What Makes a Hotel 420-Friendly? Portland’s Jupiter Hotel Might Have the Answer
Despite the cannabis industry’s multi-million-dollar boon, the hospitality industry has been anything but hospitable to cannabis, even in legal states. Still as boons go, the numbers are staggering: In Colorado, for instance, cannabis tourism has grown 51 percent, while the state has garnered more than $5.2 billion since legalizing cannabis for adult use in January 2014. And in newly legal Canada, according to a 2018 Deloitte report, overall consumption is expected to rise 35 percent, and national industry sales are projected to reach C$7.17 billion (US$5.35 billion) in 2019. (By comparison, Canada has a population of 36 million, and Los Angeles County has a population of 39.5 million. Although there are no reliable estimates for LA County, California’s pot sales are estimated to reach $6.59 billion by 2025.)
Not to name names, but having reached out to all the luxury hotels in Portland, Oregon — which is not only the epicenter of craft cannabis, but arguably the country’s most liberal city — I learned that not even one in ten of those 4‑star hotels offers any information about cannabis to their guests. What, as if rich people don’t get high? They certainly do: Not only do cannabis consumers skew older, since legalization, but in the ultra-wealthy resort town of Aspen, Colorado, for instance, cannabis sales have already exceeded alcohol sales.
In fairness, the reasons for hospitality’s disconnect from cannabis hinges largely on the federal banking system’s chokehold on cannabis companies, and the fact that public consumption remains illegal, even in states that legalized pot. And while there’s certainly been a push within each legal state to allow special events and/or designate public consumption spaces, so far, no joy (with a few minor exceptions, like West Hollywood). That means private tour companies are left to navigate their own regulatory entanglements in a patchwork of legal states and cities — albeit still taking advantage of opportunities the hospitality industry is missing out on.
While they can buy weed legally, cannabis tourists especially (i.e. those without their own private residences in legal jurisdictions) need space to consume openly and outdoors — or at least outside their hotel rooms. However, many states including those like Colorado have bans on smoking (cannabis or tobacco) indoors, thanks to measures like the Clean Indoor Air Act. Hence, we’ve seen the rise of tour buses in legal states, providing cannabis consumers safe spaces — literally — to socialize with each other, catch a ride around town, and, of course, smoke a joint.
Despite not being allowed on TripAdvisor, Denver’s 420 Tours is rapidly expanding their programming to offer classes like Sushi & Joint Rolling, Cannabis Wellness, and even two-night packages at 420-friendly lodgings. Another top-rated Denver-based outfit, Colorado Cannabis Tours openly addresses the issue on their website. The “420-friendly” hotels they work with prefer not to be named for a variety of legal reasons, and are only identified when a guest books a reservation at that hotel.
But even so, the question remains: Given the stated limitations, what exactly makes any of these hotels 420-friendly? The answer is vague at best.
Of course, there are places like Hicksville Pines, a bud & breakfast located in the San Jacinto Mountains, home to the colorfully-themed “Room #420,” “Mondo Trasho” and “Dolly.” Named to Fodor’s list of the world’s most fabulous hotels, Hicksville allows cannabis smoking in the guest rooms, but “no tobacco or crack.”
The irony, of course, is that the hotel industry is in a tailspin, as they adapt to the cultural shift toward the Airbnb-inspired share economy. As travelers today demand authenticity, customization, creativity, and transformation, cannabis in fact could be the ideal business partner for players in the hospitality industry, just as it’s been for those in industries like luxury wellness or weddings. Truth be told, by and large, hotels today aren’t “420-friendly” so much as they are “420-look-the-other-way.”
There is one exception, however: Having built their reputation for being the go-to accommodation for the likes of skaters, billionaires, and billionaire skaters, Portland’s Jupiter Hotel has been among the few truly 420-friendly hotels to embrace cannabis as early as 2015 with a ground-breaking 420 package.
Now with the addition of Jupiter NEXT, Jupiter’s guests have an upscale option that’s broken ground post-legalization, designed specifically to accommodate open consumption in the hotel — a fitting turn, given that Jupiter (built on Portland’s once-notorious “Heroin Alley”) was the original home base of Sativa Science Club, offering budtender education with a feminist slant.
Given Jupiter’s cultural and geographical positioning, Civilized spoke with assistant general manager Nick Pearson and director of sales and events Julie Davies about integrating cannabis into the hospitality industry and what’s next for Jupiter NEXT.