As 2017 comes to an end, it’s time to load a cozy bowl by the fireplace and reflect on the past year in cannabis culture. 2017 has been a busy year for all of us in the industry here in Colorado, with sales reaching a record-breaking $1 billion by the end of month eight.

My corner of the market is where cannabis and travel intersect. Yes: marijuana tourism is actually a thing, and its buds are in full bloom. I’ve been on board at My 420 Tours since the high holiday season of April 20th of this year. Here are some of the hottest areas of growth and progress that we’ve seen at the weed tour headquarters in 2017.

5 things you should know before you go

First, let’s get the rules out of the way. Here’s what you need to know about enjoying Colorado’s cannabis culture:

1. You must be 21 years of age or older. A government-issued ID / passport is required to enter recreational dispensaries.
2. No public consumption. Private residences, 420-friendly hotel rooms, and party buses are okay. Consumption in public is prohibited.
3. No smoking and driving. Don’t even think about it! Law enforcement can issue you a DUI or DWAI. Play it safe and request an Uber or Lyft instead.
4. It’s okay to gift someone cannabis, as long as they are 21 years of age and within state lines.
5. What’s purchased in Colorado stays in Colorado. It is illegal to transport, mail or ship cannabis across state lines.

Concentrates, concentrates, concentrates

Travel is for trying new things. For visitors to Colorado who want to expand their weed horizons, concentrates are the new frontier. A study of users in California and Colorado show that concentrates are on the rise as people make the switch from traditional flower. So what are these amber-hued oils and resins, and how are they different from the dry bud (a.k.a “flower”) we all know and love?

Dabbing dials up the intensity with its fast-acting potency, while vaping appeals to those who want a discreet and sophisticated process that doesn’t involve smoke, lighters, or combustion. We do an Introduction to Marijuana Concentrates Class, and it is one of our most popular activities, selling out more regularly than any other.

Edibles are poppable and unstoppable

Cannabis-infused food items, a.k.a. edibles (or “regrettables” when they hit too hard), are an unstoppable force on the cannabis scene. As with so many cannabis trends, Colorado’s entrepreneurs are leading the way. In September, The Today Show anchor Kerry Sanders traveled to Colorado to explore the big business of edibles, highlighting local brands like Dixie Elixers and The Growing Kitchen.

As edibles gain traction, some big questions arise. How are their effects different from other forms of consumption? How long do edibles take to kick in? How strong is a typical 10 mg dose? Since the answers vary for each individual depending on factors like size, metabolism, and tolerance, the best call is to head to the dispensaries and start experimenting for yourself. The best advice for any newbie is to “start low and go slow.” A half-dose of 5 mg is a good starting point, and you’ll want to wait at least 30 minutes to feel the effects before eating the other half.

Edibles have raised some regulation-level questions as well. For example, how do we keep kids from confusing these adult treats with regular candy? As of Oct 1, the Colorado Department of Revenue has prohibited the sale of edibles shaped as humans, animals, or fruit. So no more ganja gummie bears. Bye bye, Sour Patch lookalikes. You will be missed.

Elevated cooking and food pairings

Foodies are taking over the world. Just as local flavor is becoming an ever-growing part of the travel experience, high cuisine and pairings are making their way into the weedscape as well. Watch any episode of the Viceland hit series Bong Appetit for some cannabis-infused inspiration.

In Colorado, locals and travelers alike sign up for elegant cannabis-themed dinner parties where each course of the chef-prepared, seasonal meal is paired with a specific strain of bud. For kitchen geeks who enjoy the craft of cooking as much as the lift of a nice high, Denver is the place to learn the ins and outs of cooking with cannabis.

When students walk into the classroom kitchen, the chef instructor greets them with a smile, a spatula, a jar of bud, and a lesson on decarboxylation. There are also some solid private cooking classes available. Another unique-to-Denver foodie experience involves learning to roll both sushi and joints — then enjoying the craftsmanship of each, right there on site.

