Denver is the New Amsterdam–and the Best Weed City in the World


The above map shows all the difference states (and even countries) that people travelled from to visit Colorado this New Year and purchase legal, recreational cannabis in just two weeks. As you can see, nearly every state–from Alaska to New York to Hawaii to Texas came through. Visitors from countries came from Canada to South Africa to Mexico to Australia to even Liberia and Russia. Because it’s the “New Amsterdam.” 

I work in the Weedmaps Denver office, and our next door neighbor is The Clinic of Colorado. So we’ve had a first hand glance at just how global Denver is becoming. When people are coming all the way from Libya, South Africa, and Russia just to buy weed, you know somethings in the air.

Simply put, people from all over the world have been flocking to Denver, Colorado the past three weeks–for the love of weed. While the Mile High State has long been a tourist attraction for skiers, stoners, and hikers, a majority of 2014’s visitors share the same refrain: “we came for that stuff too..but mostly the legal weed.”

The New Year’s travel rush has predictably calmed down some, but recreational sales remain at a steady, lucrative pace (and price), and every day, more people are moving here or visiting Colorado to live free and get high. Because Denver has become the epicenter of both Colorado and America’s weed scene, from both an industry and stoner perspective.

The comparisons to Amsterdam are unavoidable, even if they’re cliche and wrought with inaccuracies.

Amsterdam and Denver are–from both cultural and political stances–extremely divergent cities with a different ethos. But the comparisons are inevitable, as is the reality that Americans are taking a quicker, cheaper flight to Denver than Amsterdam to get their weed rocks off.

Thus, while Denver might not have the Coffee Shop lifestyle, the hookers in windows, or french fries with 30 different toppings (but we got fries), the city has–at least for Americans–become a more convenient alternative to Amsterdam.

Of course, Amsterdam remains a beautiful city and, unlike Denver, has a much calmer, traditional weed scene (the Dutch smoke spliffs, not dabs; they lounge, they don’t abuse). But if you want to see some of the best (albeit slightly dry) weed and hash in the world–while also seeing first hand the companies becoming the Anheuser Buschs of this world, Denver, not Amsterdam, is the place to be.

And it’s only going to get crazier as the current 20 or so recreational shops balloon to 100, and more companies get more funding to do crazy, revolutionary things to this industry. Amsterdam, for all its beauty and cannabis lore, doesn’t have the weed tech companies, the lucrative businesses, and the caPOTalism that’s taking place in Denver (that’s a positive, in many ways).

There’s also no denying Amsterdam has more history (Anne Frank!), a richer culture (Van Gogh!), the best haze (albeit improperly dried) and is still the place to find magical mushrooms over the counter. Amsterdam’s marijuana program is a successful, longstanding social experiment designed to empower the people, for harm reduction, and to benefit society (the government doesn’t see sales tax dollars, just a standard business income tax). Denver’s program–while socially beneficial–is more of a financial and political play, realizing that weed has and will continue to save its economy (hence the lofty sales taxes). Amsterdam has the better intentions from a moral standpoint, but from a revolutionary standpoint…

If you want to see the future of weed, Denver, Colorado is the place to be. Here are some reasons why if you choose Bud over Beer, you should make it a point to visit Denver as soon as humanly possible.

The Weed is Just Better. America has the best weed in the world: period. We hear you California. Your OG Kush is the loudest, but you know, some people can’t handle OG Kush all day, every day. And growing weed in Colorado compared to California is akin to playing a football game in sub-zero, blizzard conditions versus San Diego sun. Cali may have the most dispensaries and “the dankest weed” but Colorado really isn’t far behind. And you don’t have to worry about the LAPD raiding your favorite dispensary while you’re making a purchase. Amsterdam’s weed, for all intents and purposes, is mostly mediocre. Genetics may be born there, but they come to Denver to thrive, to breed, and to innovate. Whether it’s the Tangie or the Kosher Kush, new strains come to Denver to flourish. And they are simply delicious.

