Colorado has been a tourist destination since before it became a state in 1876. The beauty of the rough landscape and the Rocky Mountains is undeniable, even to those who aren’t normally inspired by such natural majesty. Traditionally, the tourism enjoyed by the Centennial State has been for activities such as skiing, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and nature photography. In 2016, however, cannabis tourism, or cannatourism, must officially be added to the list. Needless to say, those interested in such excursions should be 21 or older.
It has been two full years since Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize adult use cannabis. Since its debut, sales of permitted pot has poured tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues into the coffers of the state’s municipalities and school districts. A significant part of this growth — and much of the money — has been generated via cannabis tourism.
Some ski town dispensaries have claimed that 60-80 percent of their business is derived from those traveling from out-of-state, typically on a personal vacation. Frustrated fans of cannabis in prohibitionist states are visiting Colorado in record numbers, seeking a taste of freedom and regulated safe access, similar to how North Americans used to travel to Amsterdam to sample a more liberated environment for cannabis consumption and fellowship.
Toking in Legal Limos
Cannatourism services are available in many forms. These include cannabis-friendly limos that will make a beeline from Denver International Airport to the nearest reputable dispensary, specialty tours that explore quaint mountain dispensaries, and cannabis-friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts. The future may even bring cannacafes and social gathering places for cannabis consumers, much like how those who enjoy alcohol can visit a tavern or pub.
Let’s spend a fantasy weekend in Denver, a city that — much like Portland and Seattle — is becoming a mecca for patients and lifestyle cannabis consumers who prefer to partake of strains like the rare sativa Durban Poison or top shelf samples of Girl Scout Cookies when vacationing. Given the stress of modern life, a weekend learning about and responsibly consuming cannabis, in a variety of forms and among plenty of fellow enthusiasts, might be just the ticket to managing anxiety and maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective on life, including family and career.
The first stop on this cannabis vacation isn’t a stop at all, but rather a ride in the 420 Airport Pickup limo that travels directly to the dispensary that best caters to one’s preferences. Really into concentrates? How about edibles? Want to try that hip new whole plant extract called live resin? Given the number of specialty shops in the Denver metro area, this canna-shuttle can help, allowing patients to medicate before they even reach their lodging. This company also offers cannabis tours and a nice discount to those who purchase a round trip. Travel back to the airport in style — and avoid the worry and hassle of returning a rental car or getting busted while driving stoned.
Stocked up on cannabinoid-rich medicine, the next stop is the hotel. There are many options for canna-friendly lodging in the Mile High City, including a chain of locations by Bud+Breakfast and a premier downtown hotel that just happens to allow residents to toke up in its sumptuous suites. Bud+Breakfast (the company with the tag line “We’ll keep the bowl burning for you”) offers multiple properties, including the famous and classically beautiful Adagio Bed & Breakfast in Capital Hill, as well as multiple mountain cabin properties.
Located in one of Denver’s most beautiful historic neighborhoods, the Adagio B&B is a beautiful Victorian — and a stark contrast from the company’s cabin properties that are nestled within the mountains. The Adagio offers six “elegantly decorated” private suites that range from $200 to $300 per night and provide ready access to the attractions of downtown — including dispensaries and retail outlets.
At $300 a night, the company’s smoke-friendly cabin in Aspen isn’t cheap, but considering that it provides the utmost in beautiful mountain scenery and consummate privacy for up to six adults, it can actually be very reasonable. Another option is this hospitality company’s cabin in Silverthorne, Colorado, which offers five suites priced from $130 to $250 per night and is perfect for a romantic getaway while vaping a nice concentrate or smoking some sticky buds purchased at the dispensary stop on the drive from the airport.
Another option is The Nativ, a swank hotel in downtown Denver that just so happens to be friendly to cannabis (and owned by culture-friendly entrepreneurs and advocates). This luxury destination offers 24-hour room service and features suites replete with a 60-inch high-definition display panels, private patios, and oversized hot tubs. The Nativ’s focus on luxury may not appeal to the more bohemian members of the cannabis culture or those on a budget, with room rates ranging from $330 to $535 per night.
However, those who prefer or are habituated to high-end accommodations, especially international business travelers, will appreciate the ability to smoke or vape without risk of being booted from their room or paying a ridiculously steep fine for having smoked in it. Nativ offers a rare mix of old school luxury and a 21st century respect for cannabis consumers, including a coffee and champagne bar and the ability to chill in style with several friends in a full-size Jacuzzi — or by oneself with a bowl of medical-grade flowers or a handy vape pen. All legally purchased and consumed.
