Napa Valley has its famed wineries. Kentucky has its bourbon trail. As for Colorado? It led the way on legal weed. And Colorado has lots of it, with more than 300 recreational dispensaries in Denver alone, and social smoking venues starting to crop up.
The Colorado legislature approved new laws for marijuana delivery and public use in 2019, the same year the state surpassed $1 billion in cannabis-related revenue. The recreational marijuana industry in Colorado has come a long way since voters green-lit Amendment 64 in 2012.
Expert Tips From a Pot Pro
As the first of eleven U.S. states to legalize it, Colorado welcomes plenty of weed tourists, with 1 in 4 visitors from 2013-2018 listing cannabis as a reason for visiting. Whether you're a newbie to weed (in any form), or you're curious about the general pot culture and scene in Colorado, it's good to learn the lay of the land. As lead trainer at Native Roots, a dispensary with locations throughout Colorado, Michael Pyatt offers his best tips about how to have the best Rocky Mountain high experience.
Q: What's your best advice for a first-time pot smoker?
A: We recommend starting with a low dose and taking it slow. Various amounts of cannabis affect users differently. And if you chose edibles, they can take up to two hours to take full effect.
One common side effect of cannabis is anxiety, so if that happens, know that it's ok if you do, and that the feeling will subside. Not everyone does, but it's something to be aware of, especially for your first time. Also if that happens, you can also use several techniques to help with anxiety, including taking deep breaths and drinking plenty of water.
Q: What's the number one question tourists ask you?
A: The most common question we’re asked is "Am I really going to feel 10 milligrams?" The answer is yes. Most users experience a pleasant and euphoric high after consuming 10 mg of edibles. In fact, most people feel the effects of cannabis after eating only 5 mg.
Q: Any particular strains that are best for first-time pot smokers?
A: Here are three of my favorite strands and why I recommend each one.
- Jillybean (Sativa Hybrid): Jillybean was bred originally for stress and anxiety relief. It's stimulating for daytime use but not overly potent.
- Sour Tsunami (CBD Sativa Hybrid): Sour Tsunami became famous for being one of the first strains bred for CBD content rather than THC.
- Granddaddy Purple “GDP” (Indica): Grandaddy Purps is legendary for its calming and relaxing effects. New users will only need a couple of puffs to feel the relief.
Learn more about the types of cannabis and their effects here.
Q: What's next for cannabis in Colorado?
A: The cannabis industry and culture is still in its infancy nationwide. However, I think terpenes are going to be a huge point of discussion very soon in Colorado. Terpenes are organic compounds found in plants, including cannabis, and they have different effects on users based on what strain they’re used with. Already in Colorado, companies are experimenting with adding terpenes to different cannabinoids to create a certain experience, every time. It’s possible that combining different terpenes will ensure someone has a specific type of high—like relaxing or creative—every time.
Important Laws to Know Before You Visit
If you’re coming to Colorado to partake in the pot culture, there are a few things you should know as you blaze your trail.
You Need to Be 21 to Buy It.
Yes, you can absolutely purchase recreational marijuana, even if you’re not a resident of Colorado. However, you do need to be at least 21 years of age. Colorado residents and tourists alike are allowed to purchase up to one ounce of weed at a time.
Also, many tourists imagine the bud scene to be akin to the bar scene. But, city regulations require dispensaries in Denver to close by 10 p.m., so you’ll want to get your marijuana run in during the day. However, some nearby cities have regulations that allow dispensaries to stay open later. Just west of Denver, in Edgewater, dispensaries are allowed to stay open until midnight. Same goes for Glendale, which borders Denver and has lots of bars.
Public Smoking Isn't Allowed.
While you can't smoke pot in public legally, things are slowly changing. In 2019 state legislators approved new social smoking regulations, allowing hotels, restaurants, and other venues to apply for pot-use permits. Denver become the first city to legalize social marijuana use in 2016 when voters passed a measure, however the city approval process has been slow to roll out. (Translated: Denver isn't quite yet like the Amsterdam of old, with tourists enjoying the marijuana scene in cafes).
You Can't Travel With It.
Though an increasing number of U.S. states have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, it is still illegal on the federal level. Air travel with marijuana remains against the law, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a federal agency. When it comes to stats, about 55 million people pass through Denver International Airport each year. In 2015, officers stopped 30 people traveling with pot, according to 9News. None were issued citations, but they did toss out their stashes before boarding their planes.