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32 Awesome Things To Do In Denver

Looking for an adventure base in the Rocky Mountains?

Look no further than Mile High City! There are many cool things to do in Denver and you should definitely stick around for a few days before visiting those famous Colorado Rockies.

Although Denver offers a quick access to the great outdoors, don’t dismiss it as a jumping point to the Colorado mountains. The city boasts a great cultural and food scene, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in the United States.

If Denver is just a quick stop on your road trip, my guide to best places to visit on the West Coast will help you!

Why you should visit Denver

Visiting Denver means you are only a few hours away from some of the most scenic destinations in the United States. Think Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and other beautiful mountain towns in Colorado!

But what is it about Denver that makes so many people excited about it? Denver has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last decade and now it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

The Mile High City is a mix of old brick buildings and modern office buildings framed by the Rocky Mountains. The combination of historic landmarks next to high rises and world-class art museums gives Denver its own character and once you see it, you will fall in love with this city.

If you are a foodie, you will love the Denver food scene: from high-end international restaurants to corky vegan cafes and local bakeries, the city’s dining scene caters to a wide palette of tastes!

Quick guide to Denver neighborhoods

Denver boasts many neat neighborhoods, each boasting its district identity. Understanding Denver neighborhoods will help you navigate the city and find some of the best things to do in Denver with no hassle.

South Broadway – a major transportation corridor of Denver, South Broadway is a popular area with many art galleries, stores, bars, corky restaurants, craft shops, and live music venues. It’s a perfect place if you want to go out and enjoy the local atmosphere.

Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle – a historic part of Denver, this area is home to some of the best museums in Denver such as Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum. Here you can also explore Colorado State Capitol, and enjoy live music at Civic Center Park during warmer months.

Denver Highlands – one of the most popular up-and-coming parts of Denver, Denver Highlands is a trendy neighborhood characterized by historic Victorian-style homes, many parks and restaurants. It’s a quick walk from downtown Denver and can be accessed via Highland Bridge.

East Colfax – the longest commercial street in the United States, Colfax Avenue is located east of downtown Denver and is somewhat similar to South Broadway because of its many bars, restaurants, stores and major entertainment spots like Bluebird and Ogden theaters.

Five Points – one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver, Five Points has been a popular stop for many jazz artists who have come to play in local bars. Today, visitors enjoy many craft breweries in the area, as well as coffee shops and small locally owned music venues.

Renting a car in Denver

Want to explore the best neighborhoods of Mile High City and enjoy the best things to do in Denver? Rent a car when you land at the Denver Airport! DiscoverCars has a great selection of cars at budget-friendly rates, so whether you plan to spend time in the city or head to the mountains, they got your covered!

Best hotels in Denver

If you want to explore downtown Denver, look for a place close to LoDo or Lower Downtown District, a neighborhood in the heart of Denver.

Another place to consider is Central Financial Business District that is also close to most of Denver’s sightseeing spots. However, if you are looking for a less busy area, check out Capitol Hill, a residential district with trendy bars and restaurants.

Budget Hotels in Denver

Denver is becoming increasingly expensive with scores of people moving here from all over the United States, and this popularity is well reflected in the city’s hotel prices. Still, you can find budget accommodations in Denver.

Hostel Fish is an upscale hostel that offers shared and private rooms, a bar and a restaurant on site. The 16th Street Mall is only 10 minutes away. Ember Hostel is another popular hostel in Denver with artsy decor and great location near Colorado History Museum and Pepsi Center. The property gets rave reviews, so you should check it out!.

Mid-Range Hotels in Denver

Mid-range hotels are aplenty in Denver. From standard bed and breakfast properties to locally owned hotels, there are of options, so you don’t have to squeeze your wallet.

Hyatt Place Downtown Denver is one of the best mid-range hotels with free breakfast in Denver near Colorado Convention Center, Pepsi Center and the United States Mint.

Staybridge Suites Denver Downtown is another great mid-range hotel in the city’s downtown that has a heated indoor pool, a hot tub and offers a daily buffet breakfast.

Luxury Hotels in Denver

Denver boasts many great luxury hotels with top-notch amenities and awesome views of the city. Here are some of them:

Four Seasons Denver is one of the most popular high-end hotels in Denver that boasts a beautiful rooftop pool, a spa, a gym and a restaurant.

The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa is one of the most famous historic hotels in Downtown Denver that has hosted many celebrities over years such as The Beatles and Katharine Hepburn. While the hotel has been renovated, it has a unique Victorian charm.

Best things to do in Denver

1. Take a walking tour of RINO (River North Area District)

Nicknamed RiNo, The River North Art District is the hip part of Denver that has bars, restaurants, concert venues and cool murals. Since RiNo is a pedestrian-friendly area, you can explore the entire neighborhood on foot. I suggest booking a walking tour of RiNo with one of the local guides.

The district has been revamped from the industrial area and many warehouses and brick buildings are still around, except now they house breweries, art galleries and coffee shops. The logo of this neighborhood is a rhino, and you can spot this cute animal on the walls and windows throughout the area.

If you want to stay in the RiNo area, consider the Source Hotel + Market Hall, a collection of stores, restaurants and neatly designed hotel rooms right in the middle of River North Art District.

Best food tours of Denver

Denver is an up-and-coming foodie capital, and you can have a really fund time here touring all the food places! Book a food tour of Denver to sample some of the best dishes in the Mile High City

This food tour of RiNo Arts District is super popular! You can book it here.

RiNo has a younger vibe to it, but regardless of your age it is a good place to have a brunch and or to go out on a weekend. A tour murals in RiNo along Walnut Avenue is a must for anybody who wants to snap a colorful photo and check out the budding art scene in Denver.

2. Grab a bite at Denver Central Market

Located in the RiNo district, Denver Central Market is home to local artisan vendors who sell a variety of produce. The venue also has a food hall, coffee shops, chocolate and ice cream shops.

PRO TIP: Denver is the capital of craft beer. You can find tons of big and small breweries throughout the city, and the RiNO area is no exception. One of the popular tourist activities in the Mile High City is a craft beer tour that will take you through Lower Downtown (LoDo) and Ballpark neighborhood where you can sample different kinds of local brews.

