The Mile High City is a magical place to visit, whether you've got 24 hours to spend in Denver or a longer stretch to explore. From its spiritually moving outdoor spaces to an award-winning food scene, Denver is somewhere you could visit a hundred times and still find something new. For many tourists, however, the appeal of Denver isn’t in the green of the prairie, but the green of its dispensaries.
While cannabis tourism as been a boon for Colorado at large and especially Denver, you should do some research before you toke up. We made it easy by breaking down everything you need to know about getting high in view of the Front Range of the Rockies, from 420-friendly lodging to dispensaries to staying on the right side of the law.
Editor's note: during COVID-19 there may be additional travel restrictions. Check the latest guidance in before planning a trip, and always follow local government health advice.
Cannabis Laws in Denver, Colorado
Before you head to the store, it’s important to understand the laws regarding cannabis in Colorado. Right off the bat, age matters. You need to be at least 21 to buy or consume cannabis in Colorado. While the state does offer a medical card for cannabis, it merely offers a discount and stronger product for medical users – and you need to be a Colorado resident. Anyone of age can buy cannabis in Denver, however, provided they have proper ID.
When you head to a dispensary you can purchase up to one ounce, or 28 grams, of cannabis. However, the definition of an ounce varies with different products. The original ounce law only pertains to the cannabis flower. Edibles and concentrates are another matter.
For edibles, the laws limit users to buying 800 milligrams of THC per day, while limits for concentrates are set at 8 grams per day due to the strength of products like shatter, wax, and cannabis oil. For most users these limits won’t ever matter. An ounce is far more than you could smoke during the average vacation, an edible with 800 milligrams of THC will ruin most people’s day, and consuming 8 grams of concentrates would be hell on your lungs.
Before you hit the dispensary, you should have a game plan. You don’t want to buy more than you can consume or, worse, get so high you ruin your trip. If you’re not a regular consumer or you’re getting back into pot after a break, take it easy. There’s always time to consume some more, but once you’re high you’re gonna stay at that level for a while.
It is highly illegal to consume cannabis in a vehicle you’re operating or to drive under the influence of THC. Don’t get the most chill of DUIs – instead, call an Uber, taxi, or book a tour on the pot bus.
Public cannabis consumption
Technically, public cannabis use in any form has been illegal under Colorado law, be it smoking, vaping, or eating. You can get busted for enjoying pot on the sidewalk, at a concert, in a bar, in alleys, or at a ski resort if you’re caught. Cannabis consumption is also still illegal on federal lands, including state parks, national parks, Bureau of Land Management areas, and portions of some ski runs.
The good news is you can legally consume your cannabis on private property, including private homes, some hotels, and lounges. Some spaces such as Tertra Private Lounge and Garden are able to get around Colorado’s indoor smoking ban by operating as private clubs. For a small membership fee, you’re given a comfortable place to consume your own stash and access to an electronic dab bar or vaporizer.
Starting January 1, 2020 House Bill 1230 is loosening those restrictions, however. This new piece of legislation gives venues an official exception to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act that had, up until now, made smoking weed in public a no-no. It also allows for "marijuana hospitality spaces in which medical and retail marijuana may be consumed on site" as well as "authorizes a retail food establishment to apply for a marijuana hospitality establishment license" as long as that restaurant or cafe doesn't also have a liquor license. So look out for more lounges, canna-cafes, and Puff-and-Paint studios to start opening in Denver this year.
420-friendly hotels and cannabis hostels in Denver
One of the easiest ways to save money and find explicitly 420-friendly lodging is to opt for homesharing. Sites like AirBnb make it easy for hosts to indicate if their accommodations allow for on-premise cannabis-consumption. If you want even more of a sure thing, sites like Bud and Breakfast offer a similar inventory of offbeat inns and room rentals that are explicitly for stoners. As an added bonus, the cheapest hotels which allow smoking in rooms are often still triple the price of the many 420-friendly rooms.
Depending on how “rustic” you mind getting, the deals are undeniable. During my trip to Denver I rented a bunk at Hostel Kush – a massive house where every feasible space was listed on Airbnb. For $18 per night you could get a sofa on the back deck, but for $25 you could get a bunk bed or a private room for $35.
The house was full of tourists, travelers, seasonal pot workers, and like-minded friends. While it’s rude not to contribute anything to folks offering you weed, everyone in the house was incredibly generous. Keep your eyes open, plot your stay in advance, and you can save a ton of money.
