Keenan and Mary, a couple from Philadelphia, have been friends since we met a few years ago at a music festival in New York. We were camping neighbors and became fast friends upon discovering our shared affinity for cannabis. We solidified our new bond over that blunt. I remember an especially hilarious disaster with an ounce of marijuana being dumped in the grass. We were able to save most of it and smoke it, forming a close bond that led us to keep in touch after the festival.
Fast forward a few years to New Year's Eve 2015. Keenan and Mary are visiting Denver for the holiday. They are due to attend a music event and want to fully celebrate while experiencing everything that Colorado has to offer. But that's not as easy as it would seem even in a legal state. According to current law, an individual may purchase marijuana for recreational use, but consuming it legally can be a dicey proposition.
Tourists who consume cannabis face restrictions in Colorado
Currently there are a limited amount of options legally afforded to the cannabis consumer visiting Colorado from out of state. In the city of Denver you must be on private property with permission from the property owner. This leaves most visitors in a precarious state. Without a local friend's house to go to, there are virtually no places to legally smoke. Most hotels do not offer cannabis friendly lodgings.
I used to work at a shop close to the airport. Visiting tourists would drop by with questions when they landed. "So if it's legal I can just go out here in the parking lot or walk down the street and smoke?" was a daily question. The common tourist's misconception is that you can just light up on the street without reprimand. This is false.
It may be legal to buy but there are still some rules for consumption. Currently the options are to find the few and far between and possibly more expensive cannabis friendly lodgings, smoke at a family member or friend's house, or break the law and smoke in public.
Developing market for cannabis-friendly accommodations
Keenan and Mary had visited earlier in 2015 for a concert and ended up staying at a local hotel. At that time my apartment was the only place they could legally smoke. But for this New Year's visit, they decided to go through Air BnB for a place to stay. I went to visit them there, assuming we wouldn't be able to consume. But we did anyway. Did they know this was cool ahead of time? Who were these excellent hosts? It turned out to be a cannabis friendly house. Keenan said, "That played a major part in our decision to use Air BnB. It said the house was 'weed-friendly.' "
It turns out they were on top of a growing trend of marijuana-friendly B&Bs and hotels can be booked through online services. This was a lot more comfortable and less risky than lighting up in a campground in the still prohibitionist state of New York.
Rob Cleary Jr. is a marijuana activist working in Colorado's cannabis industry. He currently serves as a board member for Denver NORML.