Green: it's also the color of money. In 2015, Colorado took in $53 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales. — Photo courtesy of My 420 Tours
Sometime in the ‘90s, my father, who has always enjoyed his time in the garden, was gifted a book on growing sensimilla. So, he did. On the deck of our suburban, New York townhouse in full view of the neighbors.
This isn’t as much an outing as it is to point out that my visit to Kush Gardens, a quaint, little dispensary off I-70 in De Beque, Colo., was not my first visit to the reefer madness rodeo. So I didn’t expect to be quite so bedazzled. Oh, but I was.
“This is the Chemmy Jones,” the budtender said, hoisting a staggeringly large container – the sort my friend’s mom used to store entire boxes of Cheerios in the pantry – up to the countertop. “It’s a sativa-dominant strain,” he added, opening the lid.
The smell – ammonia and grapefruit and grass, sweet Jesus – hit me like a folding chair at a WWE smackdown. My pupils dilated and for the first time, I really saw where I was.
A store. Where I could buy weed.
Per Leafly.com, Chemmy Jones, "manages to induce a functional, high-energy buzz that allows you to stay productive." I'll be sure to mention this in my next cover letter. — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
There were glass cases completely lined with the plastic containers. Each of those filled with flower. That’s the newish term for the sort of weed you actually smoke but, as Kush Gardens’ manager, Justin Voyles, will attest, there are many, many – many – ways to partake.
“People are surprised at the number of edibles,” he says. “And, of course, the other ways in which the cannabis is used – topicals, ointments, capsules. But most people, especially those here in a tourist capacity, are looking for edibles.”
And the roster of munchies that might give you more munchies is pretty staggering: gummies, chocolate (milk, dark and white), candy, tea, olive oil, honey … the list goes on. You can even get your THC via caramel stroopwafel.
Why edibles over smoke?
Discretion. That’s especially important for tourists, since smoking is only legal on private property. While you can find smoke-friendly accommodations on sites like Airbnb, many hotels do allow for vaping (in which case, you’ll need a portable vaporizer).
“With vaping, the high is likely going to last a little longer, but as it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to your bloodstream, it will be less intense than smoking.”
Voyles still suggest edibles. Why?
“They’re about seven times more psychoactive than vaping or smoking.”
Sugar high: Edibles, like these gummies, are an exceptionally discreet way to consume — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
“The process by which you absorb the THC makes a difference,” he explains, before going full science nerd. “When you smoke the plant, the THC gets decarboxylized immediately and goes directly into your bloodstream, creating a Delta-9 THC. When you eat it, the decarboxylization happens in your stomach and processes through your liver, and that creates an 11-Hydroxy tetrahydrocannabinol.”
According to various sources (including Voyles), 11-Hydroxy THC is more potent than Delta-9, and crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily, resulting in what many report as a more intense high.
Although all edibles are 10 mg of THC across the board, people do have favorites. Voyles, who enjoys consuming via edible, is a fan of Americanna gummies – in particular the blue raspberry flavor.
We may be talking tourism, but those interested in marijuana’s medical applications in states where it’s yet to be legalized can do double-duty in researching potential products to ease their various aches and pains.
According to a CNN report, marijuana is most commonly prescribed for pain management. And Foria, a company known for making THC-infused products for the purpose of heightened sexual pleasure (these include weed lube and a tingly spray for your lady bits), was perhaps the best fit for treating menstrual cramps with THC.
Their product, called Relief, is a popular seller, says Voyles. It was among the most interesting items I spied on my jaunt to Kush Gardens. These vaginal suppositories contain 60 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD and have been well-reviewed in publications from Cosmopolitan to Vice.com.
In addition to the successful eradication of her cramps, one user reported that the cocoa butter dissolving agent also "left her crotch smelling super delicious." Win-win.
A Look At Amsterdam's Infamous Red Light District
A Look At Amsterdam's Infamous Red Light District
Denver is not De Beque.
A friend of mine who lives there reported to me that there are no less than four dispensaries within walking distance of his relatively suburban-area home. So while the medical dispensary in Palisade had sadly sent me up the road to Kush Gardens for my recreational purchase, tourists have their pick of the lot in the Mile High City.