Address: 2669 Larimer Street in Denver

3. Explore LoDo on foot

Another recently revitalized neighborhood of Denver, LoDo (or Lower Downtown) is brimming with activities, restaurants, and cool hangout spots. Exploring this area on foot is one of the best things to do in Denver, if you are visiting for the first time and need to get your bearings on the city.

LoDo is home to some of the best breweries in Denver. Many popular beer tours in Denver take place here!

Within this district, you will find many stores, cafes, and boutiques, as well as some of the most famous landmarks in Denver such as Larimer Square and Union Station. Day trips from Denver

4. Take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

Located just under two hours from Denver, Rocky Mountain is one of the most popular national parks in the United States that sees a few million visitors every year. RMNP is home to dozens of alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, sprawling alpine meadows, and incredible wildlife like elk, foxes and mountain lions.

Taking a day trip to RMNP is one of the best things to do in Denver. While it’s easier to visit if you have a car rental, you can also book a guided tour of Rocky Mountain.

PRO TIP: To avoid the crowds, book a sunrise tour of the Rocky Mountain National Park, so you could meet the dawn while enjoying the view of the majestic Colorado mountains.

5. Make a stop Boulder

Located about 30 minutes northwest of Denver, Boulder is small town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that is known as an outdoor mecca. If you want to explore the great outdoors, hike some of the best trails in Colorado and enjoy the scenery, Boulder is the best place to do it!

To get to Boulder from Denver, you will need a car rental, but you can also take one of the guided tours of Boulder that are perfect if you don’t want to rent a vehicle. Boulder is a gorgeous destination year-round and you will love everything that it has to offer!

6. Take a mountain getaway for a day

Denver is located within a few hours from some of the most spectacular destinations in the Rocky Mountains like Breckenridge, Aspen and closer destinations like Idaho Springs and Georgetown.

Take a day trip from Denver to explore one of these places, or book a guided tour through Viator.

7. Get groovy at Meow Wolf: Convergence Station.

Denver is a city famous for its vibrant art scene that offers many museums of different types and genres, and if you want to get a glimpse into modern art, head to Meow Wolf – Denver’s branch of the famous Santa Fe’s Museum that has gained national attention after opening its doors in 2016.

The museum is the largest permanent installation of Meow Wolf and can be described as a melting pot of different artworks from different mediums.

Three hundred artists from across the country have collaborated on 79 projects to create a magical, neon-lit space with passages, cityscapes, stairways, and other elements that somehow blend into the bizarre and magical experience that Meow Wolf is.

Given the popularity of this museum, it’s a good idea to purchase your tickets online ahead of your visit, as it will save you a lot of fo time. Meow Wolf can be extremely busy during weekends and major holidays, so plan your visit for weekdays.

Address: 1338 First Street, Denver, Colorado

8. Check out Denver restaurants

Denver is heaven for plant-based foodies! There are tons of vegan restaurants in Denver, and even if you don’t follow a plant-based diet, you should visit at least one of them during your stay in Denver.

  • City O’City – One of the best vegan restaurants in Denver, City O City is always busy! Think vegan mac and cheese, pizza, and plant-based wings – you will not leave this place disappointed, I promise!
  • Watercourse Foods – A sister restaurant of City O City, Watercourse Foods is the oldest plant-based restaurant in Denver that offers delicious comfort plant-based foods that are made from fresh ingredients on the spot.
  • Somebody People – An award-winning restaurant with a colorful, hipster vibe, Somebody People is named after David Bowie’s “Five Years” lyric. This is one of the most environmentally conscious restaurants in Denver that avoids plastic and composts a lot of its waste and creates artful (and delicious) vegan meals.
  • Meta Burger – Who said that you have to give up meat to become a vegan? Meta Burger is a small local restaurant that puts a plant-based spin on burgers and sandwiches, and does a pretty good job at it! The Flatiron burger that is topped with sprouts, gouda cheese, and mushrooms even won the Seed and Wine Festival Best Burger in America award!
  • Vital Root – One of the best vegan restaurants in Denver, Vital Root is boasting dishes from many cuisines all over the world. It has a nice casual vibe and many popular dishes like Sunflower Risotto, Yuca fries, and Cashew Queso Dip.

9. Visit Historic Union Station

Whether you are going to arrive to the city via train or not, Union Station is one of the best places to visit in Denver. Besides being the main railway transportation hub in the city, it’s also a home to neat restaurants and coffee shops in a vintage setting in the Great Hall.

The station opened in 1881 and was redeveloped in 1917 after it was damaged by the fire. Nicknamed “Denver’s living room,” this historic building is in the trendy LoDo (or Lower Downtown) neighborhood.

From Union Station, you can easily walk to Confluence Park, a nice outdoor area with benches, walkways, and terraces where you can enjoy the picnic, and take in the atmosphere of the city.

Also nearby is the popular Highlands neighborhood where you can grab a bite to finish your day of adventures.

Address: 17th and Wynkoop Street in downtown Denver

10. Admire Larimer Square

If you want to learn the city’s history and snap some cool photos, head to Larimer Square, one of the best things to do in Denver, where visitors can get a crash course in the Mile High City’s history.

A must-stop, this area was Denver’s first commercial block built in 1858 where many merchants traded for several decades. After the activity died down in the first half of the 20th century, it came back in the 1960s, and today it is a popular shopping area with many boutique stores, galleries, and restaurants.

Address: 1430 Larimer St, Denver, Colorado 80202

11. Go for a run in one of Denver Parks

Denver boasts tons of green space. Whether you want to go for a picnic after a day of sightseeing or need a place for your morning exercise, there are a few parks in Denver that you could choose from:

– Washington Park – Also known as the “Wash” among locals, Washington Park is one of the best outdoor spaces in Denver that boasts two lakes, big grassy areas. Located south of downtown Denver, this park is an oasis for sport lovers thanks to a car-free street and a gravel path on the outside of the park.

– City Park – This sprawling park east of downtown Denver offers neat green lawns and a perfect picture of the Denver skyline framed by the Rocky Mountains. In addition to many trails where you can run, walk and exercise, this park is also home to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

– Cheesman Park – Built on a former cemetery, Cheesman Park is said to be haunted and has a rich history of ghost sightings. Still, many people come here to enjoy this green space and movie nights that often take place in summer. Right behind the park you can find the Botanical Gardens, one of the most popular places to visit in Denver.

