Although some tourist agencies say the legalization of recreational marijuana hasn’t affected Colorado’s tourism scene, experts in the field of cannabis tourism say otherwise.
Mike Eymer, founder and CEO of Colorado Cannabis Tours, says the influence is indisputable.
A Colorado Tourism Office study found that marijuana laws influenced the vacation decisions of nearly 49 percent of Colorado’s summer visitors surveyed.
And since the legalization, Colorado tourism has seen record years.
Eymer, and others in his field, say the two are connected. Especially for Denver.
“Denver wasn’t a tourist attraction before. Colorado was,” Eymer says. “When I was 14 growing up in Florida visiting Colorado, we would land at DIA, rent a car and drive through Denver as fast as humanly possible without getting off I-70 until we got to a ski resort and settle in.”
Today, many travelers spend a few days in Denver before exploring the mountains, and increasingly more travelers are flying in to visit the city of... Denver, as a destination, Eymer says.
“That wasn’t as common before the legalization,” he says. “Some say we have nothing to do with the tourism boom here. But they are dead wrong.”
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, Colorado Cannabis Tours’ numbers point to a demand in interest from travelers who want to check out the scene.
The tour agency says it books 2,500 420-friendly hotel rooms every month (as well as 1,000 equipment rentals per month). It says it brings more than 600 people on cannabis tours or classes a month, and sees 1,200 unique visitors per day online.
Colorado Cannabis Tours, a marijuana-themed travel agency founded in 2014, boasts the largest selection of 420-friendly hotels, classes and events in the world.
Here are some tips from Colorado Cannabis Tours, if you want to plan a cannabis vacation in Colorado.
01 of 07
Know the laws.
Just because marijuana is legal in Colorado does not mean you can smoke anywhere and everywhere you want.
The general rule is you can indulge in private, Eymer says. All of his cannabis tours are based out of a private residence or vehicle.
While you may occasionally see a cannabis-friendly bar or club, he says he doesn’t recommend those to travelers because at any point, they could be (and often are) busted and closed down. While you won’t be thrown in jail if you’re caught using there, he says, it could lead to a $150 citation.
“You’re never risking jail time out here. People are very nervous about that,” he says. “Especially Boomers who thought they’d never see this happen, so there’s this too-good-to-be-true feeling.”
Even so, he recommends private events instead, because they remove that anxiety and risk.
02 of 07
Get off the beaten path.
To really understand the scene, Colorado Cannabis Tours takes people to exclusive, limited-access areas that you could never otherwise visit on your own.
“To see and do things that you couldn’t normally see and do is 100 percent our speciality,” Eymer says.
You can choose from a variety of different tours that may bring you behind the scenes, including dispensaries and grows. The Friday and Saturday marijuana tours are the company’s main offering. These tours include a trip to two dispensaries, a glass-blowing demo and limited access to a large, industrial grow.
The original tour prices start at $99. You must be 21 to participate.
03 of 07
Book a speciality package that fits your interests.
Tour companies offer a variety of different ways to experience cannabis.
With Colorado Cannabis Tours, the 420 airport pick-up picks up guests at DIA in a private SUV and drives them straight to a dispensary to shop, and then allows them to smoke in the vehicle as they are transported to their 420-friendly hotel. These trips are for groups of four or more.
For larger groups, travelers can rent a stretch Hummer, Escalade or Porche that can hold up to 15 passengers.
The company also offers a food truck night tour, which starts at a food truck gathering, heads to a grow and ends at a local comedy show. The “party bus” parks outside the show, so participants can return to smoke in their private space, as desired.
Colorado Cannabis Tours is launching a similar version of that that involves a brewery and Imax-style movie.
You can also book the bus for concerts or music festivals.
Smaller, private tours allow more access to behind-the-scenes areas, such as places where hash or edibles are made.
Other... themed tours:
- A cannabis-friendly cooking class that teaches participants how to infuse edibles, while smoking in legal environment.
- Puff, Pass and Paint, sort of like a wine and paint party, but with cannabis instead.
- Marijuasana, a yoga and cannabis class, with a greater focus on CBD rather than THC. CBD patches and oils help relax the muscles and get participants into yoga positions, organizers say.
- Winter activity passes organize two days of cannabis touring in Denver, followed by two days of skiing or boarding in the mountains. In the summer, those activities are swapped for ziplining, hiking and other outdoor activities. (As a note, Eymer says he does not recommend anyone smokes weed before doing outdoor activities, like skiing or ziplining.)
04 of 07
Smoke where you stay.
Not many hotels advertise as 420-friendly.
“There won’t be a lot of places that say they are 420-friendly for a while, because they don’t want the negative stigma,” Eymer says.
But an inside tip is that is far from the end of your options. Colorado Cannabis Tours has an unusual arrangement with a lot list of hotels that do not advertise as 420-friendly — but who have special agreements with the tour company to rent out rooms to cannabis travelers, on certain conditions and exclusively through the company.
Some hotels offer a waiver to their regular policy, open up cigarette smoking rooms to people who want to smoke marijuana, allow guests to smoke on the balcony or rent a vaporizer at the front desk to use in room.
Others agree to a “discrete policy,” Eymer says.
“They won’t openly say, ‘Yes, smoke on the balcony,’ but they won’t hassle the guests if they do,” he says. “Some allow the smoking of cannabis in the rooms, if no one is being bothered by it, and if someone is, they will not... immediately fine you.”
AirBNB can be another useful resource to find weed-friendly lodging on your own, if you want to try to fly solo.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
There are many misconceptions about marijuana tourism, Eymer says.
Here are a few things that many people may not realize, he says.
Most people who go on cannabis tours are between the age of 35 and 44, and many are couples who are professionally successful and have the means to travel.
Many people don’t want to party and get crazy. “These people are taking a vacation to experience freedom in their home country,” Eymer says.
You can’t easily get access into places where marijuana is grown. You can’t just walk into a dispensary and ask for a tour behind the scenes.
06 of 07
Take care of yourself.
Eymer recommends easing your body into things and starting slowly.
Drink plenty of water. Don’t devour a ton of edibles right away; maybe wait a day, he says. Be careful with edibles until you understand your tolerance, he says.
“We’re a mile in the air here. We experience altitude sickness, like any other tourist attraction in Colorado does,” Eymer says. “Even before you start engaging with cannabis itself, you are putting your body under stress. If you’re really going to try to party and day drink and eat edibles while at altitude, guess what? You’re not going to have a good time.”
You wouldn’t come to Colorado and put on skis for the first time and go down a double black diamond, Eymer says. Give cannabis the same caution, he says.
“Come to us and we’ll help you with the logistics, but the part that falls on you is taking care of yourself while you’re here,” he says.
07 of 07
Don't come on April 20.
While it may sound enticing to experience marijuana in Colorado on “420,” that’s the busiest time of year for tour companies — and it tends to bring out some of the least respectful participants, he says.
“You get the hard-core crowd on 420 and you’ll get a little less out of your experience,” Eymer says. “Sure, the concerts and shows are here for 420, but take a look at the shows at Red Rocks. Plan it out on your own. Just don’t come during 420.”