That said, why toke alone when you can toke together?
This, perhaps, was the question asked and then answered by the folks behind My 420 Tours, the nation’s first cannabis tourism company.
“It really was by-demand,” says CEO Danny Schaefer of the company’s formation. He and partner, JJ Walker – who previously owned one of Denver’s first seven medical dispensaries – began partnering with a range of different hotel chains and helping visitors secure 420-friendly accommodations.
Up in smoke: guests can feel free to light up in My 420 Tours' cannabis-friendly transport vehicles — Photo courtesy of My 420 Tours
The company has since grown – offering everything from basic, smoke-free educational classes to all-inclusive vacations wherein participants are picked up from the airport in a limo where they can light up, then whisked off to activities like the Cooking with Cannabis course. They enjoy a two-night stay in a hotel where vaping is no problem. My 420 Tours even throws in the vaporizer.
“Guests wanted to do more than consume legal weed,” he explains. “They wanted an experience. They wanted to be in a social setting with like-minded people to really enjoy the newfound social liberty in a fun and responsive way.”
This, he notes, could mean a cannabis-infused massage for someone who doesn’t want to appreciate the psychedelic effects of cannabis, but is more curious about its medicinal applications.
“If you’re going to go on a long hike,” he suggests, “you can get your knees rubbed with some high-CBD topical lotions and you’d be surprised what that can do for you. It is awesome! It’s like getting your muscles stoned.”
Their most popular offering – included in the larger packages but very often booked by locals for a fun date night – is their Sushi, Sake & Joint-Rolling Class ($69/per person).
“Guests come to our facility and participate in a private dinner party with about 30 other people. A Johnson & Wales chef teaches them how to roll sushi….” While a Mary Jane maven teaches them how to roll a J.
Two grams are included in the cost of the event and you are free to consume – sushi and sativa – throughout the experience. Sake – guests enjoy a pairing and tasting – flows freely, as do the good times, says Schaefer. It’s often a fun mix of locals and out-of-towners.
The Cannabasics class ($29/pp) – no smoking – is available for those who really just want the education.
“We invite guests in and they get to see virtually every kind of cannabis product that’s on the market. It’s basic: what is cannabis? Where does it come from? What are its uses?”
Participants explore a state-of-the-art cultivation facility on one of My 420 Tours' offerings — Photo courtesy of My 420 Tours
My 420 Tours even does corporate events. And if you find that shocking (or perhaps think you’re working for the wrong company), you’re not alone.
“We surprise ourselves almost monthly not only by how many of these events we book,” says Schaefer, “but who’s booking them.”
I’m not surprised. Not really, anyway. My fellow shoppers back at Kush Gardens were neither Cheech nor Chong. They were pure Lollapalooza.
Lollapalooza 1992, that is.
Voyles says their customers’ average age is between 45 and 55. But of course, there are new 21-year-olds to be pot-educated, and old timers like my dad who may not even have been breaking the law the first time they partook.
All have money to spend.
“Cannabis spans the widest range of demographic you could imagine, so to provide legitimacy to the industry was one of our first objectives.”
Schaefer says business – which is brisk – is roughly 60 percent out-of-state, 40 percent locals. And with medical being legalized in an increasing number of states, he believes Colorado’s booming business is not only a crystal ball for those looking to embark on similar ventures elsewhere, but a place to learn.
And, Schaefer adds, My 420 Tours, which has already expanded into Washington state, should be operating in Las Vegas by the end of this year, taking advantage of the phenomenal international market.
Fremont Street on edibles. What a time to be alive.
If your interest is piqued and you're thinking about making a journey for a joint, here's what you need to know.
-You must be 21 years of age or older to partake.
-Transactions are cash-only.
-Purchase is limited to 1 oz. of product, which may be mixed and matched.
-THC products, if being transported in a vehicle, “cannot be kept within arm’s-reach of the driver or passengers and must be stored in a child-proof container,” says Kush Gardens’ manager, Justin Voyles. “We always recommend keeping it in the trunk.”
Have a nice trip.