How California Hotels are Capitalizing on Cannabis

    By Brian Applegarth

    The path for reducing risk and realizing revenue.

    A new wave of opportunity has arrived for the California hospitality industry. California is now the largest legal cannabis market in the world, forecasted to reach $7.2 billion in sales by 2024 according to Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. In addition, CBD is a national mainstream wellness trend. A recent report released by Brightfield shows CBD product sales grew by 706% in 2019.

    In other parts of the world, cannabis has been integrated socially for decades. For example, cannabis in Amsterdam has been available for recreational use in coffee shops since 1976. Recent research conducted by The Dutch Tourist Information Department and the Municipality of Amsterdam revealed that approximately 25% of tourists visit a cannabis coffee shop while in town and 10% willingly cite the coffee shop cannabis experience as a primary reason for choosing Amsterdam as their vacation destination.

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    2020 marks the third year of legal cannabis in California. Hotels are proactively educating themselves, implementing CBD and cannabis-related strategies that serve their guests, reduce unnecessary risk and drive incremental revenue. Let’s take a deeper look… 

    Educating and Equipping Management and Frontline Staff

    Responsible hotel owners are educating themselves and their staff on the current CBD and cannabis landscape in California. Hotels are equipping their frontline staff with a basic guest communication plan and printed collateral to provide canna-curious guests upon request. In the spirit of hospitality and public safety, California hotels should be able to provide information about California cannabis laws and be capable of directing their guests to a local cannabis lounge or retailer that is hospitality-ready.

    Retail Products

    Hotel owners are capitalizing on the CBD and cannabis trend by selling supporting products to their guests. Hotel owners are placing cannabis-inspired jewelry, postcards, artwork and literature in their hotel lobby shop to generate additional revenue from guests looking to purchase something fun and unique, reflective of California today.

    CBD Products and Services

    CBD products and services appeal to canna-curious newbies, including visitors to our state wanting a unique wellness experience. Hotel owners throughout the state are selling CBD-centric products in lobby shops and spas including CBD-infused facemasks, CBD-infused ‘feel better’ patches, bath bombs, lotions and more. Many hotels and spas have implemented a CBD-infused massage service to capitalize on the California CBD wellness trend.

    Activities and Experiences

    Cannabis-related activities and experiences that cater to California visitors are popping up throughout the state. From cannabis educational tours to ganja yoga to elevated private tastings, hotels are identifying on-brand activities in their community they are comfortable recommending to guests. They empower their frontline staff to provide information about these cannabis-related activity options when guests inquire about these types of experiences.

    Ancillary, CBD, and Cannabis-Related Expressions

    Cannabis-inspired expressions are increasingly trendy and growing in demand. A pop-up CBD spa corner or a CBD mocktail beverage station at a wedding or private event is a fun and unique way for groups to include a cannabis-themed expression. Hotels are folding in these new, buzzy expressions to differentiate and drive revenue.

    Case Study, Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant, Sonoma County

    The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is a 25 room country-chic establishment offering five-star service and a Michelin-starred restaurant. The Farmhouse Inn consistently ranks among the world’s most highly rated luxury hotels. In 2018, Farmhouse Inn implemented a strategy that weaves CBD and cannabis-related information, products, and services into its business model. This includes integrating ongoing staff education, ancillary product placement, CBD product placement, CBD massage service, ancillary and CBD product education, two activity options at concierge, and more.

    “Sonoma County is so much more than just great wineries and great dining, and with the legalization of cannabis, we of course had to fold that into our portfolio of offerings,” shared Joe Bartolomei, the co-owner of Farmhouse Inn.

    “Cannabis experiences have allowed us to really build off of our wine tasting and tour offerings,” said Rachel Kuali’i, marketing and reservations manager for the Farmhouse Inn. “Whether it’s a CBD treatment in the spa, specialized by appointment dispensary visits to Solful, or a private elevated cannabis tasting, our guests will receive the assistance from our concierge team as well as the comfort to know these are the highest quality products and experiences.”

    To capitalize on this trend and serve their guests better, while reducing risk, California hotel owners should seek education, implement a basic front-line communication plan and explore the benefits of strategically implementing CBD and Cannabis-related products and services.





    About Brian Applegarth

    Brian Applegarth is the executive director of the California Cannabis Tourism Association and owner of Enlighten Hospitality Solutions. He works with hotels, resorts, and destinations to develop CBD and cannabis-related strategies that mitigate risk and drive revenue. Brian has worked with Farmhouse Inn, Fairmont Miramar, Hotel Zeppelin and other hotels throughout the state. For more information, visit

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