For all of its stately homes and palmetto-laden vistas, Charleston doesn't quite have what it takes to meet the needs of every traveler. Yes, there's world-class dining and historic landmarks, but what the city doesn't have is legal marijuana. So, in a country where nearly half the population has tried marijuana at least once, many Lowcountry residents may want to cash in their frequent flyer miles and take a trip to Colorado where the slopes beckon and weed is legal — at least in some cities.
As of last June, Colorado was one of only four states in the U.S. that permitted the sale of marijuana for recreational use. Passing by a popular vote in 2012, Colorado's Amendment 64 changed the state's constitution to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for recreational use. Cities are allowed to opt out of the law, but by 2014 many Colorado residents were able to purchase weed much in the way they buy alcohol. As long as you were 21 or older, you were free to purchase and possess marijuana. To the surprise of many of those who opposed legalization, Colorado did not fall into chaos. In fact, it gained a few new fans and a substantial influx of cash.
Over the past two years, Colorado has experienced a bit of a boom in tourism. A 2014 study prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue estimated visitors' demand for marijuana to be around 8.9 metric tons. Looking at sales tax receipts, point-of-sale statistics, and data from tourist offices, researchers estimate that out-of-state visitors make up about 44 percent of metro-area retail sales and as much as 90 percent of sales in heavily visited mountain towns.
For those who wish to indulge and remain within the letter of the law, we've assembled all the info you need to know for a smoker's sojourn to the Centennial State. And when planning a weed-fan's weekend, who better to consult than Colorado native and former writer of the Colorado Springs Independent's CannaBiz column Bryce Crawford, who currently writes for the Rocky Mountain Food Report.
After working as an intern for the Independent, Crawford was brought on staff to pen the paper's marijuana news column. Before that point, he says he had never even really smoked weed, but some things you just have to learn on the job.
So if you happen to decide it's time to join all those taking a trip out west, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Not everyone in Colorado is cool with you toking up, so make sure you do a bit of research before hopping on a plane. According to Crawford, Denver is probably the most accommodating tourist destination when it comes to marijuana use. A portion of the city's Broadway area has been re-dubbed as Broadsterdam due to its high concentration of dispensaries.
"As far as the recreational shops themselves, they're pretty out in the open. You'll see green crosses everywhere. The green crosses are a very big deal. There's lots of advertising limitations, so you won't see sexy nurses out on the streets like you used to, but the green cross is very prevalent," says Crawford, discussing the symbols that sit outside many dispensaries similar to a liquor store's logo. "If you're in Denver, there's a great chance they are selling recreational. If you're in Colorado Springs, it's going to be medical and you're going to need to be a resident and have a red card and jump through all the hoops."
Visitors to Colorado planning on purchasing pot from a retail shop must be at least 21 years old, so don't forget your ID. You'll be limited to a quarter ounce, but most dispensaries offer a wealth of options when it comes to methods of consumption. Just be sure to take it slow.
"Generally, a quarter ounce is taking care of what people need for the few days that they are here. There are lots of different ways you can do it as far as the product itself," says Crawford. "You can buy a quarter ounce of bud, but then there are also concentrates that are very high in THC. I do not recommend anyone who is traveling out here to start with concentrates. You can get edibles, gummies, food, drinks, sodas, pizzas, anything, tinctures you can put in teas, salves, and stuff you can use for joint aches. All of that sort of goes to this quarter-ounce bottom line."
Just like you can't crack open a cold one while strolling down King Street, don't expect to light up on the streets of Colorado.
The use of marijuana is still illegal in public, so avoid indulging while driving or in a coffee shop. In Denver, you are allowed to consume in a taxi or limousine if your driver allows it, and you must be in the back seat. There are hotels that will accommodate the use of marijuana, but you're going to want to check with the staff. Denver law also prohibits consumption on hotel balconies if visible from a public place, but you probably shouldn't be hanging out by any railings anyway. Bud + Breakfast is a popular cannabis-friendly brand that offers wake-and-bake breakfasts and 4:20 happy hours for guests. After you've secured your accommodations, visitors can then enjoy a pot tour of the city during which you and your fellow travelers take a bus to different dispensaries, then make a stop at a restaurant to fend off the munchies before getting dropped off at your hotel.
As with anything in life, marijuana can serve many functions. It can help you unwind or help with illness. It can make a bad movie good and a good movie better. But the thing to remember is to pace yourself, be safe, and try to have a good time.
"With bud, you can't really go too wrong. I don't think you'll ever get too high with that. With edibles, you just want to be careful. You want to start small, take a bite, take a sample," says Crawford. "There's something called a Cheeba Chew. It just looks like a Tootsie Roll. Don't eat the whole Tootsie Roll, for God's sake. Just take a bite, and then wait at least an hour, but two hours ideally, before you eat any more because this stuff sometimes it kicks in right away, sometimes it doesn't. You don't want to have found out that it's all going to kick in after you've eaten too much of it. Take it slow on the edibles. And have a plan for something to eat because you're going to be hungry."