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Colorado’s new cannabis laws make it a top spot for pot tourism

A woman blows smoke rings with marijuana smoke in Denver

Cannabis tour operators are heading for Colorado where new dispensaries (shops), and weed-friendly clubs and hotels are popping up to make the most of the relaxation of marijuana laws

As the sun rises over the Rockies, a tour bus pulls up outside the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver and deposits a new load of tourists. It’s not your usual busload, though.

This group has come from Texas for a weekend organised by Spiro, a luxury cannabis tour operator, and its package includes a visit to a spa, dinner, a trip to a farm and a weed-infused cooking class. Some of them will buy and smoke, some are just curious, but they’re all here for the pot.

Marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Until now choices for pot tourism have been limited. There’s Amsterdam, of course, where tourists can buy up to five grams and smoke in coffee shops, but this year in the US, since Washington state and Colorado legalised personal recreational purchasing and consumption of marijuana, there’s been a rush to open dispensaries and growing operations, particularly in Denver.

Medicinal marijuana has been available in Colorado since 2000, so many existing suppliers are investing in more plants, space, shops and staff. There are, as yet, no Starbucks-style chains though; many of the dispensaries (selling everything from ready-rolled joints to smoking paraphernalia) are small and independently owned.

Drawn by the mountains and the laid-back atmosphere, tourists arrive daily in Colorado from other US states and, increasingly, from overseas. Buying cannabis is the easy part; smoking it is another story, as Colorado also has tough anti-smoking laws.

Whether in edible or smokeable form, marijuana use is prohibited in public spaces, including streets and parks, and in places visible from public spaces (such as your hotel balcony). You can smoke inside at clubs such as Studio A64 in Colorado Springs, and a new wave of hotels allow smoking (of tobacco or weed) in 25% of the rooms.

Cannabis-infused trail mix is put into containers for participants in a cannabis cooking class in Denver, Colorado.

Cannabis-infused trail mix is put in containers for participants in a cannabis cooking class in Denver. Photograph: Alamy

Since the beginning of 2014, it is estimated that cannabis sales have brought Colorado $47m in tax revenue, with an estimated third of those sales to customers from out of state. From resorts in western Colorado, such as Aspen, to the university town of Boulder, new dispensaries are opening to take advantage of those looking for a more-refined buying experience.

They tend to look like luxury fashion boutiques, with no tie-dye or Bob Marley shirts in sight. You’ll find ads for cannabis yoga, pot reading groups, arts clubs and other social activities meant to help take some of the stigma out of smoking and make it more communal. Edible products are becoming popular, with treats from chocolates to cocktails on sale – their serving sizes limited to 100mg (milligrams) of active ingredient THC per product.

From sea to shining sea, states are watching how the situation in Colorado develops – with, of course, an eye on the tax dollars. It must only be a matter of time before you can book a marijuana tour of the entire US – yoga and chocolate brownies included.

My 420 Tours has packages from $1,295pp, including two nights’ accommodation. Spirotours has half-day tours from $399pp

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The greatest bars in the world

What makes a bar truly great?

We tapped mixologists, bartenders, cocktail kingpins, and professional drinkers to find out—and their picks include upscale drinking dens and gritty dive bars, places with world-class cocktail menus or a vibe that just keeps you coming back every Thursday.

1. Angel’s Share, New York, NY

“I absolutely love The Easter Gibson at Angel’s Share in Manhattan’s East Village. It’s made with AO Japanese Rice Vodka, Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Rakkyo onion, and thin sliced cucumber. The fact that you need to go through a Japanese restaurant called Village Yokocho, climb a set of stairs, and know to look for a nondescript, unmarked wooden door to enter makes it pretty cool. Inside, the drinks are made with a unique Japanese precision and sensibility that separates it from the rest of the New York speakeasy crowd. It has a special place in my heart as I used to take my wife Becky there on dates.”—Chris Cannon, owner of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, New Jersey

