I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Ending the Prohibition on Marijuana in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont

Back in 2012, we voted to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in Washington State. I’m proud of that vote and what it has meant for social justice, civil liberties, and public safety in my state. And so, every election cycle since then, I’ve gone on a barnstorming tour to help other states end our country’s prohibition on marijuana. In 2014, it was Oregon (we won). In 2016, it was Massachusetts and Maine (we won). And in this year, it was a whirlwind trip to DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont.

The first eight states that passed laws to regulate the sale of marijuana were “initiative states,” where citizens can vote directly on proposed laws that are too hot for politicians to risk supporting. Now that those progressive initiative states have legalized, it’s time to take the state-by-state dismantling of prohibition to the legislatures — starting in states where this issue is polling strongly. The Northeast, where Massachusetts and Maine have already legalized, sees legalization as a rising tide that, sooner or later, all will have to rise with.

Yesterday, I posted about my time in DC, working the halls of Congress. Next up, I spent successive days in Annapolis (the capital of Maryland), Dover (the capital of Delaware), Trenton (the capital of New Jersey), and Montpelier (the capital of Vermont). At each stop, I was the “likable travel guy” — used as bait by local lawmakers spearheading legalization bills to get fellow lawmakers and the press to drop by and learn more. I can’t remember meeting so many hardworking public servants in one week. It was an inspiring and educational experience for me.

Plus, it was good travel. At the Maryland State House, the first peacetime capitol in our country, one proud lawmaker took me to a room — the Old Senate Chamber — which he described as one of the most important places anywhere for democracy. It was here that George Washington declared that he’d freely give up power rather than becoming a de facto king.

Hiking up the steps to the capitol building that evening, we passed through a big assembly of gun-rights activists, all with newly minted and uniform placards. (One was a fan of my TV shows. He tried to teach me why we need so many guns, and as I left, he hollered, “We Second Amendment guys like PBS, too!”)

Whenever forces oppose us, I wonder, “What’s the financial incentive?” There’s a lot of money to be made by keeping pot illegal. We’ve found that our opposition — what I call the “PPP” or “Pot Prohibition Profiteers” — is funded by pharmaceutical companies, big beer conglomerates, and even the pee-in-a-cup people who sell marijuana testing kits. In Delaware, I encountered opposition for the first time from AAA, which has expressed concerns about road safety. I would point out, respectfully, that those claims are pretty easy to debunk.

In New Jersey, the “Garden State,” we drove through a forest of billboards in an industrial wasteland (one of the biggest read, “Pray for loved ones in Purgatory”) to reach a press conference. For the first time, I heard someone make the case that we shouldn’t legalize marijuana because we’d have to retrain all the sniffer dogs. (And he was serious!)

My favorite stop was in snowy Vermont, the state that Ben & Jerry & Bernie all call the perfect place for their values. The tiny capital of Montpelier (7,000 people and, they brag, no McDonald’s) hosts the convivial historic statehouse. It felt like a big coffee klatch of lawmakers, press, lobbyists, and citizens — all working to keep Vermont, Vermont.

Just a few weeks before I arrived, Vermont became the first state legislature to legalize the possession of marijuana — but they still have not created a state marketplace for marijuana sales. I joined the Senate Judiciary Committee (led by the venerable Senator Dick Sears) in a plush little room — me and five senators at a grand, old, wooden table, with press and the public gathered around in a friendly and informal atmosphere. I was welcomed to give my 15-minute review of our experience in Washington State and my take on European drug policy and to entertain questions.

Photo via Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project

Afterward, Lt. Governor David Zuckerman took me into his office to talk travel and drug policy. Before I left, I noticed a big bean on his desk, which he picked up and eloquently compared to each citizen in his state. Without fertile soil, a bean is nothing — but in fertile soil, it can grow big, strong, and robust, reaching its God-given potential. And, like that bean, a child needs the fertile soil of a well-governed society to reach her potential. In Vermont, that just sounded so right.

Photo via Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project

If you would like to watch a sample of the message I brought to Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont, here’s a fun talk from the Skinny Pancake restaurant in Burlington, as well as a more in-depth interview I did with Heady Vermont.

