tourism, could lead to the cannabis tourism experience as a cultural product,” Nepal said. “Canada is already known for its geography. With the social stigma removed, cannabis cultivation could be elevated as another attractive feature of our landscape, adding another lucrative dimension to our unique international tourist appeal.”

READ MORE: New study explores Canada’s growing cannabis tourism sector