Denver is nothing is not a hotspot for cannabis themed tours of nearly every shape and size. Many focus on dispensaries, while some offer tours of large cultivation facilities. Others focus on mountain vistas and dispensaries or retail shops that serve the slice of the skiing community that embraces cannabis for mind, body, and spirit.
The High There Bus, dubbed the Hopper, is a 20-passenger limo-style, cannabis-friendly party bus that tours Denver. But there’s a catch: Tour guests are users of the High There app, a Tinder-style dating service targeted at cannabis users. The Hopper is a legal alternative for cannabis tourists who may find a lack of desire to violate their hotel smoking policy or toke in public and risk encountering a strict police officer.
What is interesting about the Hopper, which debuted in 2016, is that it is free to ride. It is legal and, theoretically, safe to consume cannabis on this party bus, but the intent is obviously to promote the High There app. Until cannabis lounges and bars emerge that allow safe, casual use of cannabis for tourists, the Hopper will be a valid alternative — for those who are willing to sign up for the High There dating service, that is.
Some of the best, and most affordable, tours in Denver are offered by My 420 Tours, which features dispensary and grow tours beginning at only $50. A unique Sushi and Joint Roll dinner is available for $60 per person. Most tours, including the four-hour Budz & Sudz Tour (that includes time in a brewery tour, a tasting session, and dinner), carry a $100 fee, including a popular cannabis cooking class.
There’s no doubt that Denver currently offers some of the best, and most interesting, cannabis-centric tours in the nation. Another example is Cultivating Spirits, a tourism company offering a range of unusual cannabis excursions, including a three-course “cannabis pairing” dinner and a Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour.
For foodies who love to consume superlative cannabis, get the munchies, and dine in style, Cultivating Spirits is a dream come true. Wine fans who would never walk into an incense-drenched head shop may love the classy tours offered by this company. Although pricey (the Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour is $250 per person, but offers the advantage of being limited to only 10 guests), tours from this company last several hours and have received praise from picky guests. Said one customer:
“I was taken care of the whole night by the guide, never having an empty glass, dull moment, or question unanswered.”
Another credible source of pot-friendly tours is Colorado Highlife Tours, which proudly proclaims that it has been providing “safe, fun, and discreet” tours since 2013. The Denver Stony Saturday Tour, which costs $90, is a 3-4 hour sight seeing jaunt that allows guests to smoke or vape while riding the party bus. The tour includes stops at a glass blowing shop and an indoor cultivation facility, as well as a 4:20 pm smokeout that makes available vaporizers, dab rigs, and water pipes. Guests can smoke or vape virtually any way they desire — even if they come to the party unprepared in terms of a smoking implement.
The Unique Stuff
From the perspective of its psychoactive effect and euphoria, cannabis is known to both generate and enhance creativity. For painters, those who practice yoga and meditation, and many other artists or creative types, pot is arguably a performance enhancer, aiding sometimes intrepid artistic efforts for both amateurs and professionals alike. For many, cannabis eliminates “writer’s block.”
Puff, Pass, and Paint is one of the more successful, as well as unique, cannabis-centric businesses that has emerged during the dawn of the age of adult use legalization that began in Colorado in 2014. Offering classes in the three top legal cannabis hotspots — Seattle, Portland, and Denver — this funky “cannabis-friendly, all-inclusive art class” is both daring and rewarding in its embrace of students puffing down or vaping their own herb or oil while trying to get inspired to create, learn, paint, and mingle.
A new class in the mix is Puff, Pass, and Pottery. Class fees are very reasonable and range from about $50 to $65. Said the chain’s owner, Heidi Keyes, “Puff, Pass, and Paint is a 420-friendly art class, which basically means that it is providing an environment to come and create — and feel very comfortable doing that.” She added:
“And also to be able to partake in cannabis, if you choose to.”
Those wishing to break from the traditional couples vacation should seriously consider Denver and the entire state of Colorado for their next adventure. A full catalog of services allows patients and consumers of all age groups and budgets.
The only unfortunate thing is the fact that cities like Denver, Seattle, and Portland are among the very few places in all of the United States where patients and fans of the cannabis culture can travel to enjoy legal adult access to regulated, lab tested, high-quality cannabis medicine and related products and services. Hopefully this will change in the coming years, especially if more states legalize adult use in the 2016 elections.