The Hash is Next Level: What literally (aside from the altitude) elevates Denver above Amsterdam? BHO! The Closed Loop Extraction Movement–led by Emotek Labs is as revolutionary as it gets. Open Loop Extraction–a popular practice in California–is totally illlegal in Colorado. That means: you run your nugs and trim through a fancy (and pricey) hash closed loop extraction machine, without having to worry about blowing yourself up. And while the early results may not have been up to shatter snuff, the latest results have been as good as it gets in the dab game. Amsterdam? Well, they’re still smoking bubble hash, and the dabs are viewed with some disdain by the Dutch.

Medibles: You need about 10 pairs of hands to count the edible companies in Denver, the only state where you can really start this kind of business–legally. In Amsterdam? They’re an afterthought.

But Denver isn’t just about the weed, and that’s what makes it so great. The fine cannabis simply enhances an already amazing city

The Music, The Parties, and the Lifestyle: The only obvious smoking down side is that you can’t legally smoke in Colorado Cafes. However, the constant flow of live music events, cannabis events and lenient facilities makes this an easy problem to solve for the keen user. It’s an unspoken (yet grey) rule that it’s totally cool to light up at any music venue or private party in the city. Hell, I’ve hit a vaporizer at one of the nicer restaurants in Denver (Bistro Vendome), and when they caught us, instead of kicking us out, they kindly asked us to move to the patio for our medicating. That–which would get you arrested or booted in most places–is just cool.

The Munchies: Did you hear there’s a Voodoo Doughnuts in Denver?! Whether it’s Cheeba Hut or Euclid Hall, there’s a stoner’s wet dream awaiting you at pretty much every corner in the city. You can get any kind of food from bomb Tex-Mex to elevated to modern Spanish cuisine to bomb pub food. Unfortunately, our Chinese cuisine needs (NEEDS!) an influx of proper Chinese chefs.

Edible Events. While you might not be able to buy weed off a menu and smoke at moments after, Denver’s concert venues and party spaces have, let’s just say, very lenient policies towards cannabis (see: security guards have bigger fish to fry then potheads).

The Availability and Information: Can’t advertise in Amsterdam; Technically closed to Non-Residents, so kind of sketch; 5 gram limit in Amsterdam, you cant grow there

THE PEOPLE: They. Are. Just. So. Damn. FRIENDLY! There’s no malice–it’s all peace, love, and “would you like a hit of my joint?” Everyone is simply just flat out nice.

You Can GIVE Weed to People…Legally: Gota love the “donations”–as the same goes for hash and medibles. Additionally, front porch consumption in Denver legal, but not in the Dam.

The Sports: Sorry Ajax fans, but one futbol team can’t compete with the quadrant of the Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rockies, four teams that consistently win (or at least compete) and four teams that play in arenas where hash pens are as common as jerseys. And if you head to Shotgun Willies (the strip “joint” of choice) or Cervantes on the right night, you might just get to blaze with Von Miller or Nate Robinson (true story).

Red Rocks: There is not a better place on this planet to smoke a joint and enjoy live music.

Yes, I’m biased cause I live in Denver and I came from the city of gridlock (Los Angeles). But I’ve smoked weed in New Jersey, New York, Seattle, Amsterdam, Prague, Marseille, Lisbon, London, and countless other cities. The overall experience–from purchase to smoke session–is the best in Denver. Even if you somehow manage to get caught smoking a joint in public, it’s a mere slap on the wrist. There’s simply no stress–and that is what every stoner is in constant search for.

Because Denver is where weed in the world is inevitably heading. It will be industrialized, it will be monetized, and it will change our nation forever.


About Author

Barry has been writing about marijuana for over five years. Prior to joining, Barry wrote about sports and music. His work has appeared on TIME, The Huffington Post, Deadspin, and elsewhere on the Internet. In his spare time, he enjoys disco and Kosher Kush.