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Colorado businesses find ways to cash in on pot tourism

Colorado businesses find ways to cash in on pot tourism

DENVER - Legal marijuana is running low in Colorado because there's so much demand, with many tourists flying in to both buy it and smoke as well.

Pot tourism is one more way businesses are trying to cash in on cannabis sales. There are limousine tours that will take you around town to different pot shops, and then there are a few hotels allowing tourists to smoke in their rooms.

In the historic mountain town of Morrison, 25 miles west of Denver, new ideas are coming from one of the oldest buildings around.

The Cliff House Lodge Inn, built in 1864 by town founder George Morrison, has two relatively new owners with a new concept.

"I'm getting calls from all over the place," innkeeper Angela Bernhardt said.

The Inn is welcoming pot smokers.

"We have gotten a few internationals, you know, Denmark, Europe, people coming over from London and what not," Bernhardt said.

The idea just made sense to Bernhardt and her husband Daniel.

"Whether you say yes or no, if you want to do it they're going to do it. I've just come out and said, I don't mind you doing it here," Bernhardt said.

The rooms are filling up for the year.

"Our projected sales for this month are three times greater than last year at this time," Bernhardt said. "There are private patios around the property you are more than welcome to partake on."

You can even partake in some of the rooms. They all have a rustic mountain town cabin feel with the amenities you'd expect from a traditional hotel and one you wouldn't.

"If you can smoke a cigarette on my patio, then you should be able to smoke a joint too," Bernhardt said.

Music legends and pot enthusiasts are framed on the walls, watching over the guests and people are looking for places like the Inn to smoke.

You can't smoke at hotels in Denver; if you're caught it can be a $250 fine. At the Medicine Man pot shop in Denver, you see pot tourism in action. One guy flew in from Texas just so he could smoke.

"Certainly our guards could tell you this, when they check the IDs, what their seeing is more than half are from out-of-state," Elan Nelson with Medicine Man said.

Back west in Morrison there are two guys who drove all the way from Florida to enjoy Colorado's latest cash crop.

"Visiting friends and came to see everything about this recreational marijuana. It's awesome." Mario Humes said.

Morrison is best known for being the home of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a 10,000 seat, world class, world famous concert venue. Although there are times you can see clouds of marijuana smoke rising from it, it doesn't mean everyone in town is in favor of the new laws.

The manager of Al's Coffee Shop down the street has seen the clientele the concerts bring. He doesn't like the direction the town is headed with the new law.

"It's a misunderstanding that there's a trolley going by that you need to get on," Clark Rogers said. "I don't think just because you see a trolley with this new legislation passing by that it means something you want to leap to."

Other residents worry too, especially after hoping Morrison would be pot free. The town has a moratorium on pot shops and grows, a ban cities in Washington can consider as well.

"But I live in this town and I am personally against pot being legal in this state and bringing it into my town," Morrison resident Molly said.

But it's still legal to smoke in homes, and at the smoking rooms in the Inn. Bernhardt thinks small motels in Washington will catch on.

"If you're a little place like I am and you have the ability to make your own decisions, then make them," she said.

Before you dismiss her ideas being only for stoners and tokers, she was running a traditional business before legal weed.

"I have a degree in economics from CU-Boulder and I feel like if I say no to this, they should just revoke my degree. What was the purpose of you going to school if you can't figure out supply and demand here," she explained.

The executive director of Visit Denver believes pot tourism is only anecdotal. They're not tracking how many hotel rooms people are booking to enjoy marijuana. Visit Denver is also not marketing to the pot tourism crowd. They have a one-year ban on it and don't think they'll start anytime soon.

As for whether or not people are breaking the ban on smoking in hotels, the official from Visit Denver said there was one instance at a hotel where someone walked up to the counter to ask how much was the fee for smoking indoors. The hotel staffer said $250 and that individual slapped $350 on the counter and walked away.