Inside Colorado’s Cannabis Culture
Ah, Colorado – intense blue skies, wildlife encounters, stunning landscapes, archeological ruins, winter wonderland, skiers paradise, and now the American pot smoker’s dream destination? Colorado Amendment 64 has created a new wave of tourism in the state: cannabis tourism – now in its 4th year. Hospitality and tourism industry has quickly restructured itself to accommodate recreational marijuana users. Hotels, Airbnb, and other rentals – there is even a rental site that lists only pot-friendly properties – advertise themselves as ‘420 friendly’ and there are 4/20 weekend festivities in Denver to sample strains. For the uninitiated, here’s how the term ‘420 friendly’ originated. 420, 4:20, or 4/20 is a code-term in cannabis culture and is pronounced as four-twenty. It refers to consumption of cannabis around 4:20 pm and on April 20 or 4/20 in US format. April 20 has become an international day to protest cannabis prohibition laws and advocate legalization.
Creative entrepreneurs have been quick to take advantage and woo marijuana minded travelers. Some tours combine sightseeing in Denver with stops at recreational marijuana stores, others include visits to dispensaries and grow facilities – for a behind-the-scenes look, and some others have joint rolling classes. Colorado 420 packages include stay in marijuana-friendly bread and breakfasts, and tourism sites suggest best destinations in town to consume your purchases. There are private tours in luxurious 420 friendly limos that combine airport pickup, drop-offs with concerts and ski trips. Special packages for bachelor and bachelorette exist at sky-high rates. Are these businesses profitable, I can’t help but wonder.
The rules around possession and use – strict laws forbid you to smoke or consume pot in public, including on the street, in cabs, parks, bars, restaurants or most hotel rooms – doesn’t seem to have fazed many tourists. I know at least a dozen friends who planned a trip to Colorado solely around cannabis tourism; even we are entertaining the idea of a closer look this summer. If you are new to the cannabis culture then your best bet is to start with a behind-the-scenes grow facility and dispensary tour. These tours are usually 2-3 hrs long, include transportation in a pot-friendly vehicle and teach you a lot about the plant that has sparked a multi-billion dollar industry. You will know all about the cultivation and production of cannabis, plant strains and learn how to smoke. You will also learn that apart from recreational drug use, cannabis has many medicinal uses including reducing chemo-related nausea, treating chronic pain, and more. You will learn a lot about pot culture and experience some of the psychedelic effects – which allegedly include increased introspection and philosophical thinking.
Cannabis has been an intrinsic part of certain cultures like India and Jamaica. The plant is indigenous to India and has been used since as early as 2000 BC; in Jamaica the Rastafari movement and reggae music is closely linked to pot consumption. America’s cannabis tourism and Colorado’s pot scene is light years behind Europe – marijuana cafes and lounges are still against the law – but it is gaining a foothold in the form of cannabis infused massages, pot cooking classes and 420-friendly date nights in Denver. Does Denver have the potential to become Amsterdam? Only time will tell.
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I’m Ketki Sharangpani, an Indian living in the United States. I'm a Travel Writer / Blogger & Photographer.
I travel to see striking buildings, people and cultures, and experience profound sunrises, shadows, and rituals.