Meet Yvonne Brown, the new Executive Director of the California Cannabis Tourism Association.
Tourism is a $1.5 trillion dollar industry – one of the biggest in the world. All industries of this size have associations. Tourism associations bring together not just the tour companies that run city tours, farm tours, wine tours, woods tours, adventure tours, leisure tours, and the like, but also connect everyone else in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries. They include hotels, and restaurants as well as providers of leisure activities like wellness retreats, yoga and cooking classes – basically anyone that you encounter on your vacation who isn’t a fellow traveler.
The California Cannabis Tourism Association formed shortly after tour companies started specializing in California cannabis tours, led by Brian Applegarth. Brian will still be on the CCTA Board of Directors, but he’s handed over the reigns to Yvonne Brown, previously the CCTA’s Assistant Director.
We wanted to be the first to interview the CCTA’s energetic & dynamic new Executive Director, and see what her plans are for the future of California Cannabis Tourism.
How long have you been involved with cannabis?
I rediscovered cannabis as a patient in my early 30’s. I tried a piece of medicated chocolate and when I woke up the next morning I was pain free, I felt amazing. Not only was I able to medicate to treat symptoms, but I found that daily micro-dosing was extremely effective for me as a preventative measure. It was life changing to be able to replace pharmaceuticals with plant medicine.
What do you love most about cannabis?
There could never be just one thing! I love cannabis as a patient for what it does for my physical body and the relief it provides for me on a daily basis. I love cannabis as a tool for creativity, focus and patience as a professional and as a mom. I love cannabis for its ability to help me connect more deeply with myself and lean into every new experience as it comes my way.
What made you get into cannabis tourism?
I stumbled into cannabis tourism quite naturally. My first experience was in 2017 through the Glowing Goddess Getaway, a women’s cannabis retreat company. I have always been passionate about travel and events but never realized that there was a way to combine that with my passion for the plant! It was a natural fit and brings me incredible joy.
You have years of experience in travel in general, and cannabis travel specifically. What did you do in the travel industry before you joined the CCTA?
I have ALWAYS been a bit of a travel geek. From my very first job I have always planned and booked corporate travel for both individuals and groups. I love the jigsaw puzzle of coordinating air, ground and accommodations… the more complicated the better. For fun I started planning leisure travel itineraries and researching travel tips for friends and family. My own adventures allowed me to road test and refine my information and in 2018 I officially took the leap and opened my own agency, LCA Travel & Events. I can create anything but my niche is travel for families, women and cannabis enthusiasts.
How is cannabis tourism different from other kinds of tourism, and how is it the same?
Cannabis tourism is different in that as an emerging industry, we have to be a bit more creative. It’s fun to be a pioneer but at the same time, safe spaces for consumption are often a challenge. Tourism across the board is such a fun industry but I think that when you add in the element of cannabis it creates additional opportunities. Current data shows that Cannabis travelers tend to stay longer and spend more and I believe that is directly attributed to the mindful use of cannabis as a tool for enhancing experiences.
How will the CCTA be different under your leadership?
This is a great question and I’m so glad you asked! My goal is to honor the foundation that has been laid and to continue to build structure and systems that will support future growth. As Executive Director, I look forward to executing the mission and vision of the CCTA as determined by our Board of Directors while supporting our membership. It’s personally rewarding for me when I can make a difference for others and I hope that my work with the CCTA helps to amplify the voice of the cannabis tourism industry as a whole.
Covid 19 has certainly thrown the tourism industry for a loop. How are you pivoting in the face of it, and do you have any plans for coming out the other side?
As a travel and events professional I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me! Fortunately I was able to pivot quickly to virtual events for my clients due to my corporate experience. Just like with every other aspect of my travel business, I have spent time road testing best practices for covid travel myself. I think it’s extremely important for travelers to know that there are some amazing social distancing travel experiences available.
Is there anything we can learn from weed tour companies that have been doing it for a few years longer than us in other states?
I think that there is always something we can learn from each other. Collaboration makes us better! While we may be able to take some creative inspiration from our friends in other states, rules and regulations, climates and opportunities are going to be quite different from location to location.
Who, in your experience, is your basic cannabis tourist? Is there any commonality, or are they all different?
We are doing our industry a disservice if we try to put all cannabis tourists in the same box. You have everything from the canna-curious to the experienced life-long cannabis enthusiast. Women and men of all ages, backgrounds, socio-economic, family and marital status. Nature lovers to luxury resort aficionados, any tourist has the possibility of being a cannabis tourist.
Where do you see California cannabis tourism in 5 years?
California Cannabis Tourism is absolutely primed for growth! In the next 5 years I see new opportunities for consumption spaces. I see more widespread use of cannabis as a wellness tool in luxury spas and resorts. I see both CBD and THC infused beverages becoming more commonplace. I see California continuing to innovate and lead the way in what’s possible.
What do you have to say to the people who are thinking about taking a marijuana tour when they visit California, but are on the fence?
JUST DO IT! Taking a marijuana tour is an incredibly safe way to learn and there is no consumption required. It’s like taking a peak behind the curtain, cannabis isn’t what you think it is!
What do you have to say to people that think cannabis is scary?
Fear can often be alleviated with knowledge. Seek out education before writing off cannabis. One of my favorite things about cannabis is the inclusivity and empathy of the community. Find a product, experience or person that is relatable to you and reach out to learn more. I don’t know anyone in this industry who wouldn’t be thrilled to share their knowledge and passion for the plant.
Do you have anything else to add?