How Tourists Can Buy Marijuana in Colorado
Hey, it’s perfectly legal. Colorado doesn’t require a medical reason to purchase pot—and tourists can partake as well. But there are still rules. Here’s what you need to know to buy a high.
To find a business that will sell to visitors, search for “recreational cannabis dispensary.”
Some dispensaries only serve medical clients, but retail dispensaries are open to the public. Use PotGuide or Weedmaps to locate a facility and call ahead or check the website of the business to verify that it is open to public sales.
Bring I.D. and cash . . .
The eternal tussle between states’ rights and federal law puts the burden on you. Credit card companies are wary of running afoul of federal law, which still classifies marijuana sales as illegal, so most credit card issuers are unwilling to risk prosecution (unlikely as it would be) by facilitating sales.
Because of this, nearly all dispensaries have an ATM on the premises. Debit card usage may also be permitted.
Dispensaries generally take their licenses seriously and are extraordinarily careful about adhering to state standards, so your identification will be checked by a security guard before you are admitted into the main sales area.
. but you don’t need tons of cash.
How much should you bring? A gram of “bud” or “flower,” the terms for smokeable leaf, will average between $10 and $15.
Customers are technically permitted to buy only 1 ounce at a time (there are about 28 grams in an ounce, so you’d have to spend a lot before getting into the danger zone), but that ounce can be accumulated from multiple dispensaries. Marijuana leaf is light, so an ounce is way more than you’ll need on a casual visit to the state.
Dispensaries may sell you up to 8 grams of concentrates or edibles containing no more than 800 milligrams of THC.
You don’t need to know exactly what you want.
After your I.D. passes muster, you’ll be shown to the sales floor, where a clerk stands behind a glass case full of the dispensary’s products. Staff members may handle the product, but you can’t.
There may also be a binder or a menu that explains the various strains and blends. They tend to have names reminiscent of racehorses—Dairy Queen, Cheesequake, Kandy Apple, Gorilla Glue, Ghost Train Haze, and that old stoner’s standby, Sour Diesel.
Dispensaries are locked in an arms race over the best merchandise, the names of which will probably strike you as funny but not very useful. That’s why every dispensary worth its salt employs staff that can tell you exactly what each strain will do to you.
But this isn’t a winery—you cannot sample the goods.
Some basic cannabis knowledge helps.
Being familiar with the main varieties helps you know what to buy. Sativa (cerebrally focused effects), indica (body-focused effects), and a hybrid of the two are the three main schools. Your clerk will tell you how strong each one is.
If you’re a novice, don’t jump into the deep end—that means none of the wax, shatter, or other cannabis forms for advanced users—and stick to low dosages, measured in milligrams, unless you want to spend your entire visit to Colorado in a useless haze. Once you pick what you want, the clerk might hand your selection to another staffer, who will fill your order in another area and return the product to you right before you exit.
Keep a lid on it.
Clerks will give you the product in sealed, carefully marked containers. Think of the contents like booze: You’re not allowed to have an open container in the car with you.
Keep everything wrapped until you are able to use it in a “private, personal” (the state’s wording) place.
Know the difference between THC and CBD.
THC is the compound that makes you high, and it’s what the government is most interested in controlling. CBD, another chemical found in cannabis products, does not provide a high so it’s often considered harmless.
There are still rules.
No giving your purchase to minors—minors can’t even accompany you when you shop.
No driving under the influence, either, which means you shouldn’t partake of the dispensaries’ infused candies and brownies (otherwise known as edibles, which generally require a few hours to take effect and have longer-lasting results for some people) unless you have no intention of going anywhere for a day. The same issues in the federal law over cannabis that affect paying with credit cards have also made it hard for anyone to develop a reliable roadside test for THC, so it’s possible to get hauled in for not much more than suspicion.
Colorado’s legal limit for driving is 5 nanograms or less of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of blood—but since you probably left your nanogram meter at home, best not to partake at all before driving.
To read the official warnings and rules about marijuana use in Colorado, check out the state’s FAQ page by clicking here.