2. Arnaud’s French 75, New Orleans, LA

“I like to have a French 75 and a Sazerac, mostly with bartender Chris Hannah. This bar is so special to me because it has one of the best, most professional, and dapper bartenders on the planet who makes excellent concoctions. We walk out with a great experience and a smile on our faces.”—Julio Cabrera, head bartender at the Regent Cocktail Club in Montauk, NY

3. The Broken Shaker, Miami, FL

“The Broken Shaker makes me feel like I have a home away from home. In the past when traveling to Miami, I often felt overwhelmed with large corporate venues or a lack of individuality, personality, and soul, and The Broken Shaker was the definitive answer to that problem. With their extremely well thought out tropical aesthetic to the drinks that are perfect for the place, some of the best bartenders in the land, and the opportunity to go sit by the pool, it’s a winning combination.”—Josh Harris, co-founder, Bon Vivants (San Francisco’s Trick Dog, Pig & Punch)

4. California Clipper, Chicago, IL

“The Amaro Shaved Ice is the most refreshing drink—the shaved ice allows the amaro to mellow enough to really taste the different nuances. The Clipper is an old bar from the ‘30s that has lots of red leather and wood. It has an old-school jukebox which allows me to control the music. I like to go late on Thursdays, and stay until they kick me out.”—Doug Psaltis, restaurateur (RPM Steak, RPM Italian, Bub City, and Three Dots and a Dash)

5. Canon, Seattle, WA

“They have achieved a difficult harmony between attention to detail and casual ambiance. Making drinks to order takes time, making really good drinks with great ingredients and innovative recipes takes even more time, and when guests want you to make a “dealer’s choice,” and either come up with something on the spot or pull something out of the depths of your Moleskine, you can really get bogged down. They balance that amount of guest attention and the need to serve many, rapidly; they use the decor to announce that you can arrive here in a suit or from a Gap photo shoot and still feel comfortable; and they have the most incredible selection of whiskey I have ever seen. A lot of people have a ton of whiskey, but Canon has the most drool-worthy list. It’s so big it’s on an iPad.”—Kyle Davidson, chief mixologist, Blackbird (Chicago)

6. Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drink, Boston, MA

“The bar team at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drink views the drink process as a conversation. For example, they listen to what is happening around them and craft their beverage selection with a point of view in mind. Their specialty is creating distinctively classic cocktails utilizing house made vermouth, house infusions and bitters from around the world. The drink list at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drink changes frequently with the seasons. But, my current favorite cocktail would have to be the ‘Remember the Maine’ which is made with rye whiskey, vermouth, cherry heering, and absinthe.”—Chris Himmel, owner of Boston restaurants like Post 390 and Grill 23 & Bar

7. Green Russell, Denver, CO

“I usually prefer my spirits neat or on the rocks, but was blown away by the cocktails at the Green Russell in Denver. A speakeasy-themed craft cocktail bar in the Laramie District, they had a great selection of spirits and custom, seasonal cocktails, or give them a few hints, and they’ll whip you up something unique. While it doesn’t have the amazing views we’re spoiled with here at Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock (it’s located underground), it has a mellow, conversational atmosphere that was great for catching up with old friends.”—Travis Hixon, master distiller

8. Hop Sing Laundromat, Philadelphia, PA

“My favorite bar changes all the time, but the most exciting spot I’ve been to in recent memory has to be Hop Sing Laundromat in Philadelphia. The menu pays homage, in one way or another, to America. With one of the largest selections of spirits in the country, you can find everything from your classic Maker’s Mark right up through their specialty cocktails like ‘Montana Payback’ and ‘A Failed Entertainment.’ Plus, it’s hidden behind an unmarked door and looks like what you would imagine having a cocktail in Hogwarts would feel like. In a true Philly no-BS style, the owner boasts very firm rules: no sneakers, no shorts, no photos or you’re out!”—Cody Goldstein, head bartender at NYC’s Upholstery Store: Food & Wine

