Marijuana in Montreal: Opportunities to boost tourism

Daybreak's Shari Okeke talks to festival organizers about the impact of the legalization of marijuana on the tourism industry in Montreal.

'If somebody plays their cards right, yes, this could be a really interesting tourism card:' Andy Nulman

The co-founder of Montreal's Just for Laughs festival, Andy Nulman, wrote a script about a Canada where marijuana was legal 20 years ago. (Youtube)

When I asked Andy Nulman about the chances of legalized marijuana boosting tourism in Montreal, I had no idea that many years ago he'd written a script for a film called O Cannabis, about Canada legalizing pot and becoming "the new Saudia Arabia."

In part 5 of our Daybreak series, Montreal 420, we look at the potential impact of legalized marijuana on tourism here in Montreal. Shari Okeke talks to Montrealers in the business of attracting tourists to the city, including Just For Laughs co-founder A 8:18

In the script, "farmers out in the Beauce and Manitoba and Saskatchewan become the new oil sheikhs, and (Canada) becomes this destination for stoners worldwide," Nulman said.

The co-founder of Just For Laughs and chief attention-grabber for 375MTL, the Society for the Celebrations of Montréal's 375th Anniversary, Nulman says he has not touched drugs in 40 years, and he's a vehement non-smoker. However, he has long considered the ripple effects of marijuana legalization.

"That this is actually happening is, for me, quite amusing because it's something I thought about 20 years ago," he said.

Amusing, but it's also potentially lucrative for businesses and festivals.

Nulman points out pot legalization alone will not attract tourists, it'll take some creative thinking on the part of event organizers.

'If people can read Shakespeare while stoned or (if there's) the festival of accountants trying to explain the federal budget while stoned, that's funny. People will say, 'Wow, I'll travel to see that,'" Nulman said.

'If it works there, why wouldn't it work here?'

Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014, and that year it welcomed a record number of visitors.

There's debate about how much legal marijuana contributed to that boost in tourism, but there is no question many new businesses have sprouted as a result of legalization.
POP Montreal co-founder Dan Seligman is already thinking about legal marijuana sellers as potential sponsors.

Some four-star hotels in Colorado are now "marijuana friendly."

The Hotel Association of Greater Montreal was not willing to comment about the prospects of the legalization of marijuana, but festivals organizers in Montreal are talking about the potential advantages.

Other Montreal festival organizers

Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, vice-president of Pride Montreal, says he doesn't smoke marijuana, but when he was in Amsterdam he tried it. He sees legalized cannabis as a possible incentive for more tourists to come to Montreal.

"It's an attraction to do a little detour and try something you cannot try when you're back home, and I think it (would have) a positive effect on any festival," he said.

POP Montreal International Music Festival co-founder Dan Seligman is already thinking about legal marijuana sellers as potential sponsors.

"We could solicit companies that are starting out and looking to make an impact – an impression – on the marketplace. We could work with them in terms of sponsoring our festival and getting their brand out there...We're always looking for new avenues of funding," he said 

More than just pot

Nulman insists it will take more than just legalized marijuana to motivate more people to visit Montreal.

Weed tours are already happening in Colorado, and he imagines something similar could happen here.

"When you see people going to take tours of craft breweries or the Jack Daniels distillery...or they go to wine country and they go bicycle from winery to winery, why would this be any different?"

Nulman says there's no limit to the possibilities.

"We have a beer festival. Why wouldn't we have a marijuana festival?" he said.

"If somebody plays their cards right, yes, this could be a really interesting tourism card," he said. 



Shari Okeke is writer/broadcaster for Daybreak on CBC Radio, and creator of Mic Drop, an award-winning CBC original podcast.


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