We’re here LIVE at The Skinny Pancake Burlington with Rick Steves talking about Cannabis reform in Vermont and beyond. Thanks to Skinny P for hosting us and to Marijuana Policy Project #vtpoli

Posted by Heady Vermont on Friday, February 16, 2018

Live Q&A with Rick Steves : Marijuana Legal Reforms Across America in 2018

Tune in for a chance to ask Rick Steves a question about his decades of advocacy and his most recent cannabis advocacy adventure across the East Coast in the midst of monumental reforms and legal marijuana from D.C. to Vermont. This conversation will be hosted and produced by Heady Vermont, an independent Vermont-based media company and advocacy group.

Posted by Marijuana Policy Project on Friday, February 16, 2018


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My Road Trip to Help Legalize Marijuana in the USA

Every winter, I take a road trip across the USA, giving talks along the way. This year’s trip is a big one: 25 cities in 30 days, which I kicked off with a full week dedicated to drug policy reform and helping to legalize marijuana.

Working the halls of Congress
Working the halls of Congress

I have embraced this cause for many years. I’ve been a board member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, since 2003. In 2012, I was a co-sponsor, major funder, and leading spokesperson for I-502, an initiative that legalized, taxed, and regulated the recreational use of marijuana for adults in Washington State. On election day that year, Washington and Colorado became the first jurisdictions in the world to attempt to turn a thriving marijuana black market into a highly taxed and regulated legal market. Many others had decriminalized marijuana, but it was a historic first to entirely legalize it (to honestly sort out the complicated “back-end” issues of wholesaling and distribution).

When I talk to audiences about marijuana, I always say, “I’m not pro-pot. I’m anti-prohibition, anti-racial discrimination, and pro-civil liberties.” And I always remind my audiences that marijuana is a drug, it can be dangerous, and it can be abused. But we now know, after a five-year track record in WA and CO, that when you legalize smartly, adult use stays essentially the same, teen use does not go up, crime does not go up, and DUIs do not go up. What does go up are protections of our civil liberties — and tax revenue. Marijuana was once a thriving illegal market in Washington State (rivaling apples in sales) that empowered and enriched organized crime. Now, it’s part of the legal market – and, with $1.3 billion in yearly sales, it’s a big part. Marijuana generated $319 million in revenue for our state last year alone. And we’re no longer arresting about 8,000 (mostly poor and black) people each year.

Because I’m so proud of what we’ve done for social justice, civil liberties, and public safety in our state, each election cycle I dedicate a week or so of my time to share this information with other states. In 2014, it was Oregon (we won). In 2016, it was Massachusetts and Maine (we won). And in 2018, I’m preaching the gospel of legalization in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont.

I started off the week in Washington DC, working the halls of Congress with lobbyists from NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project (and marveling at how omnipresent NRA lobbyists were). We dropped in on several Representatives and met Senators in the hallways, always sharing our experience, and we hosted briefings for Congressional aides in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There’s actually a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus now — with scores of lawmakers on board. We’re making serious progress at the federal level.

Senate briefing
Photo: Natalie Fertig

House of Representatives briefing

And this was a first: An interview I did under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda was turned into an animated clip.

Travel Guru Rick Steves' guide to marijuana: Europe vs. the U.S.

America's leading authority on European travel gives us his personal take on what Americans should & shouldn't learn from Europe when it comes to weed. http://bit.ly/2FfYnZ8

Posted by Circa on Monday, February 19, 2018

Video: Natalie Fertig, Circa.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my stops in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont.

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The Talented Team Behind Rick Steves Guidebooks

I’ve got to brag a bit about my hardworking guidebook staff and co-authors here at Rick Steves’ Europe. Researching, writing, and updating 52 out of the top 100 European travel guidebooks in the USA is quite an operation.


Guidebook researchers
Photo: The Travelphile

I love looking at weekly US sales figures and seeing where our books fit into the list of bestselling Europe guidebooks. In one typical week in January, our guidebooks held 19 of the top 22 spots. (Two of the other three titles that made the list were Iceland guidebooks. We don’t have an Iceland guidebook out…yet! On March 27, a shiny new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook will hit the shelves — and the free ride will be over for those two Iceland books by the other guys.)


