The Do's and Don'ts of Pot Tourism in America
Yes, pot tourism is officially a thing. And yes, pot tourism is officially a clusterfuck.
With Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC (and more on the way) all legal for recreational marijuana, ambitious tour operators are planting the seeds for a Napa Valley-esque future of fun. State tourism agencies have yet to acknowledge the budding industry, but it's still an obvious new draw for out-of-state visitors.
As of late, the industry is making headlines for an increase in marijuana-related ER visits. Hotels have strict anti-smoking rules. Smoking anywhere in public is illegal. The coffee shops you've seen in the Netherlands are nonexistent. Basically, it feels like you can buy it, but you can't smoke it. Anywhere.
So before you book your ticket to the promised land, here’s a how-to just for marijuana tourists.
Step 1: Where to get it
The first stop after wheels down? A dispensary, duh. In major cities like Denver, Seattle, and Portland, you'll find them without even trying. But sites like Weedmaps and Leafly have a database of every dispensary in every state with user-generated reviews to help guide you to the greatest greens in town. Just say no to the black-market dealers still out there.
The recreational sale of marijuana is strictly enforced to those 21+. IDs are checked upon arrival and then again at the counter, so be prepared. Even if you’re 90.
US citizens must have a valid state-issued driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Traveling from outside the US? Only a valid passport from your home country will get you in.
Come with cash. Some shops accept debit cards, but none accept credit cards.
For first-timers, be up front and let your friendly budtender -- which is a real position, and exactly what it sounds like -- know. Ask a lot of questions. They’re knowledgeable and are there to help guide you through the shopping experience.
In Washington and Alaska, you can purchase up to an ounce of flower per day and 16oz of marijuana-infused product in solid form (think: pot brownies) or 72oz of marijuana-infused product in liquid form. If you're an out-of-towner in Colorado or Oregon, you can only purchase up to 7g per day. Note: edibles and concentrates are still not yet recreationally legal in the Beaver State, but they’re coming.
Step 2: Where to do it
So yeah, tourists are slightly SOL. As mentioned, smoking is prohibited in public, hotels, rental cars, bars, restaurants, etc. If reefer is the main reason for your trip, look into cannabis-friendly lodging options like travelTHC and Bud and Breakfast. The NATIV Hotel in Denver tried and quickly failed as the "first-ever marijuana-friendly hotel."
Also opt for one of many cannabis tour experiences now offered in legal states. Book an entire customized cannabis itinerary through The Travel Joint or plan your own with its recommended dispensaries, restaurants, and events. Here are a few more tours to try:
Juneau Cannabis Tours
PSA for those of you heading for the hills to shred some powder: most ski areas occupy federal land, where possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Remember though, there's a reason gondolas are called "ganjulas" and it’s a pretty standard element of mountain culture. You can even book a ride on the "420 Friendly Ski Shuttle" from Denver International Airport to most major resorts, which includes a stop at a dispensary on the way. In states like Oregon, well, you're puffing at your own risk until edibles are available.
Step 3: How to handle it
We’ve already armed you with "A Modern Smoker’s Guide to Cannabis Etiquette" and "Everything You Need to Know Before Eating Weed." Whether you’re a rookie or an expert, start slow -- the grass is greener in legal states (i.e., stronger). Consume with caution, know your tolerance, and play by the rules. Whatever you do, don't be that guy that goes to the GD ER.
Step 4: How to get rid of it
Traveling with marijuana is technically illegal -- even if you're going to and from a recreational legal state -- but TSA is known to turn a blind eye in some cases. In Colorado, airports have implemented amnesty boxes if you forget to ditch your stash before you hit security. There is no ban on legal amounts of marijuana at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In Oregon and Alaska, you can fly with small amounts of recreational marijuana as long as it's not out of state. Wherever you are, invest in an airtight container and fly with it at your own risk!
Lingering paranoia? Give it to a friend or leave it as part of a tip to your hotel staff or rental house host. Worst-case scenario, they throw it out. Best case? You make their day.
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Katie Shapiro is a Colorado-based cannabis and style writer. She slings indie film on the side as a producer and publicist. Follow her around the high country and the film festival circuit: @kshapiromedia.