– Confluence Park – You don’t get too far from downtown Denver to find a place to relax. Just head to Confluence Park that is a part of Denver’s Riverton Park trail system. While it’s a great place for biking, many people come here to relax and enjoy the green space right in the heart of the city.

12. Go hiking

The best thing about visiting Denver is the proximity to the outdoors. While taking a day trip to the mountains is one of the best things to do in Denver, you don’t have to drive far to be able to enjoy some of the best scenery and trails. There are plenty of hikes within a quick drive from the Mile High City in places like Golden, Boulder and Idaho Springs.

If you are visiting Denver for the first time, it’s a good idea to book one of guided hiking tours to get familiar with the area and get advice from a local guide who will answer all your questions!

13. Visit Denver Botanical Gardens

If you are looking for a place to chill and take things easy after exploring some of the best things to do in Denver, head to Denver Botanical Gardens. These gardens are home to North America’s largest collection of plants from cold climates around the world.

The venue is great to visit during any time of the year and you can see an incredible variety from lush tropical plants to a Japanese garden with incredible lilies on the pond. You can easily spend a couple of hours at the Denver Botanical Gardens – this place is truly special!

Address: 1007 York Street, Denver Colorado

14. Ride Colorado’s longest zip line

Denver is the gateway to many fun activities in Colorado, many of which are under one hour away! One of them is the longest and fastest biplane in Colorado is located at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Taking a ride along this biplane is one of the best things to do in Denver for thrill-seekers, which allows you to enjoy spectacular views of the mountains, and surrounding pine forests.

You can book your zip-lining tour here.

15. Shop The 16th Street Mall

One of the most popular places in the Mile High City, the 16th Street Mall is a 1.25 mile-long pedestrian area in the city’s downtown. Here you can explore restaurants, stores and in winter time, visit an open ice rink.

One of the main features of this area is a Daniel and Fishers Tower located at 1601 Arapahoe Street in Denver.

16. Check out Denver street art at District on Santa Fe

By now you might have already figured out that Denver is a very artsy city!

The Art District on Santa Fe in Denver has been designed as a creative area and also has tons of cool murals and art galleries. It’s one of the best places to visit in Denver, if you want to continue your tour of the city’s murals! One of the most famous murals in the district is Love This City, a colorful mural that spans from The Art District on Santa Fe to the River North Art District.

Love This City Denver mural is located at 2314 N. Broadway

17. Denver Selfie Museum

This place takes selfies to a whole new level. The first Instagram pop-up spot in downtown Denver provides colorful background for your photos along with a fun atmosphere. It’s a place to visit if you value creativity and want to have a good laugh. Adult tickets are $25.

Address: 1525 Market Street, Denver

18. Denver Center for the Performing Arts

If you are going to visit Denver over a weekend, spare some time for a cool performance at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Here you can enjoy musicals, theater plays and all sorts of art performance.

Address: 1101 13th Street, Denver

19. Denver Art Museum

Home to one of the most expansive art collections in the United States, the Denver Art Museum in the city’s Golden Triangle neighborhood is a must-stop for anybody who visits the Mile High City.

The museum’s galleries are spears across two buildings where you can find many examples of western American and Native American Art including paintings, inspirations, and sculptures. In addition, you can also find a variety of artworks from world-famous artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Winslow Homer.

Address: 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver

PRO TIP: If you want to explore numerous cultural venues in Denver, you might consider purchasing the Mile High City’s Culture Pass that will allow you to enjoy the city’s cultural highlights at your own pace. The $32 pass can be used for seven museums and attractions within a 3-day span.

20. Clifford Still Museum

A hidden gem in Denver, Clifford Steel Museum has managed to fly quietly under the radar for years. Meanwhile, this museum is one of the best things to do in Denver because it provides an opportunity to check out the artwork of Clyfford Still, one of the original abstract expressionists.

Located adjacent to Denver Art Museum, this museum is a great way to learn about expressionism in general, thanks to its chronological structure and conversational placards.

Address: 1250 Bannock Street, Denver

21. American Museum of Western Art

American Museum of Western Art is one of the best under-radar museums to visit in Denver if you want to enjoy art and history without crowds.

Located in the historic building, this museum boasts a great collection of artworks featuring images of the Western United States, not just Colorado.

To get a better understanding of these artworks, you can also take a guided tour.

Address: 1727 Tremont Place, Denver

22. International Church of Cannabis

Believe it or not, but the International Church of Cannabis is a real thing!

After the church opened in 2017, it quickly became a hit among tourists. While the outside of the church looks pretty inconspicuous, the inside is decked out in bright technicolor and also has a neon rainbow mural on a ceiling. You can visit the general area of the church free of charge, however, the venue can get quickly crowded, especially on weekends.

If you want to enjoy the light show, make sure to book your ticket ahead of your visit.

Address: 400 S. Logan Street, Denver

23. Make your way around Capitol Hill neighborhood

If you are looking to explore some of the best things to do in Denver on foot, there’s no better neighborhood in Denver than Capitol Hill, a central part of the city that is home to some of the best restaurants in Denver as well many historic buildings. Here are some of the highlights of the area:

Saint John Cathedral – a neatly decorated church that is one of the main landmarks of downtown Denver

United States Mint – a museum where you can learn about how money is made. One of the most fun and unusual experiences in Denver

Civic Center Park – a great place to relax amid the lush greenery in the heart of the city.

Denver Art Museum – home to exhibitions with modern artwork, Denver Art Museum is a must for any art lover who comes to Denver.

24. Colorado State Capitol

It’s hard to miss Colorado State Capitol when you visit downtown Denver. And one of the coolest things about Colorado State Capitol is that you can stand one mile above sea level. And if you look closely at the stairs leading to the entrance of the capitol, you will see that they have different mars. You can also take one of the self-guided tours inside the building.

25. Learn about how money is made at U.S. Mint

Originally established as a place where the Gold Rush findings could be transformed into money, this place will show you various stages of coin production from designing to getting them out of the coin making machines. The U.S. Mint offers guided tours and is a great place to visit during your time in Denver.

