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Marketing Manitoba: Legalization opens tourism option, promoting pot to Americans

The legalization of marijuana in Canada is here, but across the border in North Dakota it’s not legal to consume cannabis.

People from the southern state can travel up to Canada to try the legal substance and it has promotional potential.

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“We aren’t marketing in the U.S. yet, mostly because there are still questions remaining about consumption sites and domestic tourism offerings,” Tourism Winnipeg’s Corporate Communications Manager Matt Schaubroeck said.  “It’s not entirely clear where a U.S. tourist could smoke pot here, unless they know someone with a residence they can go to.”

MORE: For the launch of our weekly newsletter Cannabis IQ, we’re giving away $100 Visa gift cards. Click here to find out more.

Right now the organization markets to young Americans who can’t consume alcohol legally in the state but could if they cross into Canada — something similar could be done for pot.

“We have a great arts and culture scene, we have a great restaurant scene, we have a great bar scene. We do have a lot of people from [the University of North Dakota] and elsewhere wanting to come up during spring break,” Tourism Winnipeg President Dayna Spiring said.

Robert Warren is a marketing instructor at the University of North Dakota. He thinks there’s a great opportunity to promote this niche up north.

“I think that there’s a real pent-up demand down here in the US for access to cannabis products,” he said.

“We know there’s a group of consumers that are interested in it, we just need to market it to them that while they’re in Canada they’re free to consume the product as much as they want without fear of legal implications.”

READ MORE: Marijuana in the mail: Canadian postal services ready for legal cannabis deliveries

On Nov. 6 people in North Dakota will be going to the polls to vote on the legal recreational use of marijuana. However, the legal age would match their drinking age of 21. While it’s 19 here in Manitoba.

Warren said that would still leave a window of opportunity for marketing to young adults.

“Even if they do legalize it here in North Dakota it will take a few years for the infrastructure to be put in place so it’s effectively distributed,” he said.

“You have a lot of people in the 19 and 21 year old age group who will be interested in trying the product.”

READ MORE: Cannabis IQ: Across the country, here’s what to expect on legalization day

Travel Manitoba has billboard campaigns in the state already promoting attractions such as the Assiniboine Park Zoo, but say they won’t be advertising legal marijuana right now.

“We don’t have research to say it will motivate an American audience,” Linda Whitfield, VP of Marketing and Communications said.

“Given the challenges we have to get them to cross the border already, we don’t see this as a game changer.”

American visitors right now only account for four per cent of all visitors to Manitoba and 10 per cent of the total tourism spending.

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