If you prefer a kush-ier (pun intended) hotel experience, never fear. Cannatourism in Denver really opens up when you have a little extra money to spend. There are boutique hostels like Ember in Capitol Hill that offer budget-friendly glam, a hot tub, and a private patio area where you're welcome to partake with new friends.
Or you can opt for a cannabis friendly hotel like Southeast Denver Suites (starting at $129USD) or Arrowhead Manor ($379.99USD). That freedom comes with a catch, however – many of the advertised 420-friendly hotels are really just vape-friendly due to indoor smoking regulations. That being said, the Denver Tech Center, Broadway Suites, and Southeast Denver Suites offer complimentary vaporizers with their 420 friendly rooms. Just make sure to ask when making your reservations.
Denver cannabis dispensaries
Now that you know where you can smoke and sleep, the next order of business is finding a dispensary. The green gold rush has lead to a host of places to buy and plenty of deals to attract new customers. No matter which Denver neighborhood you're visiting – from the trendy arts districts like RiNo and Santa Fe to the city center near the Colorado Convention Center and beyond to the 'burbs of Aurora – you’re going to find pot at cheaper prices than prohibition states and at way higher quality.
To get the most out of your dollars head to High Level Health, which offers what is easily some the best deals in town – and not far from the mall, and other downtown destinations. They even offer a veterans discount.
Another favorite spot is Kind Love, an award-winning dispensary with great prices and late hours. This dispensary takes its last customer at 11:45pm, making it great for late last minute pickups. Just make sure you get there by 11:20 at the latest – you’re probably not the only person who forgot to buy earlier.
Or you can check out SimplyPure in the Highland neighborhood. It not only won 2018 The Grow-Off Best Flavor Champion award, it has the distinction of being owned by an Black husband/wife duo, both of whom are veterans of the US military. The pair have been committed to working to end the stigma of medical and recreational weed consumption and increase equality for people of color in Colorado's cannabis industry.
Church, comedy, and cannabis
Once you've stocked up, head to the International Church of Cannabis. While flower can’t be consumed on the premises unless you’re a member and it's a special event, the rainbow-hued nave is a sight to behold. The Elevationists host daily guided meditation/laser light shows in their incredible fully painted sanctuary for $10 to $15 that’s worth visiting even if you don’t get high in advance.
You should also make sure to check out at least one comedy show while you’re in Denver. It features one of the best scenes in the country and is a great way to enhance a stoned evening for a few bucks. If you time your visit right, you might even catch the Gateway Show when it's in town. The premise is that the comedians on the bill do one set sober like any other comedy show, but partake in an undisclosed location during the intermission and do the second set stoned.
Cannabis tours in Denver
The city’s cannabis tour groups offer a stunning range of options that craft your experience to your interests. Ever wanted to go to a grow operation? You can do that. Curious about the wonderful world of concentrates, but don’t want to dive into dabs on your own? There's a tour for you. My 420 Tours also has offerings that include more traditional tours as well, like brewery and dispensary tours, weed-based cocktail experiences, and sushi-and-joint-rolling classes, amongst others.
During my stay in Denver, I joined in on the Cannabis & Beyond experience. This $59 tour took us to two dispensaries, with deals at both, then over to the Church of Cannabis for a laser show, before ending at a local artisanal food court for some munchies. Your group gets piled into an incredibly comfortable party bus stocked with glass pieces, papers, and, most importantly, water.
While the bus is in motion, everyone is free to smoke and consume as much cannabis as they like. Even before we made our first stop at the dispensary my enthusiastic group had already hotboxed the bus. By the time we made it to the Church of Cannabis for the laser show, everyone was happily ready to meet our new green god.
Our tour guide, Ian, was knowledgeable about both cannabis and Denver. Most importantly, it was a great way to see different parts of the city while smoking and letting someone else handle the drive. My 420 Tours range from $59 tours to $1,000+ multi-day experiences that include accommodations.
Stay safe and have a good time
Pot tourism in Denver is a lot like traveling anywhere in the world. Plan ahead, learn the basics of the laws, and don’t get so messed up you ruin your trip. If you’re new to cannabis – especially edibles or concentrates – start slow. If you’re in a group of people smoking, make sure you drink water and maybe abstain once or twice if people are passing multiple joints or bowls. You always have time to get more high, but once you’re there the journey lasts a while.