You Ready for a Canna-Cation? Guest Editorial on Marijuana Themed Tourism
Canna-Cations are the New Dude Ranch
A true cattle drive brings to mind campfires, cattle calls and the spirit of the Wild West, but in reality they were probably uncomfortable, hard, and wrought with rank smells. The idea of growing cannabis outdoors plays a similar trick on the uninitiated. One pictures the sun filtering through towering redwood trees onto lush gardens while butterflies land softly atop heavy, crystalline buds; Helicopters crisscross the sky. Though versions of this might exist, true production type growing is incredibly hard and unromantic work. Busted water lines, bears, and angry neighbors with weapons are also in the fun grab bag labeled Growing Weed in the Hills. Ask anyone in the industry for a horror story and they probably have one. But as the danger associated with illegal activity slowly recedes into the hedges à la Homer Simpson, the hard work remains. These positive changes in the figurative cultivation landscape make an inroad for tourism. “This Is Cannabis Country,” The travel brochures will read, and in smaller letters underneath it will explain, “Like wine country, but, you know, for weed.”
But can the pot industry play the same ballgame as the wine industry? Are weed connoisseurs here for cheese/ganja pairings and sunset strolls in khakis and cashmere, or will they come because they have a romanticized idea about the way things once were, back when outdoor growing was a little more “outlaw-esque.” If they choose a Cannabis farm as a vacation, maybe the end game isn’t relaxation, but to spend a week off the concrete to stick their toes in the soil and get down and dirty. Maybe they’re looking for a place where they can try their hand at the craft; A Weed Dude Ranch. Something in which they will pay to participate.
The Outlaws and rough living of the Wild West have been romanticized to an almost cartoon degree in films and music. How, in Jah’s name, did Gene Autry keep such a clean red kerchief? If it were covered in dirt-boogers and trail grime, cowboy life might not have appealed to so many suburban kids of the past. In the same vein a pro-canna couple from Toledo, in Humboldt for their anniversary, don’t want to know what the fishmeal bucket smells like (let alone the toilet bucket). There is a special shine that must be put on the industry to make it presentable to the weed loving public who may have been romanticizing the lifestyle since they hit their first joint. Licensed cultivators who have worked hard for their paperwork are chomping at the bit (pun intended) to provide the experience for them. They want to offer destination vacations and farm tours; Canna packages, getaway bungalows. They have built it, goddamnit! Let them come! But rather than emulating wine country, take a page from the dude ranches scattered around cattle country. Give the vacationer an experience in outdoor growing that he can brag about later as he holds up a nugget of Chemdog. “I helped grow this.” He’ll say. “I’m practically it’s father. Can I borrow your lighter?”
What would one want out of a Canna Dude Ranch experience? What do folks get out of regular dude ranches? Billy Crystal helped birth a calf while icing a midlife crisis in City Slickers. Daniel Stern learned to work a lasso. They camped on the open range. They played cowboy for a few weeks and ate brown food out of a covered wagon. Something like this would fit into the canna-cation brochure. Perhaps quad rides to the top of the mountain for sunset could be part of the Canna Dude Ranch Package. The yoga and de-leafing hour could be the one right before lunch. How about a demonstration on how to properly open a bag of soil and dump it into a geo-pot and stir it with the right amount of amendments just like a real cowboy, er, grower. If a guest is lucky, they might be privy to a real live trimming experience. They could buy a pound, rent scissors and trim it themselves, while we’re spitballing. And of course, there must be sampling of the products and a gift shop full of wares and camo and edibles to take home. And, of course, a coupon for next time.
Cattle drives and cannabis cultivation have more in common than one might think. Both concern a product that must be cared for until market. Both are associated with an outdoor lifestyle, peppered with stories of danger and bandits. One, though, has a lucrative side business in giving vacationers a taste of “the real deal,” taking in workers and charging for the luxury of helping them get their product to market, and, honey, it ain’t the cannabis growers.There’s a price tag of about $3000 per person to help out a real working cattle drive. If area cultivators can lasso even a part of this business, they would be in good shape, and the experience would tattoo the word “Humboldt” on the heart of the guests forever, guaranteeing the longevity of the weed ranch travel industry. The thing to do now is to propagate more lore and more outlaw hero stories, because these are the pivot points that make people yearn for a taste of the growing lifestyle. That and the weed.
And that couple from Toledo, they come every year. Rasta Dan, their favorite farm hand, is their baby’s godfather. They are thinking of buying a vacation cabin on the Trinity. The New Wild West captured their imaginations, their hearts and their wallet.
“Oh give me a home, where the bear and squirrel roam,
Where the deer might eat all of our teens,
And seldom was told, where the product was sold,
But now pride we may take in our greens.
Home, Home on the hill,
Years ago we’d have worked at the mill,
But now thanks to the laws,
The gray line we may cross
Oh the danger’s gone,
But not the thrill.”
Sarah Godlin is a writer and long time resident of Humboldt County. Follow her on twitter for jokes @bloglin