26. Check out Dairy Block

Dairy Block is one of the most popular hangouts in Denver that boasts an interesting history. The area derives its name from its past: The Windsor Farm Dairy Building made butter, cheese, and other dairy products back in the 20th century. Today it’s a trendy area with officers, restaurants, co-working spaces, and several food halls.

Some of the most popular spots in the area are Little Man Ice Cream – one of the most famous ice cream shops in Denver, and Bruto – a Latin-inspired restaurant where you can try tortas, tacos and so much more!

27. Grab a book at the tattered cover book store

If you are a book lover, visiting the Tattered Cover Book Store is one of the best things to do in Denver.

This unremarkable building is one of the most famous independent book stores in Denver that also serves as a popular gathering spot in Denver. While many brick-and-mortar stores have closed their doors, Tattered Cover Book Store has been thriving as it remained a beloved spot.

The store often holds events, seminars on various topics.

28. Take a brewery tour

Nobody does beer like Colorado!

There are tons and tons of brewery tours in Denver, so you could spend a lot of time sampling Colorado’s signature drink. One of the best ways to sample local beer is by using Denver’s signature interactive beer map that allows you to create your itinerary for visiting various breweries it’s around town.

Brewing tours are available at Great Divide Brewing Company, Wynkoop Bering Company, Denver’s First Brewery, and Post Brewing Company. If you want to explore new places in the city’s beer scene like Woods Bass, this app got you covered as it allows you to choose from some of the best beer places in the Mile High City.

29. Book a tour with Adventures Out West

When you get tired of being in the city, Check Out Adventures West, a local company that offers some of the best tours in the Denver area.

Whether you want to zip-line between towering cliffs, mountain bike, or enjoy a thrilling ATV ride in the backcountry, Adventures Out West got you covered.

I recommend taking a hot air balloon ride at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as you will be able to get incredible panoramic views of the Mile High City framed by the mountains.

Taking a tour with adventure Adventure Out West is one of the most fun things to do in Denver. The company has many special packages for all types of adventures and occasions. If you want to make your Denver visit more fun and memorable, taking one of the Adventures Out West tours is a must!

30. Attend a concert at Red Rock Amphitheater

If you are going to explore Denver in warmer months, consider booking tickets for a concert at Red Rock Amphitheater, a beautiful outdoor venue that hosts concerts and events. Red Rock Amphitheater is located about 15 miles west of Denver, so you will need to rent a car or catch a ride to get there.

Address: 18300 West Alameda Parkway in Morrison, Colorado

31. Take a day trip from Denver

Located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver boasts countless day trips. Whether you want to hike, camp, raft or enjoy the mountains, taking a day trip from the Mile High City is one of those unmissable things to do in Denver!

Here are a couple of ideas for your day trip:

32. See Colorado’s famous blue bear

One of Denver’s most iconic landmarks, the famous blue bear is famously leaning against Colorado’s Convention Center located in the city’s financial district.

The Colorado Convention Center brings thousands of visitors to Denver every year and holds some of the biggest events like the Great American Beer Festival, Denver Comic Con, World Science Fiction Convention, Denver Boat Show, Denver Auto Show, and Colorado Garden, and Home Show.

33. Take a fun ride at Elitch Gardens

Ready for a thrill ride? Head to Elitch Gardens – one of the best things to do in Denver if you are craving a dose of adrenaline.

This popular amusement park has been around since 1890 and has been previously located in several different parts of the city. Elitch Gardens boasts several impressive roller coaters and many types of thrill rides as well as Island Kingdom Family Water Park. This park is particularly popular in summer thanks to warmer temperatures and plenty of sunshine in Denver.

Address: 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver

34. Watch a game in Coors Field

The beloved venue of Denver’s sports fans located in the LoDo District, Coors Field is a great place to visit whether you are into baseball or not. Denver’s home team Colorado Rockies has been playing here since 1995 and games take place from April through September. The stadium spans over a whopping 76 acres and can accommodate up to 50,000 people.

If you love baseball, you should buy tickets to a game or two.

Address: 2001 Blake Street in Denver

35. Relax in hot springs near Denver

Colorado is home to some of the best hot springs in the United States. And the good news is that you can find many great hot springs near Denver. Winter is the best time to explore them, however, you can visit these natural wonders during any time of the year.

Whether you want to just take a quick drive to some of the best hot springs near Colorado Capital or take a skiing or hiking trip to the mountains and later explore some of the most spectacular hot springs in the state, check my complete guide to some of the best hot springs near Denver, and beyond.

Is Denver safe to visit?

Denver is generally considered a safe city to visit that has relatively low crime rates compared to other major cities in the United States. But that doesn’t mean that you should just leave your guard down. Stay away from dark, empty streets at night and stay away from areas affected by homelessness.

And remember to watch your belongings!

Whether you are going to eat in restaurants or exploring the city in search of the best things to do in Denver, always stay on the cautious side. Consider getting insurance ahead of your trip to Denver, to protect yourself in the event of lost and stolen belongings, unexpected hospital visits, and other accidents.

Best Time To Visit Denver

Denver weather can be very unpredictable and it’s not uncommon to experience all three seasons in just one day!

While these wild swings tend to happen around shoulder seasons, summer and winter bring more stable weather. Still, make sure to check the weather, if you plan a trip to Denver, because you can get hit by a snowfall in early September and experience a balmy 70-degree weather just a few days after that!

How To Get Around Denver

If you arrive at the Denver International Airport, you should get on the A line to get to the Union Station in downtown Denver. The ticket costs about $10.50 a person and can be purchased at the vending machine right near the train platform.

Final word on visiting Denver

Whatever brings you to Denver, I’m sure you will have a great time.

The city offers tons of cultural venues, great restaurants for many tastes and price points and green spaces where you can relax and work out. Visiting the Mile High City is a great experience, and if this city isn’t on your list of places to visit in the United States, it definitely should be!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article.

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Stoned

Medical marijuana came to Colorado in 2000 after Amendment 20 was approved by a majority of voters. It was only a matter of time before a state legalized recreational weed, and Colorado joined Washington in being the first to vote for it way back in November 2012. It was added to the constitution on December 10 of that year, just four days after Washington state became the first in the U.S. to allow recreational cannabis officially.

