Because Colorado prohibits marijuana use in public, and hotels ban smoking, savvy ‘ganjapreneurs’ are catering to tourists looking for a cozy place to toke
Joel and Lisa Schneider’s bed and breakfast in Silverthorne, Colorado, has all the trappings of a traditional B&B (stone fireplace, home-cooked meals, an alarmingly cute dog), with one significant addition: a complimentary bar of seven marijuana strains, and more than a dozen different implements to smoke them out of.
Travelers visiting Colorado from all over the world seek out specialized lodging like the Schneiders’ Bud+Breakfast. That’s because when pot was legalized in the state in 2012, lawmakers forbade its use in public – including bars, parks or concert venues. And with most hotels banning smoking of any kind, tourists were finding themselves with plenty of ganja to buy, but nowhere to inhale it.
That dilemma inspired the Schneiders to open their own lodging company, one that would cater to the disaffected tourists in need of a comfy place to light up.
In 2014, Joel abandoned his three-decade career as a lawyer to move to Denver, just one of many ganjapreneurs looking to bust into the newly legal marijuana industry. Temporarily living in a downtown hotel, he quickly discovered a predicament that would spark his next business venture: he had nowhere to smoke marijuana.
“I was blowing smoke into the toilet with the shower on, a towel under the door, totally paranoid,” he recalled in his thick New York accent. “It defeated the whole purpose of cannabis, which should be about relaxing and being social.”
In April 2014, he and Lisa took over a traditional Denver bed and breakfast, dubbing it Bud+Breakfast. Since then, they have opened two more locations in Colorado Springs and Silverthorne.
“We don’t run a crack house – we’re a high-end establishment,” Joel said, resting on the couch in his Silverthorne B&B. “We’re about creating a communal atmosphere where guests come together and all have one common passion: cannabis.”
“It’s not fun sitting by yourself and smoking,” Lisa added. “It’s fun to be with other people and talk about what you bought at the dispensary”.
The Silverthorne B&B’s five rooms – which range from $129 to $249 a night – are all named after members of the Grateful Dead, a theme that continues throughout the house, where the band’s dancing bears greet you at every turn. (Joel is a lifelong Deadhead, and it’s not uncommon to hear the band’s music playing at the inn.) Despite being very clean and professional, the combination of Sugar Magnolia and the ubiquitous marijuana smoke can make you feel like you’re visiting some dude’s house to buy weed – a familiar and very illegal ritual that has become a thing of the past for many Coloradans.
Currently, the Schneiders are only allowed to offer free samples of cannabis – during their 420 happy hour – at their Silverthorne inn, where county laws are less conservative than in Denver or Colorado Springs. At the other two locations, smoking devices are available to use at the inn, but guests have to bring their own bud.
While the Schneiders’ inn stands out as the sole B&B in Colorado (and possibly the world) that provides cannabis, they are not the only entrepreneurs to capitalize on the need for pot-friendly lodging. With cannabis laws still evolving, legal loopholes have given rise to a number of lodging options for stoners – with varying degrees of class, price and risk.
Last year, the site budandbreakfast.com was launched – think of it as a kind of Airbnb for pot-friendly hosts with an extra room to rent. Naturally, this upset the Schneiders, who had built their own brand with Bud+Breakfast and say they stand apart from the sharing economy.
But the sharing economy model of marijuana lodging has become big business in Denver, where many have taken the sketchy liberty of signing long-term leases on several properties, then renting them out to cannabis smokers for hundreds of dollars a night. Founder of potguide.com (a national resource for traveling stoners, which also helps tourists find “420 friendly” lodging), Jeremy Bamford says that public consumption laws need to be adjusted to meet the demand of pot-smoking tourists.
“There are a lot of tourists here, and [Denver city officials] are forcing them to break the law,” Bamford said.
He added that over the past couple of years several major hotel chains have quietly adopted new marijuana policies, allowing guests to use vaporizers (some even provide them), or offering an outdoor smoking option such as a parking garage or a balcony.
“Lodging providers would rather have marijuana users any day than drunks,” Bamford said. “They’re not fully on board with it, but they’re making a lot of money from it.”
A recent survey from the Colorado tourism office showed that nearly half of the tourists who visited the state said legal marijuana is a factor in their chosen destination, and with more than $18bn being dropped by tourists in Colorado in 2014, there is a strong incentive for lawmakers to find an agreeable (and taxable) solution to the problem of tokers without a home.
Marijuana clubs – which circumnavigate public consumption laws by forcing patrons to become “members”, thereby making it private – are sparsely populated in the areas of Colorado that allow them, but so far they remain illegal in Denver. “Though none of them are very upscale,” Bamford said. “They range from a college dorm to divey bar atmosphere.”
Ken Hampshire and Karen Berggren are looking to change that reputation with the Summit Recreational Retreat, an upscale pot club in their renovated home in a Denver suburb.
“There are few people that are 50-plus that want to go to one of these [pot clubs],” said Hampshire, whose establishment features a hot tub, cannabis workshops, a bud bar (though it’s BYOB), and massages with cannabis-infused massage oil. Prices range from $599 to $1,200 per couple, and while the retreat does not provide lodging, they do offer transportation to and from Denver hotels, and, Berggren says, perhaps a sense of security.
“So many of these [marijuana clubs] get busted, because some knucklehead sells pot to an undercover cop,” Berggren said. “So you don’t want to travel to Denver and go to one of these smoke lounges for $20 and then end up being arrested.”
SOURCES: http://www.theguardian.com, by JOSIAH HESSE