Ottawa entrepreneur Brad Campeau’s bid to jump on the cannabis tourism bandwagon is no longer just an April Fool’s joke.
Two years ago, the owner of local craft brewery tour outfit Brew Donkey sparked a stampede of requests from customers eager to hop on a “cannabus” and check out pot producer Canopy Growth’s operations as part of a new “Ganja Mule” service. Of course, cannabis was not yet legal for recreational use at that point, and the business’s April 1 launch date should have been a dead giveaway that maybe the venture was too good to be true.
Fast forward to 2019, when anyone of legal age can smoke pot in Canada. Now, Campeau is ready to make his dream of giving cannabis connoisseurs an up-close look at Canopy’s Smiths Falls plant a reality.
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Starting this summer, Brew Donkey will be offering trips to Canopy’s facility as part of a swing through eastern Ontario. The first tour, slated for June 29 and dubbed “Rideau Valley High,” will see customers receive a 75-minute tour of Canopy’s Tweed visitors’ centre and grow-op before hopping back on the bus and heading to Perth’s Top Shelf Distillers and Braumeister Brewing in Carleton Place.
It’s no coincidence that Campeau timed the announcement of his newest offering to occur just ahead of April 20 – more commonly referred to by pot aficionados as 4/20, the date of annual gatherings across Canada devoted to all things cannabis.
“We’re happy to be able to launch around the same time when a lot of the country is going to be celebrating something that is now no longer a hidden, dark secret,” he said. “It is something that they can proudly and loudly proclaim that they love.”
Campeau stressed the tours will be meant to educate consumers about cannabis, its history and how it is produced.
“We’re helping you better understand the products that you’re putting into your body,” he said.
Unlike the company’s brewery and distillery tours, what the cannabis sessions won’t include is any sampling of the product itself.
Provincial law currently prohibits Canopy Growth from selling weed at its visitors’ centre or allowing its consumption in an enclosed public space, and toking on the bus is also off-limits.
Nonetheless, Campeau fully expects the new tour to be a hit. He’s planning to offer trips to Smiths Falls once every two months to start, but he says he’ll make the excursions a more regular part of Brew Donkey’s itinerary if the demand warrants it.
“If we take into account what our April Fool’s Day joke of 2017 was, there should be some heavy interest in it,” he said. “Even more so now that it isn’t just a dirty, dark secret. We hope this will be a regular thing.”
Brew Donkey’s tours are typically capped at 25 participants and require a minimum average of eight customers to break even, Campeau said.
Even with a few constraints on his marketing efforts – Facebook, for example, won’t allow cannabis to be referred to by name in posts on the popular social networking site – he’s certain that hitting the eight-passenger threshold won’t be a problem.
“This is on a lot of people’s bucket lists,” he said with a smile.