Inside the Hopper, Denver's Mobile (and Free!) Pot-Smoking Lounge

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One unfortunately common dilemma for Denverites and tourists alike is finding a place to puff when out on the town. On top of that whole illegal thing, smoking marijuana (or anything else, for that matter) in public places or venues can be rude and detrimental to the health of others — turning your average, mild-mannered pothead into an alleyway pariah.

But now, there's a new venue where adults can toke freely on the weekends, and it could be rolling by your place tonight.

The Hopper — a mobile cannabis lounge that picks up and drops off people on a predetermined route — is a new service available on Fridays, Saturdays and some popular Sundays (like this Sunday, when it will be shuttling Broncos fans to and from Mile High Stadium) that allows you to do what many apartment buildings and hotels in Denver do not: smoke pot.  Similar to a party bus that takes riders around the city, the Hopper lets anyone 21 and over step inside and get a little crunk (it's definitly BYO herb and booze) as they ride around the city for free. 

But how will you know where the Hopper is and when you can hop on? Just download the smartphone app High There. Described as a Facebook and Tinder for potheads, High There is offering a promotion that lets all prospective riders go to the Hopper section and check out the streaming, Uber-like map that shows the bus's whereabouts at that moment.  As it makes its way around popular stops in Denver, you can jump on for free. 

A bus rolling around Denver on the weekends, picking up and dropping off people for free, all while letting them get stoned out of their minds? There has to be catch, right? Well, other than getting stuck next to a scavenger who keeps asking, "Hey, man, can I hit that?", it's just that easy.

A Westword photographer and I tried out the Hopper for ourselves one recent Friday night as it drove around Denver, and the only problem we encountered were the bumps in the road as we tried to roll joints. The Hopper drove to Marley's Pipe and Tobacco in the University of Denver area so that some Florida tourists could check out glassware, the RiNo district to drop off a few single ladies looking for a hipster to take home, and 15th and Wazee streets for the LoDo crowd.

"Some people ride around until they reach the stop where they originally boarded, just so they have a safe place to smoke when they're not at home," said High There Chief Operations Officer Brian Sherman as he puffed and passed my photographer's joint. "And we're totally fine with that."

Unlike the cannabis social lounges in commercial buildings that face scrutiny from governing cities and rely on private memberships to stay legal, the Hopper can let adults consume their own cannabis because the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act — a law that dictates smoking restrictions in commercial businesses — doesn't apply to private vehicles.

Last year, Denver marijuana advocates said they had twice the number of signatures required to put a public marijuana consumption initiative on the 2016 ballot, but they withdrew it after agreeing to work with various local government and business officials to reach a compromise. Mason Tvert, a major proponent of the initiative, recently said he would put it back on the ballot if more progress isn't made in crafting a new plan. And earlier today, Denver NORML announced that it plans to submit a marijuana social use initiative of its own.

But until then, if you're looking for a place to puff on a cool winter night, or just for a ride downtown: Hop on the Hopper.

Have a story tip? Email it to marijuana@westword.com

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