9. The Lambs Club Bar, New York, NY

“I love The Lambs Club Bar. Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is one of my good friends, and while most people know him as a chef, he’s actually an extremely talented mixologist. My favorite drink there is The Vesper Rouge (copper-distilled vodka, Lillet Rouge, and Punt e Mes). I’m a huge James Bond fan, and he always drinks a Vesper, so I tend to as well.”—Celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia (Prova, Kefi)

10. Mac’s Club Deuce, Miami, FL

“It’s perfectly grimy and open for 23 hours a day. The bartenders are nice if you are nice. Tequila blanco on the rocks with lime is the drink of choice there.”—Dale Talde, co-owner of Three Kings Restaurant Group (Pork Slope, Talde)

Idaho removes 420 mile marker, much to stoned thieves’ dismay

Major buzzkill, Idaho.

The state has joined the list of places that have replaced a “420” mile marker sign to curb the ongoing theft (sorry, college students looking for dorm room decor).

Adam Rush of the Idaho Transportation Department says officials replaced the old sign along U.S. Highway 95 with “MILE 419.9,” just south of Coeur d’Alene.

Rush added that this is the only 420 sign the department has replaced in Idaho, a state known for its strict anti-marijuana laws despite being nearly surrounded by states with relaxed pot regulations.

The particular mile marker is a popular target, given its connotation with marijuana, for thieves in states with routes than span for that long.one

Washington and Colorado have taken similar measures with the 420 signs; pot has been legalized in both of those states.

In Washington, the marker along Highway 20 has been replaced by a “419.9” sign, while the state’s other 420 mile sign, on U.S. Highway 12, is reportedly missing.

Colorado’s 420 sign, located along Interstate 70 roughly 150 miles east of Denver, was replaced last year with a sign that read “419.99.”

Sometimes, such mile markers can become historic simply based on coincidence. In Montana, the state’s largest pot bust occurred in May 2014 when a driver was pulled over at milepost 420 along Interstate 90.

Law enforcement officials found 115 pounds of marijuana hidden in the car.

Colorado is making so much money from cannabis it’s having to give some back to citizens

Legálisan kapható füves süti (IVAN COURONNE / AFP)

Colorado’s marijuana experiment has been an empirically rousing success thus far, with crime down and tourism up, and now the state has collected so much money in tax from sales of pot that it might be legally obliged to give some back.

The state constitution puts a cap on the amount of tax money that can be taken in before some has to be returned, meaning Coloradans could see a share of the $50 million generated by sales of recreational cannabis.

It’s such an uncommon situation that both Democrats and Republicans are in agreement on it – both insist that there is no point in returning the money to taxpayers, not something you usually hear the GOP saying.

“I think it’s appropriate that we keep the money for marijuana that the voters said that we should,” said Republican Senate President Bill Cadman.

“This is a little bit of a different animal. There’s a struggle on this one,” added Sen. Kevin Grantham, one of the Republican budget writers.

Coloradans may be asked to vote on making marijuana exempt from the tax cap – the money instead being ploughed into more drug education and police training to spot stoned drivers, as marijuana legalisation is designed to pay for itself without dipping into general taxes.

Last month, a Denver police chief confirmed that a year after legalisation “everything is fine”, crime has continued to drop and police are going about their business as usual.

See How Much Hotter Your City Is Than Anywhere Else, Just Because It’s A City

Las Vegas tops the list of cities around the U.S. that experience the worst urban heat island effect.

The urban heat island effect makes cities extra hot–and some cities are more extra hot than others.

2: Albuquerque

Summers in the U.S. have been warming since the 1970s due to climate change, though it might not seem like it if you’re riding out this unusually cool August in the northeast and midwest.

3: Denver

If you’re in a city, though, your perception of the heat might be all messed up. Cities get it the worst because of something additional known as the urban heat island effect.

4: Portland

Due to all of the dark, paved surfaces in cities that are good at absorbing sunlight, urban areas tend to be hotter than their surrounding rural areas, where vegetation reflects more sunlight. That’s why green roofs have such environmental benefits; they help cool cities down.

