Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that cannabis was once illegal in Colorado—especially in a small ski town with seven dispensaries in its downtown core alone. Aspen is notorious for having the highest pot-shop density of any city in the state—one for every 850 people, based on a 2014 population figure of 6,805 residents. It's worth noting, too, that Snowmass has a moratorium on marijuana, which prohibits "the establishment of any medical marijuana facility or any retail marijuana establishment in the town of Snowmass Village" and was just extended through October 21, 2018.
For tourists, a dispensary is often the first stop after wheels down, but with so many options it's hard to know where to go. So just in time for April 20, here is our definitive guide (listed in alpha order, not ranked) and a few pro tips to make your visit to the high country even higher:
Best Day Ever
Longtime local Michael Gurtman (formerly at the helm of the much-missed Meatball Shack) opened Aspen's newest retail dispensary earlier this year. along with a cultivation facility in Glenwood Springs. Best Day Ever is already notorious in town for having the strongest strains ever, along with an expertly curated selection of artisan edibles, designer accessories, and pain-relieving topicals. Recreational, 520 E. Cooper Ave., 2nd Fl., 970-618-5727, bestdayeveraspenco.com
Located in the heart of downtown on the Hyman Avenue Mall, Green Dragon has a deep selection and, with 10 locations in Colorado, its cannabis is discounted more than most (locals love to head here for rotating specials like $25 eighths and $8 joints). A wall full of swag welcomes curious visitors to the shop's long bar, staffed with plenty of bud tenders so customers rarely have to wait. Recreational, 409 E. Hyman Ave., 970.429.4365, greendragoncolorado.com
What began as a medical dispensary on the 16th Street Mall in Denver has since grown to 18 locations across the state. One of the largest chains of marijuana shops in the country, Native Roots's sleek interiors and signature black and white graphics have made it synonymous with a premium cannabis experience. Here, you can also find Foria—the innovative cannabis-infused lubricant for women. Recreational & medical, 308 S. Hunter St., 970.429.4443, nativerootsdispensary.com
The Original Leaf
Just one block from the Silver Queen Gondola, the Original Leaf is conveniently en route to adventures on Ajax (or beyond). Its sleek, modern ski lodge–like interior makes for a cozy setting in which to shop quality glass, edibles, topicals, and strong recreational strains—all cultivated by longtime local Cloud Shadowshot, who started growing cannabis at age 5 … seriously. Recreational, 555 E. Durant Ave., 970.920.4220, theoriginalleaf.com
One of six locations along the I-70 corridor, the Aspen store has a staff that's welcoming and informative on recommending edibles, accessories, and bud that’s “prescription strength, with no prescription needed.” It’s also known for competitive pricing (eighths from $40). Recreational, 400 E. Hyman Ave., 970-900-WEED, rootsrxstores.com
Catering to Aspen’s luxury-leaning residents and visitors, Silverpeak offers an elevated experience, with clean lines, natural light, rich woods, and custom cases—all of which make the cannabis look better than ever. All purchases from the wide selection of flowers, concentrates, and edibles are even presented on a silver platter. You’ll also find plenty of accessories, books, and souvenirs in a separate boutique space. Recreational & medical, 520 E. Cooper Ave., 970.925.4372, silverpeakapothecary.com
Located next to City Market, Stash is a favorite for its daily discounted locals's specials (keep an ear out for “Penny Joint” days) and its own organically grown greens. As the first of the pack to open in the area, this OG crew knows how to guide you to a perfect stash of your own. Recreational, 710 E. Durant Ave., 970.925.6468, stashaspen.com
- The recreational sale of marijuana is strictly enforced to those 21+. IDs are checked upon arrival and then again at the counter, so be prepared—even if you’re 90.
- US citizens must have a valid state-issued driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Traveling from outside the US? Only a valid passport from your home country will get you in.
- Come with cash. Some shops accept debit cards, but none accept credit cards.
- Smoking is prohibited in public spaces, hotels, rental cars, bars, restaurants, etc. If reefer is the main reason for your trip, look into cannabis-friendly lodging options.
- PSA for those of you heading for the hills to shred powder or hit the hiking trails: most ski areas occupy federal land, where possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Remember, though, there's a reason gondolas are dubbed "ganjulas"; lighting up is a commonly accepted part of mountain culture.
- Whether you’re a rookie or an expert, start slow—the grass is greener (i.e., stronger) in legal states. Consume with caution, know your tolerance, and play by the rules. Whatever you do, don't Maureen Dowd yourself.
- Traveling with marijuana is technically illegal—even if you're going to and from a recreational legal state—but TSA is known to turn a blind eye in some cases. The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has implemented amnesty boxes if you forget to ditch your stash before you hit security.
- Lingering paranoia? Give it to a friend or leave it as part of a tip to your hotel staff or rental house host. Worst-case scenario, they throw it out. Best case? You make their day.