Some Advice for Cannatourists
One final piece of advice, especially for novice cannatourists. Those interested in Colorado edibles should seriously heed the mantra start low, go slow. Good tours will expose guests to professional budtenders who will preach likewise and give real world dosing (titration) advice to customers, with a full slew of warnings for first-time consumers. Due to the abundant sources of safe, tested, and properly labeled edibles in the state, visitors are warned to avoid edibles from the black market.
Photo credit: Bud+Breakfast (The Maryjane Group), Puff Pass and Paint, My 420 Tours
There’s one word to describe the experience of first using the Puffco Pro portable vaporizer: Flavor.
While many other labels come to mind, such as stealthy, sleek, and durable, those dropping even a mediocre-quality concentrate into this popular mobile vaporizer will be impressed by the integrity of the terpene profile flavor it produces.
The Puffco Pro is rugged, but will rarely be described as such, simply because it is such a svelte gunmetal ballerina. Its all-ceramic concentrate chamber features a titanium heating coil and achieves vaping temperature nearly instantly. With some top-shelf concentrates offering up to 90 percent THC, mobile vaping is an excellent and practical way for patients to gain on-the-go relief from pain, nausea, and inflammation.
Metal + Ceramic + Titanium
Forget the specs. What does it feel like to use the Puffco Pro?
Simply wonderful. The fact that this Applesque unit is fully void of any plastic or glue goes beyond its stellar performance and great in-hand feel. For example, to ease cleaning, the atomizer can be placed upside-down in an oven at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit; residual concentrate will drip out of the unit, almost perfectly cleaning it. That would not work with a cheap plastic vape pen — many of which are considerably more expensive than the Puffco Pro.
Battery life is stellar. If dead, it requires about three hours to fully charge via USB. Once charged, it will provide multiple days of concentrate vaping. The unit’s metal even features a protective UV coating, giving it a unique feel and ultra-durable enclosure. Sadly, I accidentally kicked my Puffco across a busy street after it fell from my pocket. Only slightly scuffed, it remained fully functional.
Most vape pens offer only a single temperature, one that is relatively high and may produce harsh tokes. Models like the Puffco Pro, which allow users to dial in the temp they prefer, can produce much smoother hits via the lowest setting. To change the temperature of this model, simply click the button four times; it will cycle through low (green), medium (blue), and high (red). To prevent unintentional vaping of a pre-packed chamber, this pen can be toggled on and off via five clicks.
At $79, the Puffco Pro is an excellent value and certain to catch the attention of a wide range of concentrate and vape fans — even those on a tight budget. It features minimal draw resistance, the biggest chamber in the business (it can accommodate nearly half a gram of wax, shatter, or one’s favorite concentrate), and simply feels great in the hand.
photo credit: Puffco
Many are familiar with the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, which have such great efficacy for conditions like depression, PTSD, and epilepsy. But cannabinoids are only part of the picture. Terpenes are like molecular cousins to cannabinoids and serve the primary role of delivering a wide variety of alluring aromas to cannabis flowers, but also offer a wide range of medicinal benefits as well.
In addition to aroma, terpenes deliver sometimes great medicinal value. They have been found to fight cancer and act as an analgesic (pain killer). Like amino acids, terpenes are powerful building blocks within the plant’s physiology that aid in the production of vitamins, hormones, pigments, resins, and — yes, that most prized part of the herb — cannabinoids. Cannabis plants release more terpenes when temperatures are higher (one reason they emit strong odors during the peak of harvest season).
More than 200 terpenes are available in the cannabis plant, while more than 20,000 exist in nature. They are produced in the small resin glands that appear primarily on the surface of the flowers and sugar leaves of cannabis plants called trichomes. It is estimated that there are nearly 1000 strains of cannabis that have been bred. Each of these features a distinct and unique mix of terpenes, something called a terpene profile.
Cannabis and cannabis products — such as concentrates — sold in legal and regulated states often feature a label providing a laboratory analysis that lists the exact percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes. Often, lab techs, budtenders, and pot nerds will discuss particular strains or extracts of cannabis in terms of their terpene profiles and how the overall efficacy of one profile (an individual of a particular strain) compares with other samples or methods of extracting concentrates.
Major terpenes include myrcene, pinene, and limonene. Myrcene, which conveys earthy and clove-like odors, determines whether a particular strain is indica or sativa by its percentage within the plant (further illustrating the important role played by terpenes). Pinene, a terpene also found in evergreens, has been found to increase mental focus and energy and acts as a bronchodilator — making it helpful for asthma sufferers. Limonene, as its name implies, provides an aroma of citrus and is found not only in cannabis, but also oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. It has been revealed to alleviate depression and aid in digestion.
