Legal marijuana inspires a new kind of tourism

By Danny King
My420Tours-travelThe nickname Mile High City took on a whole new meaning for Denver last month with a major pot rally and the launch of a tour company dedicated to marijuana-themed treks.

Denver, which hosts about 13 million visitors a year, is likely to attract a few more, thanks to an outfit called My 420 Tours, which is believed to be the first U.S. company to specialize in marijuana-oriented travel.

Last month, My 420 Tours sold out its first excursion, and it’s now planning more frequent tours dedicated to the celebration, growth and consumption of cannabis.

The company hosted almost 200 people for its inaugural three- and five-day tours, which took place over the weekend of April 20 and ranged in price from $500 to $850 a person.

The 420 in the name My 420 Tours is a pot-culture term, which originally referred to the meeting time (4:20 p.m.) for the Waldos, a group of teenage pot smokers in San Rafael, Calif., in 1971. It has since become a code word referencing the use of cannabis, and for that reason, April 20 (4/20) has evolved into a counterculture holiday to celebrate marijuana and to lobby for legalization of the drug.

The states of Colorado and Washington last year voted to legalize pot for recreational use. In addition, a number of other states allow the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, sometimes with very loose parameters that make it all but decriminalized for recreational use, as well.

The tours offered by My 420 included a visit to Denver’s Native Roots Apothecary, cannabis-growing classes, cooking classes, concerts by musical acts (and noted marijuana proponents) Cypress Hill and Method Man and a trip to the Cannabis Cup, the annual marijuana-growing contest and festival hosted by High Times, a magazine dedicated to the subject of drug use and culture.
No pot was sold on the tours, according to My 420 Tours co-founder Matt Brown, who said his products are designed to educate visitors about pot consumption far beyond merely recreational smoking.

“It validated that there’s an enormous need for this,” said Brown, who added he was surprised that about a third of the tour group was over the age of 50.

“They got to experience what life was like without looking over their shoulder,” Brown said.

With the first tour having sold out while not attracting any attention from local authorities, Brown is planning weekly tours that would host 30 to 50 people each. He said the fact that the tours provide transportation and the fact that no pot is being sold ensures that the company won’t be hassled by law enforcement officials.

Colorado’s Amendment 64, which was passed last November, makes it legal for adults to carry as much as one ounce of marijuana and will allow for recreational, nonmedical marijuana use for those 21 and over starting July 2014. Washington state passed a similar initiative.

Brown added that the success of the tour extended to lodging, where the guests were put up at the Warwick Hotel. Brown chose the 219-room hotel because it was the only downtown Denver hotel where every room has a balcony.

“The hotel staff never complained to us,” Brown said. “They put out a couple more air fresheners and left the front door open a little more.”
The hotel did not return Travel Weekly’s multiple requests for comment.

The only pockmark on the tour was a shooting incident at the annual April 20 pot rally at the Denver Civic Center, which attracted an estimated 80,000 people.

Three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being hit by stray bullets, according to the Denver Post. Brown was attending the rally with some of the tour members and heard the shots but said no one in the group was hurt.

“Everyone [in the tour] mentioned how unfortunate it was,” Brown said. “But nobody said they were terrified and that they were never coming back to Denver. It was such a blip over the weekend.”

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.
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