Thirty out-of-towners pile into a giant limousine-like bus parked outside the downtown Cheba Hut at noon on a summer Saturday. The group includes an eclectic array of visitors who range wildly in age and socioeconomic standing, and who hail from such disparate locales as Hannibal, Missouri, New York City and Argentina. They have just one thing in common: They love weed.
“Sit back, relax,” says Colorado Cannabis Tours founder Mike Eymer. “This is your marijuana-smoking environment.” He makes guests feel right at home by noting that the limo is a safe place to indulge; the windows are blacked out, and the driver has his own cabin sectioned off in front, to prevent any contact high. Eymer kicks off the afternoon’s activities by showing beginners how to hit an Incredibowl. As joints begin to get passed around the bus, he explains the laws and nuances of legal cannabis in Colorado and offers other handy tourist tips.
“The most common thing I see on the tour is altitude sickness,” Eymer notes. “Drink plenty of water.”
Eymer created CCT because he wanted to offer people a positive look at Colorado’s new cannabis industry, one that lets them experience the state’s new cash crop without hanging out in alleyways, risking public-consumption tickets or getting fined for smoking in hotel rooms. Instead, everyone can light up as the limo heads to its first destination, GlassCraft in Golden.
GlassCraft is a supply store for glass blowers who make everything from pipes to bongs, beads to dab rigs. It sells glass tools, art and other items in its retail location, and also offers glass-blowing classes and demonstrations. Chris Schutz, an expert glass blower and a novice comedian, is on hand to show off his skills today. As he turns up the flame, Schutz says, “Don’t do the cliché stoner thing and shout out, ‘Whoa, fire!’” To which a visitor replies, “What, you think we’re stoned?”
In just ten minutes, Schutz blows a dark-blue Sherlock pipe and then promptly sells it to a lucky tourist. It’s a steal at just twenty bucks.
Next stop on the tour is Medicine Man, a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in Aurora, with a state-of-the-art growhouse in a warehouse in back. Pete Williams, one of the owners and part of Colorado’s First Family of Weed (according to Stephen Colbert, at least), takes the group through the facility, showing off one of the most technologically advanced operations in the state. Medicine Man is now organic, which means the visitors can’t touch or even get close to the bud, in order to keep restricted areas free from any bacteria or mites that could sneak in. But they can certainly get their fill of looking at the clean white space with bright, primary accents. Williams is as effusive as Willy Wonka, but instead of chocolate bars, his cannabis factory produces about 25 pounds of flower every day.
After the cannabis tourists have seen that factory, Williams invites them into the recreational dispensary at the front of the property, where they can buy the weed they just saw being grown.
CCT finishes the day with a two-fer stop. The tour first visits Illuzion Glass, which stocks one-of-a-kind glass sculptures and many more pipes. Then the visitors head to the neighboring Peak dispensary, a fun, casual storefront dispensary at 260 Broadway. Peak buys cannabis wholesale from the Kindman grow, and it’s packaged with some of the best branding imaginable.
The tourists have been able to purchase pot and paraphernalia on each of the afternoon’s stops. Still, just about everyone agrees that the best part of the tour is the social aspect. On their way back downtown, people who were strangers a few hours ago are now laughing, sharing pipes and exchanging information with their newfound friends. Eymer sends them off with a friendly reminder to advocate for marijuana legalization wherever they may roam: “Go home and make the change in your home state.”
Eymer started his tours in January 2014, when the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado. There are other MMJ-friendly tours in town, including 420 Tours, but Eymer has exclusive access to the spots where he takes tourists, including the Medicine Man grow. Eymer hosts many of the tours, which are offered Saturday afternoons from noon to 4:20; demand has been so high that CCT recently added Friday trips. The tour costs $99 per person and comes with an array of discounts, including 10 percent off at the dispensaries and glass shops along the way.
But these tours are just the start of CCT’s services. For many people who want to explore Colorado cannabis, the biggest issue is finding somewhere to stay. Bud N’ Breakfast, which has bed-and-breakfast establishments in both downtown Denver and Silverthorne, rates high with pot tourists; it’s one of the few businesses that bills itself as “weed-friendly.” Both locations provide breakfast and snacks at 4:20 p.m. daily; there are complimentary bud samples in the inn’s “bud bar,” along with a selection of pipes. But with only a handful of rooms, both Bud N’ Breakfasts get booked up quickly, so two years ago, Eymer began scouting out other options, creating relationships with hotels that are eager to get a piece of the pot trade — even if they don’t want to advertise it. Now, thanks to silent partnerships with CCT, several seemingly mainstream Denver hotels will book rooms with the knowledge that the occupants of those rooms will be partaking in pot. And Eymer’s list of participating hotels continues to grow.
In fact, more than half of the tourists in this limo will be staying in rooms booked through Eymer. Those rooms often come equipped with a free vaporizer as well as a plastic bag taped over the smoke detector; some will make guests sign a waiver promising to only vaporize. In exchange for the booking, Eymer usually collects a fee from the hotel as thanks for the connection. (You can find out more at coloradocannabistours.com.)
The visitors are just thankful that they got to experience cannabis in Colorado. “We asked our hotel concierge, where’s a good dispensary?” relates Elvis from Wisconsin. “She goes, ‘Well, I’m not supposed to do this, but here’ — and whips out a Westword cannabis brochure, the one you guys make. We were like, ‘Wow, thank you.’ Then, we asked, ‘Where’s a good pizza joint for when we are high?’ She whips out a pizza-place list. That’s my kind of hotel!”
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