Cannabis tours ready for spring

Blazing Trails claims title first in Bend

By Joseph Ditzler, The Bulletin, @josefditzler

The business name tells the story: Blazing Trails.

The marijuana-themed tour company started in Bend with a soft opening Friday, said company co-founders Stacie Johnson and Tris Reisfar. Their business plan includes as much education as entertainment, they said, particularly for those unfamiliar with marijuana.

“We want to make sure they understand it’s easy to not have a good time on it if you overdo it,” Reisfar said.

Blazing Trails, a name Reisfar’s son Max came up with, borrows from the Oregon Trail and the notion that Johnson and Reisfar are trailblazers. Theirs may be the first cannabis-oriented tour company in Bend by a matter of days or weeks.

Bend Tour Co. last year planned a marijuana tour itinerary with an open-sided, six-passenger car, but it didn’t get underway before winter set in, said company partner John Flannery.

On Wednesday, Flannery said he, too, is ready to start touring and is accepting reservations.

“Things are up and running right now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting a presence on the website.”

The demand for cannabis tourism in Bend pales against the interest measured by Visit Bend, the city’s contract tourism marketing firm, in other areas, said Kevney Dugan, CEO of Visit Bend. He said the marijuana page of the Visit Bend website attracted 11,004 visits in the past year, far less than visits to other pages with information on lodging, restaurants or things to do such as the Bend Ale Trail.

Marijuana tourism for Visit Bend is not a marketing priority, he said. Blazing Trails pays for its presence on the Visit Bend website.

“It’s a touchy subject, so we treat them as we would any other tour company or business,” Dugan said Wednesday. “We don’t give any sort of special thought to that as an industry, whether there’s big growth potential or not. The craft beer culture blossomed into something that’s really unique. That’s not happening right now in (the marijuana) industry. Anecdotally, we haven’t heard anyone say, ‘We came to Bend because of the legal marijuana.’”

Blazing Trails operates from a Ford E-350 passenger van dressed with the company logo. Neither Bend Tour Co. nor Blazing Trails allow consumption of marijuana during the tour. Reisfar and Johnson devised a four-stop itinerary for a two-hour tour for groups as large as seven.

“We really don’t want to bring more than that into a lot of these businesses at one time; it’s the perfect size,” Reisfar said.

The tour starts with an orientation session at The Wilds, a coworking space at the Century Center on Southwest Century Drive. The first stop will be Juniper Analytics, a marijuana testing laboratory, followed by a trip to Piece of Mind, a glassware shop on Brooks Street, Johnson and Reisfar said. The shop sells pipes and other paraphernalia “for tobacco use only,” said store manager Amara Williams, but “there is some cross over.”

“Our main goal in (collaborating with Blazing Trails) is exposure as a business,” she said, “but also exposing people to locally made art glass if they’ve never seen it before.”

The third and fourth tour stops will be a marijuana farm and dispensary, with some change in the itinerary if a farm visit involves a longer drive, Johnson said. She said the tour would include two dispensaries to show clients a variety of cannabis products. Oregon Euphorics, at the Century Center on SW 14th Street, is among the scheduled stops.

Co-owner Taylor Rembowski said he looked forward not only to increased traffic at the store, but also the opportunity to educate visitors about Oregon marijuana and its responsible use.

“It’s a brand new business,” he said. “It’s pretty much a blank slate.”

Reisfar and Johnson said their own backgrounds with marijuana and tourism led them to Blazing Trails. Reisfar serves on the Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana for the Oregon Health Authority, among other advisory groups on which he’s served. Johnson said she’s managed a Deschutes River rafting company and served as a guide, taught skiing at Hoodoo Ski Area, worked behind the counter at marijuana dispensaries and holds a bachelor’s degree in tourism and outdoor recreation from Oregon State University-Cascades.

The pair worked for several years together at Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, a medical marijuana dispensary in Bend that closed about 1½ years ago with the advent of legalized marijuana for adult use, they said.

“All of that made us the perfect team and the perfect people to take this on in this new world that we’re in,” Johnson said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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