The market has gone from strength to strength as the industry’s revenue reached $24 million per month by April 2019. Colorado has generated over $1 billion in revenue from recreational weed. Not bad since it was only available for sale in 2014! The last $500 million has come in just over two years.

DID YOU KNOW: Colorado has generated over $1 billion in revenue from recreational weed?

The state’s capital is Denver, a city that is also the most populous in Colorado with a population of 2.9 million if you include the Metro area. Denver is one of the 20 biggest cities in America by population and was technically the first to legalize recreational marijuana in 2005. Residents voted that you could possess one ounce of weed without being arrested.

Of course, as weed was still only legal for medicinal purposes at that time, anyone caught with cannabis without an MMJ card would be arrested! Things have definitely changed in the meantime. Now, you can safely visit Denver and purchase a nice ounce of premium-grade bud for a reasonable price.

The city has become a popular ‘weed tourism’ hub, and in this guide, we will show you how to spend an epic day in Denver; with marijuana as the main attraction! By the way, companies such as My 420 Tours offer packages for stoners and give you the low-down on the city’s cannabis scene.

Here is the ULTIMATE Stoner’s One-Day Tour of Denver, Colorado

Trust us – you’ll never want to leave these herbal havens…

The Night Before: Book into a Great Bud and Breakfast

Denver has a fine assortment of high-quality hotels; but if you want to feel truly relaxed, a bud and breakfast is a no-brainer. Located at 1430 Race Street, the Adagio is one of the finest weed-friendly places to stay in the city. It has the usual amenities, and you can also ask for an in-room massage.

The main downside is that the Adagio only has six rooms spread across three floors. On the plus side, it means you receive personal attention in rooms that are splendidly decorated. Rooms are available for $299 per night, and you will feel like royalty as you spend a night or two here. You must be aged 21+ to book a room at the Adagio.

Each room rate is for two guests, but you are allowed to invite a third guest during the day for an extra $49, or overnight for $98. Not only can you safely get stoned in your room, but there is also a special Wake and Bake Breakfast, a 420 Happy Hour, and late-night sweet treats available for when you get the munchies.

9:00 AM: Rise and Shine! It’s Time to Find a Dispensary

You can bring weed with you to Denver, but why risk any altercations with police when you can get it freely, easily, and inexpensively in the city? There are well over 500 dispensaries at the last count so you won’t be searching for long.

If you don’t want to go very far from the Adagio, try the Groundswell Cannabis Boutique, the only dispensary of its kind in Denver according to the owners. It is a 15-minute walk from the Adagio at 3121, E. Colfax Ave., and allows you to get a brief experience of the high altitude. The Groundswell has special offers regularly although first-time users must sign up first. Wake and Bake specials include 3 grams of wax for around $60 or 1-gram pre-rolls for $5.

If you aren’t staying at the Adagio, or don’t mind a longer trip, you could head to one of the four Lucy Sky cannabis boutiques in the city. Each store in the chain is known for providing an outstanding customer experience, and you have the option of some special strains such as Acapulco Gold, and Purple Champagne.

Lucy Sky offers competitive prices for its products. For example, there is live resin available for as little as $29 a gram. You can also get wax, sugar, or shatter for $20 a gram, or save by paying $140 for 8 grams.

10:00 AM: Fuel Yourself for a Day of Adventure with a Hearty Breakfast

Snooze AM – Tripadvisor

There are ample options, but Snooze A.M. eatery is one of the best. It was founded by the Schlegel brothers, Adam and Jon, and is known for the friendliness of the servers, the cool décor, and the list of American classics with awesome twists. There are three Snooze locations: 2262 Larimer Street, 1701 Wynkoop Street, and 700 Colorado Blvd Suite A.

The Snooze Classic is a feast containing free-range eggs, a choice of meats, hash browns, and toast. Alternatively, you can try a breakfast taco, breakfast burrito, or Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes in a welcoming atmosphere.

11:30 AM: Head to the Museum of Nature and Science

If there is one thing you can do to expand your mind during your trip, it is to visit the famous Denver Museum of Nature and Science at 2001 Colorado Blvd. General admission is $19.95, although you can save a dollar by booking online. Extra features cost more money; such as the $5 fee for the Planetarium or the $7 you must pay for IMAX.

If you’re already stoned, either one is worth the admission fee. The IMAX Theater includes a choice of movie that takes place on a gigantic screen. Cool recent movies included Superpower Dogs 3D, a film about dogs with life-saving capabilities. You could also explore space with the Apollo 11: First Steps Edition 2D movie which chronicles the moon landing.

The ‘problem’ with the museum is that you could spend the entire day there. However, you must cut your journey to 2-3 hours so you can explore more of the city. Remember, we only have a day!

2:00 PM: Time to Refuel

Mario’s Double Daughters – westword.com

Mario’s Double Daughters Salotto is a great place to test out the nature of your high. It looks a little like an LSD trip with retro colors and red teardrop seats that look like something out of a 1970s movie. You’ll half-expect the greatest hits of disco to play as you eat. The bar has lots of specials and is a great place to enjoy a cocktail.

If you’re hungry, go to Two-Fisted Mario’s next door. It offers pizzas using authentic ingredients. You can get a slice for $3 with toppings $0.50 apiece. If you’re hungry, the 14” pizza is $12.50 with toppings at $1.75, or you could get one of the place’s specials for $18.50+.

3:30 PM: Take a Marijuana-Inspired Tour of the City

There is an array of options here. My 420 Tours offers a 3.5 hour ‘Budz and Sudz’ excursion, which involves visiting a local grow facility where you can see cannabis in different stages of cultivation. One of the highlights of this tour is Brewability Lab, which offers gorgeous brews such as coffee porter flavored with Nutella and coconut! This tour is $79 and begins at 2 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If you fancy it, you’ll have to visit the pizza place a little bit later on.

Loopr is a mobile marijuana lounge that enables you to get baked in public. It is a fantastic option if you want to make new friends from all over the world. As well as the themed tour package which starts at $35, you can ride the bus which stops at nine places in the city; including dispensaries, bars, and restaurants.