US sales figures for guidebooks


To make sure our guidebooks deserve their leading place among the competition, we deploy a talented team of researchers. Every year, they fan out across Europe, visiting (and lovingly updating) our guidebook listings in person. To prepare them for the task, our Book Department holds an annual research workshop, convened by Managing Editor Jennifer Davis. We’re all grateful for the hard work of these researchers.


Managing Editor Jennifer Davis


We’re also thankful for our partnership with Avalon Travel (and their parent company, Hachette Book Group). Every year, the Avalon crew flies up to Seattle for a few days, giving our teams a chance to work together in person. During these visits, we always enjoy a “state of the publishing world” presentation by our publisher, Bill Newlin. This year, as usual, Bill shared great news on the sales front and made a case for more titles. He is a wizard in the publishing world — and that, combined with all the talent and hard work of our respective staffs, makes us hard to beat.


Meeting with Avalon team


Thanks for traveling with us and trusting Rick Steves guidebooks for your European adventures. We really believe that, if you equip yourself with good information and expect yourself to travel smart, you can — and we’re doing our best to be sure you enjoy maximum travel thrills for every mile, minute, and dollar in your precious vacation.

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Video: Celebrating Our Guides — All You Need is Love

This year, we capped our annual tour guide summit with a 1920s-themed dance. Europeans know exactly what an American “Roaring Twenties” party looks like, and our guides all dressed the part. From flappers to gangsters, we had a blast, as you’ll see in the video below.

And, there’s a bonus at the end of the clip: a bit of “All You Need is Love” fun at a house party I held earlier in the week. (Because of licensing, I had to cut the music — but you’re encouraged to sing along!)



“All you need is love” really captures the wonderful esprit de corps our guides, staff, and I enjoy together at Rick Steves’ Europe Tours. And, coming together in a group hug to sing that timeless anthem seems perfectly in line with our mission. Despite the ugly headlines so many of us fixate on, our world is filled with joy, happiness, rich culture, and beautiful children of God. And, when we travel, we get to know our shared family, making it easier to appreciate and celebrate all that love.

Thanks to Trish Feaster (The Travelphile) for capturing all our fun on video.

Laughter and Joy with Our Family of Guides

Imagine having over a hundred European tour guides from 20 different countries fill your home with fun, laughter, and joyful energy. Plug in a mic and speaker in the living room for announcements, clean out the garage and throw down a carpet, borrow some extra chairs, hire a food truck to bring in dinner, and make sure there’s a bar downstairs to spread out the crowd…I’m still buzzing from this fun evening.


Rick Steves at party


We have the most wonderful family of guides at Rick Steves’ Europe Tours. Every year, we fly them all in for a weeklong tour guide workshop here in Edmonds (just north of Seattle). Each day is full of tour-related teaching, sharing, and planning. And each evening, it’s time for bonding and social fun. For six nights, we pack various venues (and, later on, many invade a couple of bars on Main Street for after-parties).


Tour guides at Edmonds bar


I love our guides. They are remarkable people — big personalities with a love of culture, who embrace life with gusto, and who love to share their passion for their homelands. They also love American culture and their American travelers. Our annual summit is unique for them because they get a chance to be with all their colleagues — 140 kindred spirits.

We always try to give our guides a little dose of America during their annual visit. This year, we hired classic American school buses to shuttle the gang to a nearby Indian reservation with a casino, lots of big-box stores, an outlet mall, and Cabela’s — the gun-lover’s nirvana. (I heard one of our German guides remark, “We rode the American school bus to the gun shop. They even had pink guns for the ladies.”) That evening, the school buses headed into Seattle for swing dancing lessons in an old ballroom. And we capped the week with a 1920s-themed dance party, featuring a beer brewed especially for the occasion (“Swell Fella Amber”). Everyone dressed up like flappers and Al Capone (or the guy at the soda fountain).


Swell Fella beer

Thanks to Trish Feaster (The Travelphile) for the photos in this post!