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Useful Tips for Pot Tourists Headed to Colorado

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).

If you're headed to Denver, Colorado to indulge in and learn about the state's pot culture and industry, read these helpful tips before setting out on your Rocky Mountain high adventure.

How Tourists Can Buy Marijuana in Colorado

Hey, it’s perfectly legal. Colorado doesn’t require a medical reason to purchase pot—and tourists can partake as well. But there are still rules. Here’s what you need to know to buy a high.

To find a business that will sell to visitors, search for “recreational cannabis dispensary.”

Some dispensaries only serve medical clients, but retail dispensaries are open to the public. Use PotGuide or Weedmaps to locate a facility and call ahead or check the website of the business to verify that it is open to public sales.

Bring I.D. and cash . . .

The eternal tussle between states’ rights and federal law puts the burden on you. Credit card companies are wary of running afoul of federal law, which still classifies marijuana sales as illegal, so most credit card issuers are unwilling to risk prosecution (unlikely as it would be) by facilitating sales.

Because of this, nearly all dispensaries have an ATM on the premises. Debit card usage may also be permitted.

Dispensaries generally take their licenses seriously and are extraordinarily careful about adhering to state standards, so your identification will be checked by a security guard before you are admitted into the main sales area.

. but you don’t need tons of cash.

How much should you bring? A gram of “bud” or “flower,” the terms for smokeable leaf, will average between $10 and $15.

Customers are technically permitted to buy only 1 ounce at a time (there are about 28 grams in an ounce, so you’d have to spend a lot before getting into the danger zone), but that ounce can be accumulated from multiple dispensaries. Marijuana leaf is light, so an ounce is way more than you’ll need on a casual visit to the state.

Dispensaries may sell you up to 8 grams of concentrates or edibles containing no more than 800 milligrams of THC.

You don’t need to know exactly what you want.

After your I.D. passes muster, you’ll be shown to the sales floor, where a clerk stands behind a glass case full of the dispensary’s products. Staff members may handle the product, but you can’t.

There may also be a binder or a menu that explains the various strains and blends. They tend to have names reminiscent of racehorses—Dairy Queen, Cheesequake, Kandy Apple, Gorilla Glue, Ghost Train Haze, and that old stoner’s standby, Sour Diesel.

Dispensaries are locked in an arms race over the best merchandise, the names of which will probably strike you as funny but not very useful. That’s why every dispensary worth its salt employs staff that can tell you exactly what each strain will do to you.

But this isn’t a winery—you cannot sample the goods.

Some basic cannabis knowledge helps.

Being familiar with the main varieties helps you know what to buy. Sativa (cerebrally focused effects), indica (body-focused effects), and a hybrid of the two are the three main schools. Your clerk will tell you how strong each one is.

If you’re a novice, don’t jump into the deep end—that means none of the wax, shatter, or other cannabis forms for advanced users—and stick to low dosages, measured in milligrams, unless you want to spend your entire visit to Colorado in a useless haze. Once you pick what you want, the clerk might hand your selection to another staffer, who will fill your order in another area and return the product to you right before you exit.

Keep a lid on it.

Clerks will give you the product in sealed, carefully marked containers. Think of the contents like booze: You’re not allowed to have an open container in the car with you.

Keep everything wrapped until you are able to use it in a “private, personal” (the state’s wording) place.

Know the difference between THC and CBD.

THC is the compound that makes you high, and it’s what the government is most interested in controlling. CBD, another chemical found in cannabis products, does not provide a high so it’s often considered harmless.

There are still rules.

No giving your purchase to minors—minors can’t even accompany you when you shop.

No driving under the influence, either, which means you shouldn’t partake of the dispensaries’ infused candies and brownies (otherwise known as edibles, which generally require a few hours to take effect and have longer-lasting results for some people) unless you have no intention of going anywhere for a day. The same issues in the federal law over cannabis that affect paying with credit cards have also made it hard for anyone to develop a reliable roadside test for THC, so it’s possible to get hauled in for not much more than suspicion.

Colorado’s legal limit for driving is 5 nanograms or less of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of blood—but since you probably left your nanogram meter at home, best not to partake at all before driving.

To read the official warnings and rules about marijuana use in Colorado, check out the state’s FAQ page by clicking here.

Don’t let anyone smell it.

No displaying your purchase or using it in public (although you will see people doing that) unless you want to risk 15 days in jail. Some locals might argue that those rules are theoretical and that officers ignore pot use all the time, but the fact is that you can be penalized.

Some businesses, particularly in cities, have special permits allowing designated areas for pot smoking, but don’t dare try bringing a stash onto federal lands. Those include military bases and national parks, so don’t attempt a Rocky Mountain National Park Rocky Mountain high unless you want to be convicted of a federal crime, which leaves a mark on your background that can affect your life for years.

Don’t take it out of state.

Sheriffs from some other states are miffed about Colorado’s law, and not just because they’re jealous of the tax revenue. (Colorado’s weed regulation has been so successful that taxes it has raised have proved to be a boon for state services.)

Many people are driving over the border into Colorado, hitting dispensaries, and taking the goods back home. I was told at one Denver dispensary I visited that if a car looks like a mess, the driver risks being pulled over, but if the vehicle looks neat and professional, there probably won’t be a problem.

But the best strategy would be to avoid breaking the law in the first place.

Be careful if you smoke in a hotel.

If your hotel room has a no-smoking policy and you light a joint, you’ll face a fine from the owners. If you go on your balcony and light up, you theoretically face a fine for public use.

The trouble and stink of smoking is why many people are turning to vaporizers, which are often mostly odorless. Dispensaries usually sell those, too.

For our story on buying recreational cannabis in the state of California, click here.

How Tourists Can Buy Marijuana in Colorado Hey, it’s perfectly legal. Colorado doesn’t require a medical reason to purchase pot—and tourists can partake as well. But there are still rules. Here’s ]]>