SAN FRANCISCO - Some call it a budding industry. Cannabis tourism is beginning to take shape in California and at least one local entrepreneur has plans to be part of it.
"The idea is to be an ambassador for this industry around the world," says Victor Pinho, founder of Emerald Farm Tours, a Bay Area travel startup which aims to capitalize on the legalization of recreational marijuana.
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The company began accepting reservations through its website Friday morning for its cannabis-inspired excursions in San Francisco and the East Bay.
"We have to inform, but we also have to come down to the consumer's level, and walk them through the process of understanding things and holding their hand," says Pinho.
At a cost of $295 per person, the four-and-a-half hour tour is geared toward out-of-state tourists, and will act as somewhat of an educational bootcamp to Bay Area cannabis. Licensed and bonded drivers will escort visitors aboard a luxury Sprinter van or limousine, where they'll visit multiple dispensaries, including Barbary Coast Collective in the SOMA district, where business has gone up more than 50-percent since the start of the year.
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"There is a stigma and that's kind of why we wanted to create a place like this," says Jesse Henry, Barbary Coast owner and executive director. "It's safe, it's clean, it's comfortable."
Other stops on the tour will include areas of cultural significance, such as Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park, as well as the Grateful Dead house in the Haight-Ashbury district.
ABC7 News spoke to one tourist who went to a marijuana dispensary in San Francisco for the first time Friday and called it liberating.
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"It was a lot of fun," says Melissa Rinehart, who is visiting from Ohio. "At first it was a little weird, I'm just not used to being able to be open about it."
With the Bay Area already home to a bustling wine industry, along with popular brewing companies, some people hope these marijuana tours will be successful.
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"To accept this into our culture, to accept this into our society, and to show people that we can live happy, peaceful lives here in the Bay Area," says Pinho.
For more information about the tours, click here.
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