Your what, where and how on Colorado recreational marijuana
Colorado is a fascinating microcosm of America, often leading the charge on controversial issues or reflecting back the national tension, and Amendment 64 is a big part of that. It’s the 2012 constitutional amendment that gave Coloradans age 21 and older the right to buy, sell, and grow recreational marijuana, and it’s a right the state extends to visitors as well. Well, mostly anyway, but we’re going to get to that.
The state’s green fascination goes back a little further, to the year 2000, when voters first passed Amendment 20. It was one of the earliest medical marijuana laws in the country, but it took years before people were comfortable operating in the open.
It wasn’t until President Obama’s Justice Department issued the Ogden Memo in 2009 — telling U.S. attorneys that they “should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws” — that the dispensary industry mushroomed.
A few years later, the state legislature created and passed the most comprehensive legal framework for medical marijuana in U.S. history, regulating and taxing the plant in a way it had never been in these borders before and paving the way for a leafy expansion.
What it is and how you can get it
For the newbie, there are lots of ways to get THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis, into your system: edibles, like brownies, gummy bears and sodas; tinctures; salves; concentrates that require specialized rigs to smoke; plant matter and more. Each can be made from a different strain of marijuana with a different effect; generally, the types and effects are sativa (upper), indica (downer) and hybrid. Edibles rule the market in Colorado, so you’ll most likely encounter a wide selection of those.
Because the state’s medical marijuana law (Amendment 20) limits participation to Colorado residents, out-of-state visitors will be accessing the state’s recreational side (Amendment 64), and the way to do that is through dispensaries. The law allows out-of-state visitors to buy up to a quarter-ounce of product, be that plant matter or otherwise, at one time. Dispensaries compete with each other over price, quality and service, so do your research on sites like weedmaps.com or leafly.com to get a feel for the lay of the land before you go.
Generally, you’ll be looking at $15 to $25 for an eighth of bud and $5 to $20 per edible, though that definitely varies between size and potency. The bad trip experienced by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd — immortalized in her 2014 column “Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude” — helped spur legal standards that mandate edibles be broken into 10 milligram doses. This is a good place to start for those who’ve never eaten their weed — and, if needed, it’s still possible to buy a 175 milligram gummy that will rock your world. But start small and wait at least two hours after initial ingestion before eating more.
Hash concentrates with names like shatter, wax and budder are a whole different ball game, and probably best avoided early on. For one, you need a bong rigged with a special “nail” heated by a blowtorch. For another, it’s the quickest way to be uncomfortably high. (The good news is that the worst you’ll be after too much is asleep.)
Not all cities and towns allow recreational marijuana, with Colorado Springs the largest city in the state to opt out. However, Manitou Springs and Pueblo offer nearby options and Denver is a major hub for access. Many of the ski towns like Breckenridge, Aspen and Telluride have decided to allow recreational sales as well.
A few things to know: It’s illegal statewide to consume marijuana products in public, which includes your car. No drugging and driving, either, as police are empowered to conduct blood tests on drivers suspected of impairment. Visitors are also forbidden from bringing weed from Colorado out of state.
The rules have created something of a gap in a key part of the whole experience: where to smoke the stuff. Most hotels and businesses ban smoking of all types, and Colorado has its own prohibitions against smoking anything in public places, but there are a few options. First, certain hotels and bed-and-breakfasts (like budandbfast.com) cater to the traveling smoker. As well, certain cities, like Colorado Springs, have seen the rise of cannabis social clubs, where you bring your own weed, pay a fee, and partake in a private business. Colorado Springs City Council recently talked up banning the clubs, however, so their future in the Pikes Peak region is uncertain.
Lastly, here’s a good piece of advice from Colorado Springs defense attorney Steven Rodemer: “Keep in mind that Colorado’s legalization is essentially an experiment and many other states and the federal government are watching it closely,” he writes. “Don’t do anything that could jeopardize its success. Don’t commit crimes, don’t provide marijuana to underage people, don’t try to take it home with you.
“Remember, if you ever want pot to be legalized in your state, it likely has to succeed in Colorado; don’t do anything that would potentially add to the negative statistics.”
Where to get it near Colorado Springs
As mentioned above, Amendment 64 allows Colorado’s cities and towns to opt-out of allowing recreational marijuana sales in their municipality. It’s still legal to possess, transport and partake of, but there’s nowhere to buy it, and sales between private individuals are illegal.
Luckily for those in the metro area interested in the experience, the small town of Manitou Springs, located on Colorado Springs’ back porch, has opted-in and offers two such stores:
141 S. Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1655, maggiesfarmmarijuana.com
Between Pueblo, Cañon City and the Pikes Peak region, Maggie’s operates at least seven stores, with its Manitou Springs location opening in late 2014. “All of our products are sun-grown from seed, in 100% custom-mixed on-site soil, spring-watered, slow-cured and hand trimmed,” the company says on its website. “We do NOT use ANY pesticides OR growth hormones.” Visitors can expect to filter past glass cases full of product in a clean, winding-hallway setup before paying at the end. Expect edibles, at least 10 strains of marijuana, concentrates, accessories and more.
27 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 375-0054, emeraldfields.com
Emerald Fields is the second company to open in Manitou Springs. It sports more of a modern, “boutique-style” vibe, with reclaimed burnwood on the walls; a gift shop stocked with logo merchandise; and, à la Apple Stores, a purchase set-up full of open counters and roaming salespeople stocked with iPads. “While we aren’t a medical dispensary, the majority of our staff come from a medical background and, thusly, approach each of our guests from that same, caring position,” the company says on its site. “Our bud-tenders are well-educated, highly attentive and eager to assist with anything from questions about sativa strains vs. indica strains vs. hybrid strains to addressing the world of hash.”
If you find yourself in the state’s southern regions, Pueblo County is flush with at least 10 dispensaries, most in the Pueblo West region. We won’t break them all out, but here are a few standouts:
41 North Precision Drive, Pueblo West, 719-647-8924, cannasseur.co
Cannasseur is a hip operation, with splashy branding, YouTube tours of the dispensary, and a high-tech growing operation. The shop offers indica strains like OG Skywalker, King Kush and Stephen Hawking Kush, and sativa strains like Sour Diesel, Apollo 13, and Chernobyl.
Nature’s Gift Shop
148 E. Assembly Drive, Pueblo West, 719-547-8095, pueblosbestmarijuana.com
Nature’s Gift Shop starts the fun right away with a digital coupon offering to sell you four grams of bud for the cost of three and a half. The company says its mission is “to provide the best quality cannabis products at a fair price.” Expect to find concentrates like Pie Crust and shatter; edibles like chocolates, cookies and drinks; and topicals like Foria, a cannabis-based spray designed to increase sexual arousal.
The Spot 420
748 E. Industrial Blvd., Pueblo West, 719-547-8011, thespot420.com
The Spot 420 touts itself as the largest recreational marijuana dispensary in southern Colorado, with “professional and comedic-like staff [to] make it a memorable trip.” Expect over 30 strains of plant matter; hashes, oils and concentrates; and plenty of branded gear to take home.
428 S. McCulloch Blvd., Pueblo, 719-547-1009, pueblodispensary.com
The Hashish House offers a variety of specials for the intrepid bargain hunter, including 10 percent off your first order, and a special on Denver-based O.Pen vape pens — which create vapor instead of smoke — that brings 10 cartridges and a pen for $150. Visitors shop in a sort of Moroccan tent equipped with on-site ATM, handicap-accessible entrance and a security presence.