5: Louisville

A new report from Climate Central, a research and journalism organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, looks at the strength of the urban heat island effect across 60 major cities over the last decade–and how the combined trends of urbanization and climate change are causing cities to get hotter much faster than their surrounding regions.

6: Washington, DC

It also provides a handy interactive tool, which is embedded below, so you can look up your own city and explore how strong the effect is.

The cities with the worst urban heat islands in the last decade:

1. Las Vegas (7.3°F)
2. Albuquerque (5.9°F)
3. Denver (4.9°F)
4. Portland (4.8°F)
5. Louisville (4.8°F)
6. Washington,DC (4.7°F)
7. Kansas City (4.6°F)
8. Columbus (4.4°F)
9. Minneapolis (4.3°F)
10. Seattle (4.1°F)

7: Kansas City

On average, Climate Central found that urban summer temperatures were 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding rural temperatures, and the worst temperature difference in a single day occurred when one city was 27 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its rural environs.

8: Columbus

 

Since 2004, 12 cities reached temperatures above 90 degrees at least 20 days more often than surrounding rural areas. It also found that in 41 out of the 60 cities analyzed, urbanization and climate change combined contributed to rising summer heat faster than climate change alone is raising regional temperatures.

9: Minneapolis

Hotter summer days have more serious repercussions than simple discomfort. Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S., Climate Central notes.

10: Seattle

What’s more, in the summer, steamy days contribute to air pollution and it’s associated health problems, like asthma. See how hot it’s going to get in your city, and then start planting.

Denver Police Arrest 22 At Massive 4/20 Marijuana Rally

denver marijuana
Armed security personnel scan the crowd from a 20-foot-tall platform during the 4/20 Rally at the Civic Center in Denver, Colorado, April 20, 2014.

An estimated 80,000 people packed into Denver’s main square on Easter Sunday for what was billed as the “biggest marijuana rally in history”.

The annual event celebrating “world weed day” was the first since Colorado began selling the drug for recreational use in licensed shops on Jan 1.

In America’s first cannabis-legal state it is still not permitted to smoke the drug in public spaces outdoors.

But many the crowd ignored signs to that effect and a thick fog of cannabis fumes rose over Civic Center Park next to the Colorado state capitol. Armed security was present but largely ignored infringements.

Police said a total of 130 people were arrested or issued on-the-spot fines. Of those, 92 were for public consumption of cannabis and 22 people “went to jail”.

Tourists had flooded into Colorado for the event and 20 of those either arrested or fined were from outside Colorado. The fines were $150.

Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers had avoided wading into the crowd but “those ticketed were blatantly in violation of state law and city ordinances” regarding outdoor smoking.

Paramedics treated 14 people and half a dozen were taken to the emergency room of Denver Health Medical Center after passing out.

At 4.20pm large sections of the crowd lit up simultaneously as police stood by. The number 420 has become symbolic for pro-cannabis campaigners, the significance appearing to have originated with a group of California teenagers who would meet at 4.20pm to smoke cannabis.

Not everyone at the rally was taking the drug. Dennis Miller, 55, a contractor, and his wife Teresa, 49, were there with their 19-year-old daughter and abstained.

Mr Miller said: “Our daughter wanted to come so we’re just hanging out. The way I see it young people are going to do it anyhow so if you make it legal at least it’s regulated.”

Mrs Miller said: “There’s so many age groups and walks of life together in one place here. I think people are getting more open to it.”

Gabor Szekely, 24 an engineering student at the University of Colorado, brought his mother Eva Ovari, 52, who was visiting from Belgium.

He said: “I think the other American states will follow, it’s just question of time. It’s absolutely the right way to go.”

But his mother said: “I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never tried marijuana before and I’m not going to try it today. I don’t think it will happen in Belgium. It’s a different mentality.”

The crowd included many people in wheelchairs like Marnee Moralez, 50, who suffers from severe arthritis.

