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Out-of-towners’ guide to Colorado cannabis

Visitors to Colorado can have a happy and fun trip to check out the legalized cannabis industry if they follow the rules in place. (Photo: BruceStanfield, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Cannabis tourism has been a boom for Colorado – and the other states who have recreational cannabis – since legalization in 2014. While the tourists coming to visit Colorado exclusively to partake in the cannabis industry has waned, there are still plenty of out-of-towners who want to come and try some of the legal cannabis products Colorado offers.

Do these visitors – whether they come for cannabis explicitly or just want to try a little while they are here – understand the rules and regulations they need to follow while in the great state of Colorado? Maybe not. So to keep them safe and on the right side of the law, check out some of the things to keep in mind while visiting Colorado and partaking in the legal cannabis industry.

Have your ID ready

First of all, remember that you have to be 21 to purchase and consume cannabis legally. No exceptions. And there will be no fooling a dispensary or getting by without an official government issued ID the way some people get around the law when it comes to buying alcohol under age. The rules are strict with cannabis sales and your ID will be checked and rechecked before you are allowed into the establishment, let alone to make a purchase.

There are buying limits

There are limits for how much cannabis any person can buy at a time, regardless of whether you are a resident of Colorado or not. The current limit is 1 ounce, which can get confusing when you are purchasing different kinds of products in a dispensary. Your budtender and other dispensary staff will be able to help guide you while making purchases to ensure you stay under the legal limit. But keep in mind that they cannot sell you more than that amount, so don’t try to convince or coerce them into selling you more. This is illegal and will land everyone in hot water.

Public consumption is not allowed

While it is legal to possess cannabis products in public, any consumption in public – indoors or outdoors – is illegal. While non-locals might think that Coloradans walk down the street smoking cannabis like tobacco, this is completely false. Don’t make this mistake and end up with serious consequences.

Not all hotels or other rental accommodations are cool with consumption

For visitors who abide by the “no public consumption” rules, there are only a few options left for them as far as locations to consume their legally purchased cannabis products. While some people may be staying with friends or family in private residences, others will be staying in a hotel or other rental property. Be sure to check with any kind of rental or hotel accommodations before consuming cannabis products on their premises. Some property owners or managers are okay with cannabis use, while some are strictly opposed to consumption on their property. Don’t get kicked out of your accommodations because you didn’t follow the rules.

How to carry products with you while you are traveling in Colorado

The short answer is to carry them in a concealed and enclosed manner. When purchasing cannabis products, they will be given to you in a sealed carrying bag or case. This is perfect to store your products within your luggage, car or other personal property when you are in public. The idea is to keep your products secure and out of sight.

Driving under the influence

Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Period. If you are consuming cannabis products while visiting Colorado, make sure there is a sober driver and never get behind the wheel after you have consumed any amount of cannabis.

If you need to get from place to place after consuming cannabis, remember that Uber and Lyft both service Fort Collins (and lots of other places in Colorado, too!). In fact, there is a program called 320 Movement that provides a discount for Lyft users who decide to get a ride instead of getting behind the wheel under the influence. Check out their site to get a discounted ride and keep yourself safe.

Taking your cannabis with you

Taking any amount of cannabis with you when you return home outside the state of Colorado is illegal and should under no circumstances be attempted. The possession of cannabis in any form is no longer legal as soon as you cross a state line, and the possession of any cannabis product is also prohibited in Colorado airports. Don’t risk the consequences and leave all cannabis products behind in Colorado when you depart.

Mailing your purchases home

Many tourists think that shipping their purchases home to their residences is an easy way around laws prohibiting them from taking these products with them on their trip home. Unfortunately, this could not be more wrong. While the exact numbers of packages shipped from Colorado is up for debate, the steps taken to intercept them have gone up considerably since legalization. This counts as moving illegal drugs across state lines, and if you are caught there will be steep penalties. Again, don’t risk the consequences and leave all of your legally purchased cannabis products in Colorado.

Visitors to Colorado can have a happy and fun trip to check out the legalized cannabis industry if they follow the rules in place. Check out the more in depth resources at Good to Know Colorado and swing into Choice Organics in Fort Collins for a great introduction to the legal recreational cannabis industry in Colorado.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

Check out some of the things to keep in mind while visiting Colorado and partaking in the legal cannabis industry.

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.