Pot Tourism

Bummer: The Great Colorado Weed Shortage of 2014

If you’re heading to Colorado to enjoy some legal marijuana, you may be out of luck. Locals say many recreational suppliers are already sold out—and the hype is overblown.

Seth McConnell/Getty,Seth McConnell

If you watch Fox News (or any number of other mainstream media outlets), you might think Hell froze over in Colorado on Jan. 1, when the state started to permit the sale of legal, recreational, marijuana to adults age 21 and over.

According to the hysteria, you—and your children—can get marijuana everywhere.

Please: Don’t believe the hype.

Each town and municipality is handling recreational cannabis in its own way. For example, Vail has a moratorium on recreational marijuana sales—so don’t plan that stoner Colorado trip just yet.

Then there are the parameters of supply and demand: Not only are some of your favorite resort towns conspicuously dry, but according to Genifer Murray, founder and CEO of CannLabs, other locations, such as Denver-based The Clinic, are already sold out of recreational pot—and they’re out until their next harvest.

“[The state of Colorado] underestimates the amount of marijuana people use. Literally,” says Murray, founder and CEO of CannLabs. “They have no idea.”

In Colorado, if you sell both medical and recreational marijuana, you can’t just transfer it over. Those plants have to remain separate, under separate licenses. That means if you’re out of your recreational, you can’t just start selling your medi-pot as recreational. Nearly everyone interviewed for this story estimates it’ll take eight months to a year for the supply side to consistently meet demand.

The squawk on the TV might be dramatic, but the locals say otherwise.

“I don’t think [legal marijuana] is making that much difference,” says Joshua Landis, a real-estate agent in Aspen. “People have always been able to access marijuana in Aspen. Nobody is out smoking marijuana on the corner” just because it’s suddenly legal to possess and use it in private (it’s still illegal to use publicly). In addition, he says, “I don’t think it has any effect” on property values. “No one who can afford to buy property in Aspen is going to make their decision based on marijuana policy.”

“College kids are excited,” he continues. “But Colorado has always been a live-and-let-live state. For most grownups, it’s not an issue.”

Jennifer Rudoph, a spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country, explains that while “ski resorts respect the voters’ decision to make marijuana legal” not much has changed on the slopes, either. “It wasn’t legal before to smoke on a resort, and it’s not legal now, so in that regard, nothing’s changed.”

Murphy Murri, general manager and co-owner of both Canna Candies and Tree Line Premier Medical Centers, says that a recreational license will change some of how she does business. “We gauge our [medical-marijuana supply] based on year-round population. We’re going to have to rethink that equation. Once we open to the tourism, we’ll have the same highs and lows as the regular tourism industry faces.”

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Tree Line, a medical-marijuana facility that’s applied to the state for a recreational license, hopes to have it by the end of March. It’s just across the town line from Vail.

The biggest issue right now for folks in Colorado? Nearly everyone interviewed for this story, again, agreed: There’s a lot of misinformation outside the state.

“As residents,” says Murri, “we get updates all the time about what’s going on. Tourists get one article out of Newsweek that sensationalizes it and makes it seem like marijuana is available to everyone. Then they get to Vail and realize they can’t get it. The rules-and-regulations knowledge is lacking for people outside of Colorado.”

“I’ve met people scheduling their vacations to Vail this month, and they are going to be disappointed,” she continues. Additionally, “People keep saying it’s more available for youth, which is just not true.”

“Some people don’t want to come [to Colorado] with their families,” says Joyce Burford, executive director of Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “Because they have this image that all these pot smokers will be everywhere.” That’s not happening, she says, and “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

As far as information for marijuana tourists, according to Murri, “there really isn’t one consolidated source of information.” No one, she says, has created a specific, accurate list for out-of-staters. And given the rapidly changing face of supply and jurisdiction availability, that list still might be a season away.

Right now, she adds, the closest location to Vail currently selling recreational marijuana is in Breckenridge, a 45-minute drive. “People have driven 45 minutes for weed before,” says Murri, noting that if you really want the legal recreational-weed experience, it probably won’t be a big deal to drive for it.

“I certainly think [marijuana] will be widely available next season, and that the prices will go down,” as well, once the supply side is figured out, Murri adds.

Her advice if you intend to go to Colorado for legal weed now? “Call ahead. If you go to Vail, plan to drive to Breckenridge.”

And, “Don’t just trust an article that says marijuana is legal in Colorado now. Every town and every municipality is different now. I think that right now because it’s a topic of interest, it’s easy for people to get over-excited about the issue.”

“People have always been smoking pot on the mountain,” continues Murri. “Now, people can talk about smoking pot on the mountain… people are less afraid to discuss it.”

And that, perhaps, is the most significant change recreational marijuana has brought to Colorado.