It may come as little surprise, but Denver is a top spring break destination this year, an honor that probably has less to do with Colorado’s epic ski conditions than the ready availability of recreational marijuana.
An analysis by Priceline.com shows the Mile High City is the third most popular place to get away, based on bookings in March. Only Las Vegas and New Orleans are more popular.
But Rich Grant, spokesman for Denver’s visitor and convention bureau, says it’s impossible to know how many out of towners are making a pot pilgrimage.
“It’s not set up to be measured,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There’s no [marijuana] tourism infrastructure in Colorado. The basic fact is you can buy it here legally, but it’s very hard for visitors to use it without breaking the law.”
That’s because most hotels are nonsmoking and it’s still illegal to smoke weed in public. Not that either has proved a big barrier to the more determined marijuana enthusiast. Grant said he heard of a visitor asking about the fine for smoking in a hotel room as he was checking in. When told that it was $250, the visitor promptly paid the fine in advance.
Anecdotally, dispensary owners still report that as many as half of the IDs they check are from out of state, a percentage that has remained fairly consistent since Colorado began selling legal pot on Jan. 1.
And regardless of whether marijuana purchases are in addition to other spring break activities, like skiing or camping, there’s little question that many are spending more than they otherwise might.
“We would never have stopped in Denver,” Doug Drumm of Syracuse, N.Y., told Denver’s Fox 31, while shopping for pot. “We wouldn’t have stopped here to eat, we wouldn’t have stopped here for anything. But this place is here … [and] now we’ll eat dinner here. It’s got to be good for the economy.”
A busy spring break might be a precursor to what April might hold. That’s when the annual 4/20 celebration will be held in Denver, in conjunction with High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup competition.
And although Grant says “we’ll probably never really be able to tell” how much legal pot is attracting out-of-towners, he said one clue will be Denver’s hotel vacancy rate on 4/20. That happens to be Easter Sunday this year, which is historically a slow weekend for visitors.
“If downtown is sold out on Easter Sunday,” he said, “you would have to say something was going on.”
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