Everything You Need to Know About Colorado Weed Tourism

Marijuana has expanded far beyond the realm of Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg. In four states (and some countries around the world) it’s as legitimate a vice as cold beer or gambling. With its newfound legality, people who would never have thought of lighting up a joint or eating a pot brownie are now traveling thousands of miles to partake in legal weed.

The issue arises, naturally, that many of them have no more idea of what they’re doing than a 14-year-old who gets into dad's liquor cabinet.

Though tens of thousands of people a year engage in what has become known as “pot tourism,” America’s newfound tokers are thoroughly confused before they even light up. Where can I smoke? Can I bring some home? Are people going to side-eye me like I’m going into an XXX shop when I stroll up to a dispensary?

So we talked to Greg Viditz-Ward, owner of Telluride Green Room -- the oldest dispensary in Telluride, Colorado -- for the answers to your burning questions.

Marijuana dispensary
Popsidoodle / Shutterstock.com

Is going around asking for pot shady?

In some parts of Colorado it wasn’t weird even BEFORE it was legal. But now? Now it’s as normal as asking where to find the nearest McDonald’s. Actually, you’d probably be judged more harshly for asking where to find the nearest McDonald’s.

“Everyone has their own opinion of where they like to shop,” Viditz-Ward says. “But I encourage people to ask anyone and everyone. We even have people ask the local police officers, while they’re in uniform, and they’ll point you in the right direction.”

Basically, as long as you’re 21 with valid ID, nobody’s batting an eyelash.

What’s the difference between a medicinal and recreational dispensary?

You’ll notice the big green crosses marking where you can buy weed. You’ll need to look closer to see if the shop is recreation, medicinal, or both.

Only state residents with a valid prescription can buy from medicinal dispensaries, so as a tourist those are pretty much off-limits. While the state limits purchases of about 10mg of THC per package, medicinal doses can be sold in packages of up to 500mg. And because medicinal marijuana isn’t taxed at nearly the level of recreational, it’s also considerably cheaper.

But, again, as a pot tourist you’re not allowed to shop there. Call it a locals' discount.

Marijuana dispensary Telluride
Courtesy of Telluride Green Room

What should you expect inside?

“They all differ," Viditz-Ward says. "Mine has kind of a homey feeling, with local art on the wall." But he says the common denominators are all sorts of weed-related products: edibles, flowers, topical oils, pipes, bongs, and glassware, and literature on marijuana. And a staff of specialists who are effectively your sommeliers for different weed strains. They have to know what effects they have, their assorted THC content, and the recommended doses. Viditz-Ward trains his staffers weekly, a common industry practice, to keep them abreast of the latest.

“Nothing is off the books when it comes to questions,” he says. “A lot of people don’t know what they’re looking at, but the staff is always knowledgeable.”

How much does this stuff cost?

Like with any product, it varies depending on where you’re buying it. Overhead will be more in a mountain town like Telluride than in, say, an industrial section of Denver. So that’s reflected in the price. However, the average is about $100 for a quarter ounce (six or seven grams) of flower.

Edible prices vary based on the manufacturer, but it ranges from $2 to $5 for a state-recommended 10mg serving of THC. Or you can get 10 packs of edibles like brownies, cookies, or hard candies for $20 to $25. If you wanna go SUPER native, seed mixes and granola are about the same price. Tax included.

How much can you buy?

You can purchase up to 1oz of flower, or the equivalent milligrams of THC, during a single purchase. On the medicinal side, it’s all dependent on the doctor’s recommendation.

Smoking a joint

So can you just walk down the street smoking a J?

Absolutely not. The law states you cannot consume in public view, and you also cannot consume anything -- including popping an edible or putting a topical on your skin -- on any dispensary's premises.

“Go into the woods, go find a trail somewhere,” Viditz-Ward says. “But you can’t just walk down the street smoking. Our law enforcement here in Telluride is pretty understanding, and they’ll just tell you to put it out. But it’s completely illegal to smoke anything in public.”

Is it true shops just throw scraps in the pre-rolled joints?

Pre-rolled cones and joints run about $10, and have about a gram of marijuana inside. Rumors hold that these joints are the hot dogs of the pot industry, but Viditz-Ward says that’s simply not true.

“We grind up fresh bud so it tastes better, no shwag, no stems,” he says. “That’s not just for us. As far as I know, nobody is giving people shitty joints. I’ve heard stories about it, but I’ve never seen it.”

Can you bring some home?

It’s legal in SOME places, yet still illegal under federal law, so it's illegal to cross state lines with any amount of marijuana, even if you're going to another weed-legal state. Denver International Airport has amnesty bins in case you forgot about a joint in your pocket or a brownie in your carry-on. But getting caught crossing state lines with weed from Colorado or anywhere else it’s legal carries the same penalty as before it was legal.

Marijuana brownie
Perry Santanachote

If you’re new to weed, or haven’t smoked in decades, how much should you try?

Viditz-Ward recommends starting off slow.

“If you’re new, or haven’t had weed in a while, start with half the recommended dose, like 5mg,” he says. “If you take an edible, wait 90 minutes to see how it affects you, since that’s how long it takes to kick in. Overdoing it is the fastest way to ruin your trip... uh, vacation.”

Edibles are standardized to the state-recommended 10mg of THC, so those are easy to figure out: start with half a brownie. Flowers are a little trickier, as different strains have different potencies. So ask the dispensary staff to explain how much is in each strain, and the effects it will have. Then purchase accordingly and enjoy.

“I’m a local, and I’m all about making sure people do things right," Viditz-Ward says. "And everyone here wants you to have fun, just like us.”

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer at Thrillist who wishes BMF would come out with a legal strain of that stuff they gave him outside the Sagamore Miami Beach in 2005. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.