(Photo above: Stacie Johnson and Tris Reisfar opened their cannabis tour company in Bend in mid-March | Photo by Steve Kadel)
When Craig French of Astoria found himself in Bend for a few days, he wanted to investigate the town’s cannabis industry. So he booked a two-hour trip with Blazing Trails Tours, which began offering educational “field trips” to local marijuana businesses in mid-March.
French doesn’t hesitate saying he’s enjoyed the herb for a long time.
“It’s always been a positive part of my life,” he said during a tour on Saturday, March 18.
Owners Stacie Johnson and Tris Reisfar hope Blazing Trails will be doing two to three tours four days each week during the summer. They might also schedule an evening tour.
“This new adventure is very exciting for us,” Reisfar said.
He and Johnson drive customers in a 2013 Ford E350 van with comfortable captain chairs. But it’s no party vehicle. Using marijuana is strictly forbidden during the tours.
On March 18, the group stopped at Bend Indoor Garden Station (BIGS), which has products to give plants the best start possible. Marijuana cultivators are just part of the store’s clientele, but discussion of the plant is finally out in the open since Oregon citizens voted to legalize recreational cannabis.
“They’re happy they can talk openly now,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to be about tomato plants.”
“You always had to beat around the bush with your conversation,” Reisfar agreed. “You couldn’t say the word marijuana.”
The financial boost from recreational pot growers has been part of the store’s success that will allow them to move into a new, larger facility soon, a BIGS spokesman said.
Both Blazing Trails co-owners have long histories in the cannabis world. They met seven years ago at Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, a local medical marijuana licensing clinic focused on educating people about responsible use of drugs.
Johnson grew up as an athletic girl who suffered a major injury at age 11. Doctors put her on large amounts of anti-inflammatory medication, which she said caused ulcers and daily stomach pain. She became a state licensed medical marijuana patient in 2004 and wants to heal others as she was healed. She has a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University-Cascades in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, and has guided rafting trips for several years in addition to having taught ski lessons.
Reisfar was part of Oregon’s first attempt to legalize marijuana. He stayed active politically throughout 25 years in the dental profession. He was manager of the Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse clinic in Bend from 2010-2017. Reisfar now serves on the Oregon Health Authority’s Advisory Committee on medical marijuana, and has been a member of the city of Bend Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Committee since 2000.
Their two-hour tours are for adults only and cost $69 per person, which includes about $30 of reduced price coupons and non-cannabis merchandise from companies visited, such as Oregrown. There, bud tender Eddie Salzman explained the difference between different strains of marijuana and answered other questions. He even let those on the tour smell the aroma of various buds in big glass jars.
Oregrown has an attractive yet spare store decor that Reisfar said was inspired by Apple stores. The dispensary has a full array of pre-rolled joints as well as cannabis buds with strain names such as Gorilla Glue, Pineapple Express and Green Queen.
A customer in Oregrown’s lobby — Craig McLaughlin of Bend — recognized Johnson and called out a hello. She told him she was leading a tour and he smiled.
“I think it’s a great idea,” McLaughlin told a friend. “They’re way ahead of their time.”
In fact, the co-owners believe they are the first in Oregon to offer cannabis tours. It’s a niche they hope will pay dividends from Bend’s well-developed tourism crowd.
When the March 18 tour moved on to Piece of Mind, participants saw a dizzying array of glass pipes and other merchandise. Some people on the tour were interested in how vaporizers could deliver the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana without burning the herb, which reduces potentially harmful toxins.
Oregon Euphorics was another stop on the tour. The dispensary had an attractive array of buds for sale. Clerk Rachel Hoagland said she’s used to having tourists from Oregon or out-of-state marvel at the sight of a pot shop.
“It happens every day,” she said. “They want to know where we get our weed. They want to know everything about the business. Some people are scared in a way. I tell them to go into it with an open mind.”
Blazing Tours’ owners give their clients a detailed rundown on Oregon marijuana laws and history before leaving for each tour. Reisfar addressed the inherent conflict between Oregon’s legal recreational cannabis and the federal government’s stance that the herb is illegal.
“We’ve really never had any federal intervention to date,” Reisfar said.
He noted that the state of Oregon received $65 million in tax revenue from the sales of recreational pot in the first year it was legal. Most of that money went to the State Common School Fund, Reisfar said. The state attaches a 17 percent tax on recreational pot with the city of Bend adding another 3 percent tax.
Reisfar emphasized that public use of marijuana remains illegal. Johnson pointed out that on federal land in Oregon — such as a national forest or Crater Lake National Park — the federal ban prevails.
Another difference in state law vs. federal law comes in the air. Adults who are 21 or older may carry marijuana when flying within the state, but it’s illegal to take any cannabis product out of Oregon.
As the March 18 tour rolled toward a conclusion, French, the visitor from Astoria, settled into his chair in the van and smiled. He had enjoyed the trip and learned several things. His thoughts drifted ahead to other tourists, perhaps less experienced than himself, who would be taking cannabis tours in the future.
“Imagine how many people this summer will try their first marijuana right here in Bend,” he said.
Blazing Trails Tours
30 SW Century Drive, Suite 120, Bend, OR 97702. www.blazingtrailsbend.com 541-318-6488
Company structure: LLC
Number of employees: 2
Product/service: Tours of Bend marijuana dispensaries, glass shops, indoor gardening product stores and educational discussion about Oregon’s marijuana laws and history.
Hot News: Tours went live in mid-March. A stop at an outdoor grow facility will be added to that tours when weather allows.
Outlook for Growth: Extremely positive, having become the first Oregon firm to enter the cannabis tour niche.