Staff at the Healing House send good vibes, dole out advice.
Between the four short blocks that separate Colorado's only basilica from the State Capitol, I find Good Chemistry. Behind the frosted glass door is an immediate whiff of "green travel," Denver-style.
On a wall-mounted monitor is the day's menu: Bubbleberry extract, Lamb's Bread, Watermelon tinctures. A chocolate-caramel bite, barely wider than a thumbnail, goes for $10. New to this diet or the high altitude? Eat one-fourth of the infused candy and see how you feel in 45 minutes.
Good Chemistry, a tiny storefront at 330 E. Colfax Ave., is one of 65 Denver dispensaries licensed to sell cannabis for recreational purposes after marijuana was legalized Jan. 1 in Colorado. State taxes from recreational and medical marijuana sales are expected to exceed $100 million this year.
The Weedmaps website was my resource for exploring. I found that dispensaries tend to favor grassy green exterior paint and green versions of the Red Cross symbol.
The best vibes came from the spacious and friendly Healing House, 2383 S. Downing St. It's near the University of Denver, between a thrift store and hookah bar. For sale are joints for $12 each, several strains of pot buds, vapor pens (like e-cigarettes) and much more.
"We see everybody, from the bum on the street to the most elite -- doctors, lawyers," says staffer Hollie Kuznicki. "As long as they have ID, they can shop and buy."
Don't mistake tolerance with recklessness. You can't smoke pot in public, or transport it outside of Colorado. By state law, lodging operators must keep smoke-free at least 75% of their sleeping quarters.
That makes "edibles" -- cannabis-infused cookies (packaged individually), candy, fruit punch -- a popular choice with tourists. What they cost depends upon where you shop, but a little goes a long way. Controlled and monitored growing conditions produce bountiful yields and potent effects. How fast the buzz arrives and whether it enlivens or subdues all depends upon the product and your reaction to it.
"Bud tenders," people who staff the dispensaries, coach customers as well as take their money.
So you have to be pretty knowledgeable to sell pot legally? "Sure -- or a stoner," says Brooke Abercrombie at Healing House, while explaining merchandise. She doesn't laugh.
In the city's core, the Lower Downtown (LoDo) Historic District, LoDo Wellness Center, 1617 Wazee St., fills 6,000 square feet in the basement of a building that also houses a nail salon, deli, art gallery and offices for construction and software companies.
The first thing you encounter is a large, homey lounge with couches, magazines, Buddha statues and a picture window that reveals an indoor greenhouse with dozens of marijuana plants, each affixed with an identification tag.
Medical and recreational sales occur in separate rooms, subdivided into shopping and sales areas, to keep lines orderly. In the rec area are five open glass canisters, each with a different strain of bud, and the EdiPure line of THC-infused candies (lemon drops to gummies). At the checkout are lighters, several kinds of rolling papers and a tip jar for staff. Sales are cash-only, but the store has an ATM machine.
Outside of the dispensary, Donald Andrews introduces himself as owner of the building and the first person to buy a joint legally in Colorado. Wife Linda owns LoDo Wellness and daughter Haley manages it.
"We were all ready to go at 7:59 a.m. and hit the sales key right at 8," he explains.
Across the street, Steve Weil of Rockmount Ranch Wear -- which produces upscale western shirts -- is not impressed with his neighbor's influx of business.
"They have a certain look," he says, of the clientele. "And they don't seem to spend money anywhere else. They're not our market, apparently."
If you do find yourself shopping for pot in Colorado, here's what you need to know. Shoppers must be at least 21 and show government-issued photo identification (a driver's license, passport) before entering the product area. Non-residents can purchase up to one-fourth of an ounce. Denver dispensaries close by 7 p.m.
There are BYOC (Bring Your Own Cannabis) events through the Edible Events Co. that pair good food and art with pot. Deadhead hangout Quixote's True Blue is a live-music venue with a concealed outdoor patio; Casselman's Bar is another music club that takes a loud pro-pot stance.
If you stay downtown, ride the free, frequent bus shuttles that appear along 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare between Union Station and the State Capitol.
There are guides at Colorado Green Tours (855-933-3868), Colorado Highlife (860-837-0420), My 420 Tours (855-694-2086) and other specialty tour companies that transport customers, privately or in small groups, to dispensaries and growing sites. Cost: $90 and up.
On April 19-20, the annual 420 Rally takes place at Civic Center Park. It's billed as the largest 420 rally in the world and this year is "a celebration of the historical revolutionary steps toward ending marijuana prohibition."
Also consult the Cannabist, a voluminous website with news, reviews and politics, from the Denver Post. Westword, Denver's alt weekly, routinely reviews pot dispensaries. And free copies of Culture, a cannabis magazine, are available at dispensaries.