6:00 PM: Find a 420-Friendly Place and Chill

iBake Denver – westword.com

There are plenty of options here! You can try the International Church of Cannabis at 400 South Logan Street, which allows weed consumption onsite during Friday gatherings. These special ceremonies celebrate Elevationism; the official ‘faith’ of the church. The site offers mysterious dinners, live entertainment, and much more. It also has amazing décor with psychedelic murals that draw the eye.

iBake Denver is believed to be one of the first weed lounges in Denver. It is one of the few early lounges that is still going strong. It is a private lounge so you can smoke without fear of breaking the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act. With an estimated 50,000 members, you will find it easy to strike up conversations. You need to be aged 21+ to enter, and must also sign up to become a member. The basic membership costs $12 a month and $3 for every day you enter.

8:00 PM: Enjoy a Late Dinner to Take Care of the Munchies

If you have been embracing the Denver stoner lifestyle, you’re probably baked at this stage! By now, the hunger pangs are probably taking control so satiate your appetite before you become ‘hangry.’ While Steuben’s isn’t a 420-friendly location, it serves the kind of food you’re likely craving!

Located at 523 E 17 Ave., Steuben’s is the place to be if you want high-quality American classics like hamburger and fries. If you simply want to grab a quick bite and leave, this place has you covered. Its collection of sandwiches includes the famous Monte Cristo, BLT, and the much-loved Steuben’s Burger.

9:00 PM: Try an Old-School Bar with Class

The Cruise Room – westword.com

Make your way to The Oxford Hotel at 1600 17 th St, and check out the Cruise Room. A quick glance inside and you immediately get the impression of an elegant speakeasy bar in Prohibition America. You won’t be able to smoke here, but you can enjoy your share of martinis or Manhattans while relaxing in this stunningly decorated bar. Remember, you are treating yourself!

11:00 PM: Enjoy the Nightlife

If you’re too stoned to party, we don’t blame you for wanting to go home. However, you will be missing out because Denver’s nightlife is legendary. If you are feeling energetic, try La Rumba on 99 W 9 th Ave. It offers high-tempo music that is sure to get you off your feet, and on to the dancefloor. Other trendy nightspots worth considering include Milk, Beta Nightclub, and Vinyl Night Club.

If you want to stay out late, but don’t feel like dancing, the 1up Arcade Bar is a real treat for fans of classic arcade games. There are three locations, although the one at 717 E. Colfax Ave. has one of the biggest selections of pinball machines in Colorado! Along with the 40+ pinball machines, there are over 90 classic video games and six lanes of skeeball.

Add in 12 beers on tap, and you have a good, chilled out night ahead of you. Did I mention the Touch Tunes jukebox that allows you to listen to your favorite tunes? What could be better than being stoned, relaxing, and listening to The Doors for a few hours? By the way, the Colfax venue stays open until 1:30 am.

By now, you might be pretty damn tired! If not, you have the option to return to your bud and breakfast, light up, and order any treats you feel like when the munchies inevitably return.

Final Thoughts on a Stoner’s Day Out in Denver

If you are a resident of Denver, you probably think that we have barely scratched the surface of your great city. The truth is: You are absolutely right! Whether you enjoy marijuana or not, the Mile High City is one of America’s best tourist locations. However, it is especially great fun for stoners who know they can buy some weed, smoke it in a bud and breakfast, and chill out in 420-friendly locations across the city.

We shouldn’t need to tell you to imbibe weed responsibly! If you can think of any other great places in Denver that we have missed, please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Big data on a big new market: Insights from Washington State’s legal cannabis market

* Corresponding author at: Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, 15237, USA. [email protected] (J.P. Caulkins).

Abstract

Introduction:

Voters in eight U.S. states have passed initiatives to legalize large-scale commercial production of cannabis for non-medical use. All plan or require some form of “seed-to-sale” tracking systems, which provide a view of cannabis market activity at a heretofore unimagined level of detail. Legal markets also create a range of new matters for policy makers to address.

Publicly available data were obtained on approximately 45 million individually priced items purchased in the 35 million retail transactions that took place during the first two and a half years of Washington State’s legal cannabis market. Records include product type (flower, extract, lotion, liquid edible, etc.), product name, price, and potency with respect to multiple cannabinoids, notably THC and CBD. Items sold can be traced back up the supply chain through the store to the processor and producer, to the level of identifying the specific production batch and mother plant, the firm that tested the product, and test results.

Method:

Data visualization methods are employed to describe spatial-temporal patterns of multiple correlated attributes (e.g., price and potency) broken down by product. Text-analytic methods are used to subdivide the broad category of “extracts for inhalation” into more homogeneous sub-categories. To understand the competitiveness of the legal cannabis market in Washington we calculate the Herfindahl-Hirschman index (HHI) for processors and retailers.

Results:

Cannabis prices fell steadily and proportionally at the processor and retailer levels. Retail and wholesale price maintained a roughly 3:1 ratio for multiple product types after some initial fluctuations. Although a wide range of edibles are sold, they account for a modest share of consumer spending; extracts for inhalation are a larger and heterogeneous market segment. The HHI indicates the cannabis market is highly competitive at the processor level, but less so for retail markets at the county level.

Conclusions:

Washington’s state-legal cannabis market is diverse and rapidly evolving in terms of pricing, products, and organization. Post-legalization, researchers and policy makers may need to think in terms of a family of cannabis products, akin to how we think of new psychoactive substances and amphetamine-type stimulants, not a single drug “cannabis.”

Introduction

In November 2012, voters in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington approved propositions making them the first jurisdictions to legalize (with respect to state law) not just home cultivation and possession, but also large-scale commercial production, distribution, and sale of cannabis products for recreational use. After a period of regulatory design, the first licensed stores opened in January 2014 (in Colorado) and July 2014 (in Washington).

These events triggered considerable research on topics including teen-accessible marketing and promotion (Bierut, Krauss, Sowles, & Cavazos-Rehg, 2017), health outcomes (e.g., Kim & Monte, 2016), effects on treatment providers (Sobesky & Gorgens, 2016), public opinion (Subbaraman & Kerr, 2016), public understanding (Mason, Hanson, Fleming, Ringle, & Haggerty, 2015), local policy response to state legalization (Dilley, Hitchcock, McGroder, Greto, & Richardson, 2017), and strategies for regulation (Carnevale et al., 2017; Jensen & Roussell, 2016; Subritzky, Pettigrew, & Lenton, 2016).