Terpenes are very volatile, delicate molecules that are easily destroyed by heat and oxidation. Popular cannabis concentrates, like BHO and CO2 oil, are mostly void of terpenes. One new extraction method called live resin preserves the terpene profile of cannabis plants. This process involves cryogenically freezing plants immediately after harvest and then using a laboratory extraction process (backyard brewers need not apply) to remove and isolate a more accurate representation of a particular plant’s mix of cannabinoids and terpenes.
What is Linalool?
Linalool, one of the minor terpenes found in cannabis, conveys a floral aroma, sometimes with a hint of spice. More than 200 species of plants produce linalool, including a variety of mints and herbs. More important, linalool serves many roles in relieving a number of symptoms, including pain, depression, seizures, inflammation (similar to limonene), and even insomnia (because it acts as a sedative). Its tranquilizing effects are helpful for those suffering with many types of psychosis.
- Analgesic: Linalool is helpful for conditions like multiple sclerosis, dystonia, arthritis, post-operative pain, and chronic pain from any source because it is a pain killer. Combined with cannabinoids of the same efficacy, linalool can be a reinforcing agent in a patient’s struggle to manage pain, especially if they are trying to avoid or reduce use of opiates such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin.
- Antidepressant: More than 20 million people in the United States alone suffer from sometimes debilitating depression. This common psychological ailment can negatively affect one’s career, personal relationships, and even physical health. Linalool, when combined with cannabinoids like THC that are also effective in helping alleviate depression, helps form an overall strategy for using cannabis to treat these types of disorders.
- Anti-Convulsant: Just as chemotherapy is used to treat conditions other than cancer, seizures afflict those with conditions other than epilepsy, such as traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, and hydrocephalus. Most seizures feature a duration of between 30 seconds and two minutes. Typically, they do not cause lasting harm, although they seizures often very taxing, painful, or exhausting for sufferers. Seizures that last longer than five minutes are considered life threatening.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Those suffering from inflammation-based diseases, such as Crohn’s, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, fibromyalgia, dermatitis, IBS, lupus, and Parkinson’s, among many others, gain benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of linalool (as well as a variety of anti-inflammatory cannabinoids).
- Sedative and Sleep Aid: It is estimated that 10-30 percent of people suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives, with 10 percent reported to experience chronic and severe sleep deprivation. Cannabinoids like CBN, when combined with terpenes such as linalool, help patients get the sleep they require to maintain homeostasis (balance) and health. Adequate sleep is critical for patients to most effectively fight their condition or disease.
Ancient cultures have used terpenes like linalool, available in a variety of aromatic herbs like cannabis, for millennia to treat a wide variety of conditions. 21st century research has confirmed the beliefs of these ancient civilizations, revealing strong medical efficacy for a variety of conditions.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine revealed that linalool is a major anti-inflammatory agent, potentially helping with a variety of inflammation-related ailments, such as cancer, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. The same research team, in a 2003 study, found linalool to also be a pain killer. These researchers again, in 2006, conducted another linalool study that further collected and examined data from animal models. This study reinforced the fact that linalool is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
2008 research published in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal supported the sedative qualities of linalool. The study estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety-related ailments, with 16 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 54 being patients of one or more anxiety conditions, which sometimes lead to substance abuse and mood disorders.
This study revealed linalool to be a powerful sedative that delivers real efficacy to those who suffer anxiety disorders and one of their most common side effects, insomnia. Concluded the study:
“Our data…suggested that linalool modulates the central nervous system by producing unconsciousness and degradation of motor movements.”
A 2010 study involving mice that employed three different sub-types of linalool found it to be an effective anticonvulsant, meaning it shows significant promise for those who suffer seizures, such as patients of epilepsy and brain tumors. Reported the study:
“Linalool…[was] effective in preventing tonic convulsions induced by transcorneal electroshock in the animals.”
More Research Needed
As with all areas of cannabis science, terpenes like linalool are in desperate need of well funded, robust research in the form of human trials. Until cannabis is dropped from Schedule I and real studies are permitted by reputable research institutions and laboratories, medical professionals and patients must play a guessing game in terms of the types and dosages of terpenes like linalool that are most appropriate for particular conditions.