Don’t let anyone smell it.
No displaying your purchase or using it in public (although you will see people doing that) unless you want to risk 15 days in jail. Some locals might argue that those rules are theoretical and that officers ignore pot use all the time, but the fact is that you can be penalized.
Some businesses, particularly in cities, have special permits allowing designated areas for pot smoking, but don’t dare try bringing a stash onto federal lands. Those include military bases and national parks, so don’t attempt a Rocky Mountain National Park Rocky Mountain high unless you want to be convicted of a federal crime, which leaves a mark on your background that can affect your life for years.
Don’t take it out of state.
Sheriffs from some other states are miffed about Colorado’s law, and not just because they’re jealous of the tax revenue. (Colorado’s weed regulation has been so successful that taxes it has raised have proved to be a boon for state services.)
Many people are driving over the border into Colorado, hitting dispensaries, and taking the goods back home. I was told at one Denver dispensary I visited that if a car looks like a mess, the driver risks being pulled over, but if the vehicle looks neat and professional, there probably won’t be a problem.
But the best strategy would be to avoid breaking the law in the first place.
Be careful if you smoke in a hotel.
If your hotel room has a no-smoking policy and you light a joint, you’ll face a fine from the owners. If you go on your balcony and light up, you theoretically face a fine for public use.
The trouble and stink of smoking is why many people are turning to vaporizers, which are often mostly odorless. Dispensaries usually sell those, too.
For our story on buying recreational cannabis in the state of California, click here.
How Tourists Can Buy Marijuana in Colorado Hey, it’s perfectly legal. Colorado doesn’t require a medical reason to purchase pot—and tourists can partake as well. But there are still rules. Here’s
Marijuana Laws in Colorado
With the passing of Amendment 64, adults 21 or older in Colorado can legally possess one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana or THC.
If you are an adult 21 years of age or older, you can now legally possess 1 ounce of marijuana in Colorado. The way the amendment is worded actually allows for possession of 1 ounce of THC. This is great news because in addition to flower (bud), you can also enjoy many types of concentrates, edibles, topicals, etc. during your visit. Cannabis seeds are also available for sale in Colorado.
As long as you are 21 years or older, you have a constitutional right to possess and consume marijuana in Colorado. You will need a government-issued identification to prove you are 21 years or older, so a drivers license or passport would be sufficient enough. Note that you don’t need to be a Colorado resident to possess recreational cannabis and there isn’t any type of registration system. Only residents who apply for medical marijuana cards need to register with the state. Medical patients may possess up to 2 ounces, 40 grams of concentrate, or a total of 20,000 mg of infused cannabis product (in the case of edibles or similar preparations).
Previously, tourists in Colorado were restricted to purchasing 7 grams or less, while Colorado residents could purchase up to 28 grams. This law changed in June 2016, and now both tourists and residents can purchase 28 grams in a single transaction. Medical patients may purchase up to 2 ounces of medical marijuana or its equivalent as a standard, though higher amounts may be granted by the recommending physician.
The law has some grey areas regarding what constitutes a ‘single transaction,’ so most recreational stores err on the side of caution and will only serve you once a day. In the past, circumventing purchasing limits has been punishable by fines or even jail.
As of October 1st, 2016 the laws have changed.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado performed studies to determine what the THC equivalent of concentrates and edibles are in relation to marijuana in flower form. They argue that since products such as concentrates have a much higher level of THC, then you shouldn’t be able to purchase the same amount of concentrates as you can flower. As a result, the MED has issued ‘Marijuana Equivalency’ guidelines.
As of October 1 st , 2016 the following rules took effect in regards to recreational sales (medical sales remain unchanged):
- 1oz Flower = 8g of Concentrate (Shatter, Wax, etc)
- 1oz Flower = 800mg of Edibles
You can still mix and match, but it gets confusing. For example, you can purchase 2 grams of concentrate, but then you will be limited to buying an additional 3/4 oz of flower (as 2 grams of concentrate is now equivalent to 1/4oz of flower). These laws will be a big challenge for budtenders as they attempt to sell combinations of products while ensuring that the buyer is within the legal limits.
One important thing to note is these restrictions only apply to retail sales, not possession. You can legally possess up to 28 grams of concentrates or THC as defined in the Colorado Constitution. Where to Buy
Read more about Colorado’s recreational cannabis equivalency laws here.
Currently, the state allows marijuana stores to operate from 8am until Midnight. Having said this, cities are allowed to establish their own rules within the allocated timeframe. For example, Denver stores must close by 10pm. If you’re looking to purchase marijuana in Denver after 10pm, head to Edgewater and Glendale (two cities bordering Denver), which both allow stores to stay open until 12am. Another great option is Aurora, which allows stores to stay open until 10pm as well.
So you made it to Colorado and bought yourself a big bag of green. Great job! Now the question is: “Where can I smoke my weed?” This is a highly debated topic at the moment, so here’s some helpful insight into what’s legal and what’s practical.
First and foremost, you will find the following statement to be true during your visit:
Discretion is appreciated, and usually required.
Amendment 64 does NOT permit the consumption of marijuana “openly and publicly.” So before you start blazing those blunts while walking down the street, remember that you can still get a ticket for doing so, similar to open container laws for drinking in public.
In general, there aren’t any coffee shops or marijuana bars where you can purchase cannabis products like you might find in Amsterdam. However, thanks to Initiative 300, bring-your-own-cannabis lounges are beginning to open their doors to consumers.
In addition to the new social consumption lounges, several ‘private’ cannabis clubs are open to adults as well. These clubs are a great place for tourists and locals alike to come together and consume marijuana products safely and legally. Some even allow indoor smoking since they are ‘private,’ while others just allow inside vaping and outside smoking.
Remember, public consumption is illegal and can result in tickets and fines. Denver Police have also increased citations for public consumption over the years. In the first three quarters of 2014, Denver Police issued 668 public consumption citations. This amounts to a 470% increase from the same period in 2013, when 117 citations were issued. On 4/20 in 2018, police issued 72 citations, almost twice as many as the previous year.
Even though concert venues and bars are considered ‘private,’ prohibitionists argue that they are ‘publicly accessible private venues’, and therefore consumption of marijuana is prohibited. From our experience, it depends upon the place and the crowd. Most down to earth venues will usually turn a blind eye to things unless they are getting complaints or police visits.
To be discreet, edibles or a portable vaporizer can be your best friend. These have become very popular in Colorado, as they don’t really leave any odor and can be consumed almost anywhere. Social Lounges
Driving Under the Influence
A new DUI law is in effect in Colorado which sets a legal limit for the amount of active THC in your system while driving. The legal limit is 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. This law was fiercely debated with the main issue being that people metabolize THC at different rates and as a result, the amount of impairment varies drastically from person to person. Unlike alcohol, where if you are over 0.08 you are impaired, it’s hard to determine if a person is impaired or not based upon THC levels alone.
The bottom line is be smart and don’t drive under the influence. If your car doesn’t smell like you ran over a pack of skunks and your eyes aren’t bloodshot, it is unlikely that you will be singled out. If the police do suspect you are driving stoned, they can require you take a blood test. Refusal to do so can result in similar penalties as refusing a breathalyzer test, such as loss of license.
The possibility of being involved in a serious car accident, even through no fault of your own, always exists, so it’s best to sleep off the high. The law does allow for a defendant charged with driving under the influence of marijuana to introduce evidence that pot did not impair their ability to drive. This is a last ditch strategy, the best advice is to simply drive sober.
In 2014, 354 people received marijuana only DUIs in Colorado. If you find yourself in need of legal representation for a marijuana DUI, we recommend Jeff Gard from Gard & Bond.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana for in 2012 but legal cannabis sales did not start until 2014. We offer practical information about marijuana laws, regulations, and statutes for residents and those planning a trip or vacation to Colorado.