There is also considerable interest in the resulting evolution of price and potency of cannabis products. Even before legalization, high-potency products were becoming more popular (Ben Lakhdar, Vaillant, & Wolff, 2016; Mehmedic et al., 2010), raising concerns about possible health impacts (Freeman et al., 2018; Hall & Lynskey, 2016; van der Pol et al., 2014; Weiss, Howlett, & Baler, 2017), especially considering the variety of methods in which higher potency products can be consumed, including dabbing and eating (Loflin & Earleywine, 2014; Krauss et al., 2015). Multiple studies have shown that cannabis consumption is sensitive to price (Ben Lakhdar et al., 2016; Gallet, 2014; Pacula & Lundberg, 2013), and Smart, Caulkins, Kilmer, Davenport, and Midgette (2017) show that for traditional cannabis flowers (“usable marijuana” in Washington State parlance), reported potency positively affects price. Some analysis has been completed on the cannabis market in Washington, including estimating the market demand (Kilmer et al., 2013) and baseline use patterns (Pacula, Jacobson, & Maksabedian, 2016), but past research focused on the illicit market, retail sales only, and/or did not break down the analysis by product types as we do here.

In Washington, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) regulates the industry, licensing producers, processors, and retailers, and certifying laboratories. The LCB also manages a “seed-to-sale” database that is designed to capture all transactions and conversions of cannabis products as they move from producers to processors to labs and retail stores (Miller, 2017). This analysis takes advantage of these data to explore aspects of this new legal market including: 1. How to partition the broad product category “extracts for inhalation” into more insightful subgroupings, 2. The relationship between wholesale and retail prices, and 3. Calculating the Herfindahl-Hirschman index (HHI) to assess competitiveness in the processor and retail markets.

These analyses contribute to the academic literature just described and may be helpful to policy makers. As Schaneman (2018) describes, from the cannabis producers’ perspective, “Washington state’s cannabis supply continues to swell, flooding the market and causing both wholesale and retail prices to sink” and this has led shop owners and producers to seek changes to Washington’s regulations. Grounding analysis and policy response in data is important; a similar story published three years earlier (Schroyer, 2015) reported worries that falling prices would lead to “a 90% failure rate for the 370 licensed producers and processors” and yet, as we show below, the number of licensees continued to grow briskly.

Data and measures

The unit of analysis here is perhaps most properly called an “item-entry” not a “transaction” because one purchase can produce multiple observations (Smart et al., 2017). For example, if a customer simultaneously bought two grams of one type of cannabis flower and one gram of another, that would generate two separate observations in this data set. However, the observations are also not simply items because multiple copies of the same item can appear within a single observation. If that person bought two separate one gram packages of the first type of flower for $10 each, that could appear as a single $20 observation with a “usable weight” of 2 g and a ‘2′ in the “weight” field which, for retail transactions, indicates the number of items in that item-entry. Nonetheless, for brevity we will abbreviate “item-entry” to “item” in the sequel.

Each observation reports the price paid and whether the buyer is a retail consumer, store owner, processor, etc. In July 2015, Washington changed from a 25% tax at each step of the production process to a single retail excise tax of 37%. The pre-July 2015 observations include those taxes, while the post-July 2015 data do not. We inflate retail prices after July 2015 by 37% to match the effective cost to the buyer before state (6%) and local sales tax. Prices are expressed in dollars per gram, calculated as the sale price divided by the usable weight of the cannabis. Potency is defined as the “Total THC” content, calculated as active (decarboxylated) THC, plus 0.877 times inactive (carboxylated) THC-A, to account for changes in mass during decarboxylation (Smart et al., 2017).

The variable “inventorytype” distinguishes ten retail product types. This analysis focuses on the most common: “usable marijuana” which refers to traditional flower with minimal processing, solid and liquid “marijuana-infused edibles” which are cannabis infused food and drink products, and “extract for inhalation” (for simplicity, henceforth referred to as “extracts”) which includes a wide range of processed products, including wax, kief, shatter, oils, and distillates for portable vaporizers.

Since the data encompass the universe of all legal transactions, not a sample drawn from some larger population, we generally do not test for the statistical significance of differences.

Results

Broader market overview

Table 1 summarizes the major product types, typical consumption methods, item prices, and THC potencies observed in June 2016. Potencies for edibles, infused mixes, and topicals are not reported because of concerns that not all stores may have been entering potency for those products in a consistent manner.

Table 1

Major product types observed in June 2016.

Product Type Use Method(s) Average Price 1st Quartile 3rd Quartile Average THC Potency 1st Quartile 3rd Quartile Market Share
Extract for Inhalation Smoked, vaporized, “dabbed”, or added to other products $34.24 $23.51 $38.1 69.66 65.1 78.6 22%
Solid Infused Edible Eaten $21.1 $7.58 $30.73 7%
Liquid Infused Edible Drunk $29.1 $17.54 $34.61 3%
Usable Marijuana Smoked, vaporized $22.05 $9.36 $28.06 20.47 18.2 22.99 66%
Marijuana Mix Infused Smoked, vaporized $16.84 $11.22 $18.85 1%
Infused Topicals Applied to skin $31.33 $17 $39.58 1%
Marijuana Mix Package Smoked, vaporized $13.61 $6.59 $14.14 19.31 16.1 21.3 1%

Partitioning extracts for inhalation

One prominent trend observed by Smart et al. (2017) is the increasing market share of extracts for inhalation (hereinafter “extracts”), which differs somewhat from what Daniulaityte et al. (2015) reports for the early years of Colorado’s market.

Smart et al. (2017) only analyze in detail price and potency for usable marijuana (i.e., flower), in part because extracts include a heterogeneous amalgam of different product types. For example, cartridges and wax are both included even though they can differ in price, potency, and modality of use (Krauss & Sowles, 2015; Morean, Kong, Camenga, Cavallo, & Krishnan-Sarin, 2015). Fig. 1 plots the average price vs. average potency for each extract product sold in June 2016. (There is one plotting point for each product name, not one point for each item sold.) Fig. 1 reveals few patterns; therefore, we exploit key words in the free text product-name field to search for more homogeneous sub-groups within this broad extracts-for-inhalation product type and to understand what types account for the cluster of products that combine high potency with low price. (We exclude the small number of high-CBD observations, defined here as those with greater than 1% CBD, which tend to be more expensive and have lower THC potency.)