On Thursday, October 1, Oregon joined the ranks of those rare, but increasingly prevalent states that sell cannabis through dispensaries and retail outlets to citizens who are 21 and older. When Oregon passed Measure 91 in 2014, which legalized recreational cannabis possession and consumption for fans of the culture in the Beaver State, all stakeholders knew it would probably be 2016 before adults were actually able to legally walk into a safe, regulated retail outlet without a medical exemption and purchase cannabis.
The state surprised everyone when, over the summer, it announced that it would make recreational cannabis sales legal through existing dispensaries to expedite the rollout of the recreational market and get a leg up on illegal dealers eager to supply a newly motivated and hungry population of consumers. Said Portland resident John Finley:
“Before, I had to go through potentially dangerous, weird people in motels, for instance. Or just people I didn’t want to deal with or don’t trust. It was legal, but I didn’t have any options.”
A Short History
In 1998, Oregon became the second state in the nation to pass a medical marijuana law that permitted and regulated the cultivation, processing, and dispensation of medical cannabis to patients with a wide range of ailments.
Roughly 200 of Oregon’s 345 medical dispensaries have registered with the state to expand their customer base to recreational consumers. On June 30, Oregon passed HB 3400, a law to regulate recreational sales, including a detailed seed-to-sale tracking system and the progressive expungement of thousands of non-violent cannabis offenses.
Senate Bill 460, which Oregon governor Kate Brown signed during the summer, allowed recreational sales via dispensaries beginning on October 1 as a means of kickstarting the state’s recreational legalization while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission crafts regulatory language that will set the rules for all recreational marijuana sales in the state. Recreational sales will be tax-free until January 4, 2016, when a 25 percent tax will go into effect.
On July 1, Oregon’s recreational law went into effect, making it legal for millions of Oregonians to possess up to eight ounces of the herb, grow small amounts at home (four plants, if kept out of public view), and take up to an ounce outside their residence. But with only a network of medical dispensaries and no existing recreational retail outlets, cannabis consumers in the state have been trapped in a Catch 22, with no convenient and safe access to the herb that has finally been legalized.
By allowing medical dispensaries to also sell cannabis to recreational users, the state hopes to establish an advantage over the black market and cartels, pushing organized crime out of communities and generating much needed tax revenue. Unfortunately, the state will not even begin accepting applications from entrepreneurs and businesses for retail licenses allowing cultivation, processing, testing, and retail sales of cannabis and cannabis products until January 4, 2016. Recreational retail outlets are expected to begin opening later in 2016, most likely the third and fourth quarter.
Oregon joins Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia to offer adults 21 and older the legal right to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis for non-medical purposes. Ironically, while California was the first state to establish a legal and semi-regulated environment for medical cannabis in 1996 with Proposition 215, technically speaking, recreational sales are still illegal in the state (a recreational ballot issue scheduled for 2016 is expected to pass). Like Oregon until now, Alaska, which has legalized possession and consumption for all adults, also has not begun legal sales of cannabis to recreational consumers.
While pot sales between individuals remains illegal, gifting and sharing herb is permitted in Oregon. The new recreational law allows citizens to purchase “flower and dry leaf products, plants, and seeds,” according to Oregon.gov. Note the distinct exception of concentrates and edibles. Unfortunately, residents of Oregon who choose to take advantage of the state’s new recreational legalization will be limited to only seven grams (a quarter ounce) of flowers (buds) and related products (the same daily amount that Colorado allows tourists to purchase, while residents can purchase an ounce per visit).
This restriction will be teasingly painful due to the fact that recreational consumers can currently legally shop only in certain medical dispensaries, most of which also sell edibles and concentrates to patients. While displayed direction in front of customers, dispensaries won’t be permitted to sell such prominently promoted products to recreational shoppers. Oregon’s recreational smokers and vapers simply won’t have legal, safe access to concentrates such as Butane Hash Oil (BHO) and its myriad variants (like wax, shatter, and crumble), tinctures, CO2 oil, and live resin.
For those thinking of purchasing and consuming recreational cannabis in Oregon who aren’t tapped into the details of what’s permitted, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has published an infographic that may help. Those sad about a lack of legal access to edibles and concentrates can print out a copy and use it to blow their nose and wipe their tears of frustration.
Where Things Stand
Oregon has set a new record in the sparsely crowded field of states that allow recreational cannabis sales. It sold $11 million worth of non-medical weed after one week of sales. Compare this to what other recreationally legal states sold during their first week of legality:
- Colorado: $5 million
- Washington: <$1 million
- Alaska: $0 (rec sales have not yet begun)