Weed and wellness join forces

The stoner stereotype is finally showing signs of lifting. As cannabis use becomes the new normal in the Centennial State, it’s impossible to generalize about the “kind of people” who use it, and for what reasons. The wellness world is turning to cannabis for its application in mindfulness, meditation, and even exercise. Leave it to outdoorsy, fitness-loving Colorado to house events like 420 yoga retreats deep in the Rocky Mountains, the annual 420 Games featuring a 5k run, and a cannabis gym newly opened in Wheatridge.

For spiritual wellness, 2017 saw the opening of an awe-inspiring International Church of Cannabis in the Denver neighborhood of West Washington Park. Weed and wellness community-seekers find good company at Ellementa, a group for women who gather and share about the role of cannabis in their own bodies and minds. The Denver chapter of Ellementa launched in June 2017 and steadily gains momentum with each monthly gathering.

Cannabis events and celebrations

2017 kicked off with Cannabis Wedding Expo in Colorado in February, which anticipated the demand for cannabis bars and other weed-themed details designed into the Big Day. Lifelong enthusiasts and first-timers alike turn to adult-use cannabis in states like Colorado to mark some of life’s biggest milestones. We’ve hosted guests celebrating everything from 21st and 30th birthday parties and bachelor parties to 25th wedding anniversaries and retirement. Cannabis-themed events aren’t just for life’s highlights, either. A look at all the different Denver events calendars reveals 420-friendly options like “Puff Pass Pincushion” (elevated needlepoint circles) and “Kush and Canvases” (pot and paint classes that follow the wildly popular sip and paint class formula).

High poets can take “Lit on Lit,” a creative writing workshop with a cannabis twist. Weed fans in legalized states like Colorado may also want to sprinkle cannabis on top of occasions like date night or girls night out with cannabis manicures.

Likewise, families looking for ways to bridge the generational divide can take the high road by partaking in legal cannabis experiences together as a family. The Weed and Wine Gift Fair advertises itself as “a great event to introduce your mom to cannabis.”

Legal and social acceptance

Despite a wildcard administration on the federal level and warnings from a certain Gremlin-looking Attorney General, the consensus is clear: Marijuana laws are liberalizing, state by state, and there’s no turning this ship around. Cannabis culture is the new normal. After decades of senseless prohibition and manipulative “this is your brain on drugs” propaganda campaigns, the pot plant is taking its place as a legitimate part of the economy and of society. Look out, big pharma and big booze. Cannabis is poised and ready to take a bite out of both mass-markets over the next ten years.

In other taboo-busting highlights of 2017, Colorado voters refuse to keep pot use hidden away in their homes. In November of 2016, voters approved Initiative 300 to legalize social use areas. City legislators spent the better part of 2017 fine-tuning a licensing process for legal places to smoke weed in Denver, although none have been licensed yet.

On a cultural level, we’re seeing more widespread acceptance of cannabis use among adults as products gain sophistication and consumers gain knowledge about how to make the green goddess a part of their lives. The stigma is slowly lifting.

Colorado as a cannabis travel destination

July 1, 2017 was a big day for Nevada as dispensaries opened their doors to recreational customers. Las Vegas saw its retail stores sell out in a frenzy of excitement, but the City of Vice missed an opportunity in pot tourism. All weed-centric tour operations and consumption-friendly party buses were shut down as soon as they popped up.

Will California be more friendly to cannabis tourism services when it opens up to recreational sales on January 1, 2018? Time will soon tell. But for the near future, Colorado remains the reigning destination for weed-themed vacations in the United States. The Centennial State takes the meaning of 420 friendly to a new level, welcoming its cannabis-seeking visitors with well-stocked dispensaries, plummeting prices, and a growing array of weed-themed travel services and attractions. Summer may be over, but in Colorado’s relaxed pot policy climate, cannabis tourism is the new “high season.”

All photos are the author’s.