BY MELANIE LOCKE
Denver has been a tourist destination for decades. With beautiful views, a thriving culture, and a plethora of activities and events constantly occurring within the bustling metropolis, it’s no surprise that people flock to the Mile High City. But with the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, the typical tourist may have a new reason to travel to higher altitudes.
Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, on November 6th, 2012. The amendment went into effect in January of 2014. Since then, dispensaries have appeared in droves across Colorado and anyone over the age of twenty-one can stop in to purchase the drug. In 2014 alone, retailers sold three-hundred-and-thirteen million dollars of recreational marijuana according to Colorado tax data from the Department of Revenue.
We spoke with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and the recreational marijuana dispensary, Euflora, to see how the marijuana industry has affected the equally thriving tourist trade.
In 2015, many tourists who participated in marijuana-related activities indicated that it was a motivation in their decision to travel to Colorado. By 2016, reports of marijuana participation had risen, although the number of people citing marijuana as a primary influencer in their decision to come to Colorado had decreased. With record-setting tourist growth in Colorado both before and after marijuana legalization, according to the CTO, the drug is not a primary influencer in tourists’ travels. The cannabis industry is one of many attractions in Colorado, and tourists are drawn to the state for more than the legal drug.
While tourists are visiting Denver for more than its bustling cannabis industry, once visitors arrive many seem to be partaking in the marijuana culture. Euflora, located on 16th street mall, welcomes many tourists into their store — about 75% of their clientele. And while they have customers who stop in simply to look, most of their customers, including visitors to the state, make a purchase.
The Colorado Tourism Office reports that travellers between the ages of 25 and 34 were most likely to report that marijuana had positively influenced their decision to visit Colorado, but Euflora sees customers ages 21 to 91. The cannabis industry appeals to visitors of any (legal) age and is one of many attractions Denver can offer.
With visitors travelling to Colorado from places where marijuana oftentimes isn’t legal, it’s important for tourists to educate themselves about marijuana usage and safety before partaking of the drug. Euflora owner Jamie Perino has noticed that out-of-state visitors oftentimes need more education from Euflora employees about marijuana — the difference between strains, proper usage and dosing, and cost.
The cannabis industry has become an integral part of Colorado’s economy, and its reach extends into the bustling tourist trade. While marijuana is not the primary motivation behind tourist’s travel plans, many visitors to the city are enjoying a high other than the altitude in Denver.