Colorado Rocky Mountain High: Pot Tourism in the Centennial State
By Steffi Porter
Many people travel to Amsterdam with more than the Van Gogh museum in mind. They want to get high. Legally.
So they fly across the Atlantic and hurry into one of the city’s famous brown cafes, enjoy a legal buzz, and go out and stumble around by the canals.
Marijuana tourism has finally come to the US! There is even a website devoted to pot tours in Colorado!
But today, there is no reason to fly all the way to the Netherlands–pot tourism is right here in the good old USA.
Since January 2014, a handful of tour operators and dozens of retail locations are now selling the evil weed to anyone over 21 who comes into their shops.
Pot tourism is gaining popularity in Colorado, giving visitors and residents the chance to explore the state and smoke marijuana along the way. The recreational use of cannabis is legalized in 15 states
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
Since the enactment of Amendment 64, signed back in May of 2013 in the state of Colorado, people age 21 and over can purchase and smoke marijuana. This opened the doors to pot tourism, a unique way for marijuana enthusiasts to experience traveling Colorado.
There is also a guide to places in Denver and other parts of Colorado where you can legally smoke weed in lounges and special clubs!
What are Pot Tours?
They are exactly what the name suggests: Tours during which participants can smoke pot and learn more about it as well. These tours include limo rides, viewing cannabis gardens, finding munchies, and other pot-themed activities.
With a designated straight-arrow limo driver, tourists can have fun and get as high as they like, with no fear of the blue lights flashing or other downers. It’s all good in the great state of Colorado!
There are many tour groups already set up all over the state of Colorado–opportunities for people who wish to smoke marijuana, to do so with others while learning more about the new, legal marijuana industry.
What’s in a Tour?
One tour group offering these excursions, Colorado Cannabis Tours, located in Denver, starts with a driver, who does not smoke during the tour, taking a small group of six to eight people out in a limo.
Smoking along the way, the tourists get to visit marijuana dispensaries, view a glass pipe being made by a glassblower, walk through a cannabis garden, and get the chance to view the inner workings of the cannabis industry.
This fairly simple tour package is just the beginning, according to owner Michael Eymer, who says the business of pot tours is new, but growing in popularity.
He added that the popularity is largely due to the appeal of being able to ride around in a limo and smoke legally with “like-minded people,” something he says is a ‘huge draw.’
The company currently has 120 limos at their disposal, and these Cannabis Tours take approximately three and a half to four hours, visiting several dispensaries, and most of the tourists getting ‘pretty high’ by the end of it, according to Eymer.
And if those patrons have the munchies, they don’t need to worry because Colorado Cannabis Tours conclude their journey with a visit to Cheba Hut, a pot-themed sub shop.
“Dank,” “Sticky Icky,” and “White Widow” are just three of the many names given to a variety of subs on the Cheba Hut menu. The restaurant serves “toasted” subs in three different sizes, “Nugs” 4-inch subs) “Pinners” (8-inch subs) and “Blunts” (12-inch subs).
Along with sandwiches, the shop offers snacks, labeled as “munchies,” places a pot leaf next to all vegetarian items on the menu, and calls their beverages “Cotton Mouth Cures.”
The sub shop has five different locations throughout Colorado, while also serving their uniquely named sandwiches in Arizona, Iowa, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Florida and Wisconsin, with a total of 39 locations.
Cheba Hut was founded by Scott Jennings in 1998, and identifies as a ‘counter-culture-themed restaurant franchise,’ according to their website, with the tagline ‘Cheba Hut: Where the only thing fried is the occasional customer.’
A Growing Industry
Though most Colorado tourism offices contacted did not return phone calls, a Visit Denver spokesperson, who asked her name not be used, said Visit Denver does not offer any pot tours.
She added that until they see numbers indicating it is necessary to, Visit Denver is not interested in talking about marijuana tourism.
Richard Scharf, president of Visit Denver and chairman of the Colorado Tourism Office, warned in 2013 that passage of the amendment could hobble the state’s travel industry. Like the governor and most Colorado lawmakers, he was against the law.
“If Colorado receives international media attention as the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana in their Constitution, Colorado’s brand will be damaged, and we may attract fewer conventions and see a decline in leisure travel,” Scharf said.
After only one month after the legalization of recreational marijuana use, there was little evidence whether or not pot tours are a lucrative industry, but if you ask tour groups like Colorado Highlife, or Colorado Cannabis Tours, just because official tourism boards of the state have not yet jumped on the bandwagon does not mean it won’t develop into a major draw for tourists.
Eymer said that the success of pot tours is not dependent on official tourism boards offering them. A quick search online will find you multiple opportunities to smoke legally while touring pot-themed attractions in the state of Colorado. As long as people want to smoke, Eymer says, and it is legal to, people are going to find their way to Cannabis Tours and other businesses like it.
Ignore it At Your Peril
“The tourism board can say what they want to about this industry and ignore it as much as they want for as long as they want, but everybody’s got Google,” he said, explaining that whether pot tours become a part of mainstream Colorado tourism or not, their business will continue to grow.
Colorado Cannibis Tours said that they had 160 people signed up for their tours even before the law went into effect. They will grow even more, Eymer explained, like 4/20, the day that is unofficially known as a weed holiday among smokers draws nearer.
Colorado Cannabis Tours is working on deals with large manufacturers, in order to tour their facilities. Another source of business for the pot tour entrepreneurs are officials from other states who want to see how the system works since referendums are cropping up all over the country to bring the next legal state on board.
Laying Down the Law
Though smoking pot is now legal in the state of Colorado, there are still plenty of ways that it is regulated and monitored. The laws are similar to those regarding alcohol. For example, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana and only those 21 and older can purchase it or smoke it.
Public consumption, however, is still illegal. It is legal to grow up to six pot plants in a secure, locked place, and to carry up to one ounce on you while traveling.
Can’t Take it With You
Unlike Napa Valley wine tours, however, out-of-state tourists to Colorado’s pot retail stores won’t be able to take home most products they purchase. “It remains illegal to take marijuana out of the state,” said Michael Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.
And because marijuana also remains on the Transportation Security Administration’s list of prohibited items, Denver International Airport will enforce a new policy that bans pot throughout the airport. But as a traveler who have visited Denver twice and easily brought back weed, I think this is way overstated.
So pot tourists–enjoy your buzz in the great state of Colorado. Despite the law, in recent years since the enactment of the law, only a tiny handful of people have gotten arrested for bringing pot on airplanes.
It’s just not a big deal anymore, especially if you’re flying home to another state where it is legal like Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada, California, or Washington DC.