Lighting up a joint, she said: “The arthritis is really bad, it’s in my bones. But marijuana takes the pain away, sometimes I can even stand up.

And it makes you happy. What’s wrong with that?” She was being looked after by her son Shawn, 25, a US Air Force veteran who fractured his back on the flight line.

He said: “It helps me with the pain and also anxiety. It’s wonderful. There’s a whole bunch of us veterans across the country and I think if we featured more in the debate there would be more respect for legalization.”

Herb Cross, 53, a truck driver from Redding, California, said other states should follow Colorado in allowing the use of cannabidiol, a cannabis compound, to treat children suffering from seizures.

He said: “My daughter suffered from epilepsy and she passed about 10 years ago. I think it might have helped a lot. It may have saved her if it had been available.

“I really hope California will legalize. It just costs so much to enforce the law and lock up people for having a bit of marijuana on them. There are so many prisoners in jail that are costing us a lot of money.”

In Canada there were pro-legalisation rallies across the country. More than 2,000 people gathered on the lawn on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and there were also rallies in Vancouver and Toronto.

Will Colorado Have Enough Pot Stores to Meet Demand?

Sales of recreational marijuana begin in three weeks, and lawmakers fear that demand will dwarf supply.

image: Growth technician Mike Lottman moves through the marijuana plants in a medical marijuana center in Denver, April 2, 2012.

Call it Black Wednesday. Recreational marijuana goes on sale legally in Colorado on Jan. 1, and Denver officials are worried that the city’s retail shops won’t be anywhere close to meeting demand.

At a city-council meeting Monday, lawmakers in Colorado’s largest city raised questions about licensing delays and the prospect of people queuing up for hours in what have been historically low temperatures.

“If we have 10 stores open … we could have people camping out overnight with cash in their pocket,” said councilman Charlie Brown. “How is the industry, how is the police department going to work together?”

Though more than 100 stores are waiting to have applications approved by the city and state, a process that involves multiple inspections and a public hearing, a small fraction of that number are likely to be open by 8 a.m., Jan. 1, when legal sales for recreational marijuana begin. Employees from the city’s department of excise and licenses estimated that Denver will have around 12 legal retail outlets in operation.

City officials are worried about the ability of those stores to handle the expected crowds, which they said will be supplemented by marijuana tourists arriving on chartered buses. Security is also a concern, as marijuana can only be purchased with cash.

A representative from the medical-marijuana industry said he knows Denver is going to be under enormous scrutiny on New Year’s Day. “It’s very true that the whole world is watching,” said Michael Elliott, who noted that shoppers may be confused when they’re turned away from the vast majority of medical-marijuana dispensaries that aren’t licensed to sell recreational pot. “It’s very intense right now.”

After voters approved a measure to legalize marijuana in November 2012, Colorado spent the next six months developing regulations for consumption — dealing with advertising restrictions, childproof packaging, THC-limits and rules for driving while high. “Clearly we are charting new territory. Other states haven’t been through this process,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in May. “Recreational marijuana is really a completely new entity.”

Seven months later, lawmakers are still deep in the weeds. “It’s pure cloth,” Denver councilman Albus Brooks tells TIME. “We’re starting from scratch.”

Brooks introduced a measure on Monday that would decriminalize possession for adults ages 18 to 20, which was approved by a special committee focused on marijuana issues. The committee also killed a bill that would have made it illegal to openly smoke pot on private property within 1,000 ft. of any school, with opponents comparing smoking a joint to drinking a beer on a front porch.

Among the measures the council approved Monday was one its president called a “seminal” piece of marijuana legislation outlining procedural nuts and bolts like making it illegal to consume weed on the city’s tourist-heavy 16th Street Mall and banning “pot giveaways” in public parks. Then they moved on to the next item before them: revamping zoning codes to deal with growing marijuana. After being approved by the council, bills must still be signed by the mayor.

“In 22 days, whether you like it or not, the image of our city will change,” Brown said. “And if we need to make adjustments we will. This is not the end. This is, frankly, the beginning.”

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