The passage of Amendment 64 had barely been projected — making Colorado the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, even if it's officially "regulated like alcohol" — when the texts started arriving at the Westword office. "Moving to Colorado, bro," said one. "Dude," exhaled another.
For a city that so prides itself on attracting that elusive, and important, 25-to-34-year-old demographic, the vote was an eco-devo bonanza...even if booster groups initially decided to downplay the role that marijuana tourism might have in Colorado. "I know many of you will hear from clients, customers and media with questions about how this will impact tourism," Richard Scharf, the president of Visit Denver, wrote his organization's members two days after the election. "At this point, there are so many uncertainties that it is impossible to make any comments or predictions on how this issue will ultimately play out.... In the short term, the important thing for visitors to know is that as of today, the sale or possession of marijuana is still illegal in the City & County of Denver and the State of Colorado and is also subject to enforcement under Federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance.... We will continue to market and brand Denver as we always have, as one of the nation's top convention and leisure destinations."
And then the City of Denver and Visit Denver promptly rolled out a million-dollar tourism marketing campaign touting Denver in December under this heading: "Denver Mile High Holidays."
Although there was no mention of marijuana in the official announcement of the campaign — which is reaching into 24 markets with radio and television ads, as well as direct mail, billboards and social media — there might as well have been. After all, you can't turn on a late-night TV show without catching a reference to a real Rocky Mountain high. And in the tiny town of Stoner, in a canyon ten miles east of Dolores, Mayor Frank McDonald is getting ready to open a bed-and-breakfast known as Mary Jane's at Stoner. And yes, there really is a Mary Jane who lives on the property.
Now that McDonald is getting things rolling, as it were, Denver boosters are missing a bet if they don't light up a few other pot-related tourist attractions. For example...
Put a duty-free exchange station just off I-25 at the border of Colorado and Wyoming, where Coloradans can trade pot for fireworks and vice-versa. It's a smoking deal!
Forget Top Chef, even if Colorado still has two contestants on the tenth season of that reality show. If the state really wants to cook, it should sponsor Toke Chef as one of the attractions at our own inaugural Festival of Food and Cannabis, complete with demos that pair celebrity chefs with celebrity stoners to offer lessons on cooking with pot. Samples definitely included.
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Plant pick-your-own agritourism farms around the state, with hayrides and face-painting for the kids. Could it really be a coincidence that the Colorado Tourism Office and the Colorado Department of Agriculture are currently hosting regional agritourism meetings around the state? From 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, they'll be holding court at at History Colorado — where they could really make some history.
Create a real back-country bacchanal. For decades, skiers and boarders have left the slopes to visit the illicit smokeshacks that stoners have erected in the woods. Sure, it may seem mercenary to turn these monuments to camaraderie into money-grubbing attractions, but guided tours of these smokeshacks, complete with transportation and snacks, would create a real Rocky Mountain high. (And if snow continues to be disappointing, we can turn it into a hiking tour.)
Name the zoo's next two polar bears Cheeto and Goldfish.
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