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A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day in Northglenn, Colorado Dec. 31, 2013. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)  

Colorado sees huge spike in travel demand in wake of legal pot sales

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Since Colorado began allowing retail stores to sell recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, interest in travel to the state has spiked, according to a data research company.

Online searches for travel deals to the Mile High state have outpaced all other destinations in the United States, according to a study by Boston-based Hopper Research.

“Flight search demand for Denver has been 6.3 percent above the national search average since Dec. 1,” the study found. “Demand has been up at least 10 percent for each of the last three weeks, and peaked at a 14 percent increase during the first week of January. Last year, the search demand to Denver during the same time period tracked at or below the national average.”

Coincidence?

“We can’t say what the intentions of the people looking for those flights” were, Patrick Surry, Hopper’s chief data scientist, told the Los Angeles Times.

“But this suggests that it might be a reaction to the demand” for legal pot, he said.

Elan Nelson, a spokeswoman for The Medicine Man dispensary, said in an interview that “more than half” of her customers are from out of state, a statistic that she said has stayed consistent since the store began selling recreational marijuana at the beginning of the year.

Tourism officials in Colorado expected a bump in visitors, but didn’t know what to expect from the new law, said Rich Grant, the communications director of Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

“Tourism is a massive industry,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Jan. 1, noting that there were an estimated 13.6 million overnight visitors to Denver in 2012.

It’s too soon to say whether people will come for sporting events, business or ski vacations, as in the past, or, now, for the sake of buying legal pot, he said.

But while the Visit Denver website touts everything from Colorado’s craft beer industry to its mountain vistas, the only mention of marijuana is in a list of what’s legal and what’s not.

“We are not going to be doing any promotion” around marijuana, Grant said. “Our main concern is that people know the laws.”

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