Modesto, CA – Cannabis tourism is more than just an idea. This week, the Modesto Cannabis Education Tour took visitors by bus up to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to see the many landscapes that surround the city. While they were there they learned the history of the valley, what it’s like to grow and to market cannabis, and most importantly, how to understand the risks associated with cannabis use.

On Saturday, October 21st, Modesto, California was the first city in America to begin wholesale cannabis tourism and education in a pilot program that will provide visitors with a city tour, education and where to purchase cannabis. The program also plans to launch a city-wide cannabis tour, which will start in 2015. Thousands of people are crossing the city limits to buy medical marijuana, which will open the city to potential issues from drug dealers and other criminals.

Modesto, California is home to a new tourism and education campaign billed as “The city that helps you learn to love marijuana”. The new campaign officially launched last month, but it’s already got plenty of supporters. Modesto’s mayor, Ray Bramson, says he came up with the idea to help people see marijuana in all its forms, including medicinal.



Thanks to a new cannabis instructional campaign from the city’s convention and visitors bureau, Modesto is going up in smoke, safely and responsibly.

Visit Modesto has established what is considered to be the country’s first citywide cannabis tourism campaign. Like the visitors bureau’s previous tourist initiatives, the MoTown CannaPass encourages people to stop, buy, and enjoy what the Central Valley city has to offer.

But, unlike its previous initiatives, such as Modesto Loves Dogs and Get Mo Wine, the emphasis is on attracting cannabis-interested visitors to the region by assisting them in finding legal marijuana companies and activities. Those who join up for the free digital campaign, which is available by mobile phone and internet, will get benefits, promotions, and discounts.

“We wanted to develop a program (focused on) education since cannabis is legal in the same way that beer, wine, and whiskey are. Everyone would be in if we had a beer passport. So, according to Visit Modesto CEO Todd Aaronson, “we wanted to create a cannabis passport that provided visitors a knowledge of state regulations, municipal rules, and the do’s and don’ts of the region.” “We want to start slowly, wisely, and educationally with this. We want to make sure that both the community and the users are at ease.”

The program kicks off this weekend with buy-one, get-one-free tickets to Cheech & Chong’s “Up in Smoke” and fellow stoner comedy “Pineapple Express” at downtown Modesto’s State Theatre. The campaign will have a public launch next week, with a push to help people and retailers educate themselves on cannabis in the region.

The CannaPass is a collaboration between Visit Modesto, Cultivar Strategies, a cannabis travel consulting firm, and Cookies, a local marijuana retail store. Together, they aim to be a resource for canna-curious and canna-experienced consumers, as well as local companies dealing with marijuana-related inquiries from customers.


Cultivar Strategies CEO Brian Applegarth said, “This kind of coordinated program and a cannabis passport, the MoTown CannaPass, is the first of its kind that I’m aware of globally that really normalizes and integrates this cannabis experience into the destination alongside the rest of the destination experiences.”

The concept for the MoTown CannaPass arose about a year ago, during the pandemic, when the virus halted tourism throughout the state. Aaronson said his organization joined the California Travel Association’s cannabis tourism committee and discovered there were possibilities in the area.

Recreational marijuana usage has been legal in California since Proposition 64 was approved in 2016, allowing any people 21 and older to consume it and purchase it from regulated shops. Since 2018, cannabis shops have been allowed to legally sell to recreational consumers, and Modesto currently has approximately two dozen licensed companies.

Aaronson said he recognized how much tourist potential legal cannabis had in the area via their work with CalTravel and Cultivar Strategies. According to recent studies, 30 percent of all visitors in the United States are interested in cannabis tourism. Meanwhile, consumers from outside the area account for 40% of all retail purchases in Modesto.

Last year, municipal cannabis sales and excise taxes, which total about a whopping 30%, raked in more money than the city’s hospitality taxes, according to Aaronson. As a result, he sought to position Modesto to benefit from the post-pandemic tourism boom while also ensuring that individuals who use cannabis locally do so safely and lawfully.

These figures, coupled with increasing travel throughout the state as the epidemic fades, provide a rare opportunity for casual visitors to visit Modesto and spend time and money, according to Aaronson. He said that the program also assists non-cannabis companies in town, especially those in the hospitality industry, such as hotels, in dealing appropriately with cannabis-related issues.


“Travelers are driving about a lot in this post-pandemic society we’re heading towards. They’re on the lookout for new adventures. And we’ve been marketing Modesto in a variety of ways, like the almond bloom cruise, Modesto Loves Dogs, and Graffiti Summer,” Aaronson added. “And if 30% of all tourists are interested in cannabis in some way, shape, or form, why don’t we assist them in gaining simple access and enjoying the experience?” At the same time, enjoy everything via the CannaPass and be aware of the laws of the road.”

Instead of a conventional punch-card rewards pass, Aaronson said the visitors bureau adopted a more educational approach to the campaign to ensure it wasn’t misused and to assuage the concerns of those still skeptical of legal cannabis. Only individuals aged 21 and above are eligible for the free program. Cannabis usage is already illegal in public areas and while driving a moving vehicle under state law.

When it came to cannabis shops, the city of Modesto took a cautious approach to recreational marijuana legalization, first allowing just eight and prohibiting them from operating in the downtown area. Modesto has 11 dispensary sites and roughly a dozen delivery services, according to Weedmaps, an online recreational marijuana information site.

At Cookies cannabis shop in Modesto, Calif., some of the MoTown CannaPass information brochures and swag bag items are on display. [email protected] Marijke Rowland

The MoTown CannaPass will offer information, tools, and discounts to assist consumers get the most out of the area’s legal cannabis businesses. This encompasses the whole range of cannabis products, from psychoactive THC to more therapeutic hemp and CBD. Everyone who signed up got a complimentary gift bag including accessories and apparel but no real cannabis products, which can be picked up at Cookies on Orangeburg Avenue.

Users are also encouraged to combine their cannabis experiences with local cuisine, art, and outdoor activities as part of the initiative. According to Aaronson, the campaign also aims to spotlight some of the legal cannabis growing that is taking place in Modesto, especially indoor cultivation.

“We’ve discovered that individuals who use cannabis, hemp, and CBD are foodies, wine tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts. So we wanted to make sure they had something that would allow them to come to our destination and do all of their favorite activities, as well as other things they like, in a legal and acceptable manner,” Aaronson said. “Modesto is a really friendly place. We have agricultural tourism, culinary tourism, and a variety of other activities.”

Visit Modesto at 209-526-5588 or for more information about the MoTown CannaPass.



In Modesto, California, what was once a wasteland is now a new walking, biking, bus and car-riding haven. A public-private partnership between the city and the Modesto Area Express (MAX) transit system, the development is part of a broader push to transform Modesto into a recreational destination for tourists and older residents. The city has designated a portion of the site as a recreational marijuana cultivation zone, and the new transportation center will serve as a hub for cannabis tourists and enthusiasts.. Read more about dunsmuir breaking news and let us know what you think.

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