By Ken Hegan for MSN Travel

Smell that sweet scent wafting up from Colorado? That’s the smell of the burning ‘pot tourism’ debate in Denver.

On November 4th, the same day President Obama was re-elected, both Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana… a move that will surely increase tourism [I highly doubt you’ll cancel your Seattle weekend because the U district smells 10% funkier].

Colorado is already a popular destination for snowboarders who enjoy their diggity dank. Now that Colorado Amendment 64 has made marijuana legal, Colorado’s lawmakers are debating how to manage the upcoming green gold rush. The state’s Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force has been pondering over pot for weeks. And finally, after many all-nighter, Doritos-fuelled brainstorms, the task force released their recommendations Tuesday.

The result:

The task force wants to allow out-of-state, bud-loving tourists (boarders, Rihanna, Arnold) to buy weed at Colorado’s soon-to-be-open retail pot shops.

Colorado pot

Lighting up at a marijuana social club in Denver, Colorado on Dec 31, 2012. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

To be fair, the task force did consider restricting marijuana purchases to just Colorado residents. But eventually they stubbed that idea out. According to task force member (and Denver Democrat) Rep. Dan Pabon, “Imposing a residency requirement would almost certainly create a black market for recreational marijuana in the state.”

The task force did agree to place limits on how much marijuana you tourists can buy. As the Denver Post explained, “The goal is to prevent “smurfing,” which would occur when one person goes from store-to-store accumulating marijuana to then sell into the black market.” In other words, if they only allow pot tourists like, say, your mom to buy small amounts, smurfing becomes too time-consuming to be worth it [especially if the tourists are already stoned and lazy like Brandon on Breaking Bad, a.k.a. Badger].


The task force also agreed that recreational marijuana stores must be:

1) Owned by Colorado residents who’ve lived there for two years

2) Vertically integrated for the first two years (this means they must grow most of what they sell)

3) They also recommend relaxing criminal laws for citizens younger than 21 (for first marijuana offenses)

Don’t believe the rumours, however; Colorado will not change its state motto from “Nil sine numine” (Latin for “Nothing without Providence”) to “Thou Shalt Not Bogart That Joint.” Though, as the Aspen Times wondered last November, maybe Aspen will rename itself ‘Aspendam‘. Meanwhile, the Colorado Tourism Office will abide by the new law but say they won’t promote pot tourism…at least not at first.

Colorado starts accepting applications for recreational pot stores later this year, to be open for tourists at the start of 2014. Meanwhile, if you have more questions on the anticipated effects of pot tourism in Colorado, check out this helpful video from the 9NEWS TV newscast in Denver.

In their segment entitled “Pot tourism in Colorado? Marijuana regulators OK idea,” a 9NEWS reporter [who’s also named Brandon, hmmm] wonders aloud whether pot shops will be required to label the marijuana’s potency, similar to the way alcohol percentages are stamped on beer labels.

Some of my favourite moments in this video:

00:17 seconds — After the anchorwoman says “The devil is in the details…”, Brandon pauses for an awkward three seconds then chuckles over her words. This makes him look really, really stoned.

00:44 — It’s hard to believe but someone has misspelled the name of a marijuana bud.

02:20  — The reporter wonders if Colorado will post border signs that read “WARNING: Do not leave with marijuana” and airport signs that warn visitors to not take marijuana out of their state, e.g. “WARNING: Marijuana doesn’t fly.”
What do you think…will pot legalization encourage you to visit Colorado?

— Ken Hegan  

Read more of Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan