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.