Statewide average price and potency of each extract product sold in June 2016.

Based on the literature, inspection of store menus, and reading the most common product names, we identified categories that were usually distinct (i.e., relatively few product names spanned categories). These categories are not perfect: words such as “shatter” and “wax” are often used interchangeably. Nonetheless, our data-driven approach suggested eight categories. For each we developed a set of search words (e.g., “shatter” or “budder” for shatter type products). The search function included a wildcard in front and behind the search word so searching on “wax”, for example, identified products called “earwax” and “wax-pucks”.

In general, only products whose names included search words for just one category were categorized. However, special rules were written for common overlaps. For example, “hash oil” was placed with other oils, and “cartridge oil” with other cartridge observations. However, a product that has both “hash” and “cartridge” in its name is left un-categorized since it is unclear what kind of product it is. Examples include “X-Tracted Hashplant Wax 0.5g”, “Fire Alien OG Live Resin Wax(0.5 g)”, and “DD Purple Jolly Rancher Dab Oil 0.5g”. (Each of these examples had fewer than 20 transactions in June 2016) Approximately 74% of all product names (accounting for about 63% of all extract transaction items) could be placed within a specific category, with the remaining observations in the “other” group. See Table 2 .

Table 2

Categorization schema for extracts based on June 2016 retail sales.

Category Search word(s) Three most common product names within that category Proportion of obs.
Cartridge cart, vape, pen, vc, refill The Clear Cartridge; Liberty Reach, 0.5 g PURE Vaporizer Cartridge, Blue Dream; Willy’s Wonder 0.5 ml Cartridges 22%
Oil oil, rso, eso Jesus (.5 g) Oil; Berry Haze (.5 g) Oil; Pineapple Super Silver Haze (.5 g) Oil 3%
Hash hash Bubble Hash 0.5 g; Sugar Hash – 1 g; Monk Hash – 1 g 1%
Kief kief, keif Kief, BSH Kief 1 g; BSH Kief 1 g 3%
Dab dab Lucid Dabs (1 g); Dabulators 0.25 g; Dabz – Mt Rainier #10; 1%
Wax wax, budder Wax 1 g; Blue Dream SugarWax; Supergirl Wax 1 g 19%
Shatter Shatter, crumble 1 g Girl Scout Crumble (grow state); Concentrate: BHO Shatter 1 g; Wa Woo Cookie Shatter 11%
Resin resin, rosin Pineapple Express Live Resin (.5g); Tangie Live Resin (.5g); Middlefork Live Resin (.5g) 4%
Uncategorized NA Dutch Hawaiian Frost R.IO6013z 0.5 g Atomizer; The Clear Concentrate; Jedi Kush 36%

Fig. 2 replicates Fig. 1 for these eight categories of extracts and reveals some patterns in price and potency.

Average price and potency for various types of extract products, June 2016.

Categories that appeared similar in Fig. 2 in terms of price and potency in that one month also tended to have similar trends in price and potency over time. For example, hash and kief both experienced decreases in potency over time, whereas wax, shatter, and resin all have high potency rates that are stable over time.

It is inconvenient to work with eight categories, and some keywords distinguishing among these eight are synonyms or near-synonyms; e.g.; hash and kief; and wax and shatter. For others; differences are mainly about packaging: some “dabs” can be thought of as single-serving packages of wax or shatter. Cartridges are an interesting intermediate case. They may contain the same variety of oil as when the oil is sold separately; but as we show shortly; they appear to sell at a higher average price; perhaps because of that packaging. Further; as these are slang-like words; definitions are not always clear and usage may vary. Notably; although hash/kief is made from what is often called resin in Europe; in Washington the term “resin” seems to be used to refer to a solid waxy concentrate similar to wax or shatter.

We collapse these eight into four broader categories ( Table 3 ): 1) “cartridge”, 2) “oil”; 3) wax, shatter, dabs, and resin; and 4) hash and kief.

Table 3

Extract market broken down by product category for June 2016 (observations with matched product names only).

Product Use Method(s) Average Price 1st Quartile 3rd Quartile Average THC Potency 1st Quartile 3rd Quartile Market Share
Cartridge Vaporized $ 79.56 $65.46 $86.78 68 61 78 34%
Hash/kief Smoked or added to flower $ 23.57 $16.92 $28.21 41 30 50 6%
Oil Vaporized or added to flower $ 43.13 $29.92 $54.25 72 68 78 5%
Wax/shatter/resin/dab Flash vaporized (“dabbed”) $ 30.54 $23.36 $35.77 73 70 78 55%

The wax/shatter/resin/dab segment is the largest (55% of categorized observations) and the fastest growing. The average number of transactions per store per day of a wax/shatter/resin product grew from 5 in June of 2015 to 17 a year later. Cartridge/oil transactions – the 2nd largest segment – also increased, but more in keeping with the rate of growth in Washington’s legal cannabis market overall (from 7 to 12 transactions per store per day).

This illustrates the value of partitioning extract observations. The number of extract transactions overall grew by 100% (from 15 to 30 transactions per store per day), but if someone harboring particular concerns about the health consequences of dab/shatter/wax/resin only had access to that figure, they would have underestimated the growth (240%) in the submarket of greatest concern to them.

Prices declined rapidly until the summer of 2015 for all categories of extract products, and afterwards continued declining but at slower rates. Prices in the cartridge and oil categories fell the most even though their average potency increased steadily from 50% to closer to 75%, whereas potency for the other two categories peaked and then decreased slightly, albeit at quite different levels. Wax/shatter/resin potency levels remain around 65% THC, whereas hash/kief have significantly lower potency.

Trends over time in wholesale and retail prices for usable marijuana and extracts

Retail prices of flower have fallen significantly since legalization (Caulkins, 2017; Smart et al., 2017). Price declines may stem from some combination of new production and processing technologies, mastery of existing processes, economies of scale, and greater competition. Policymakers pay attention to prices because they directly impact revenue from ad valorem taxes and indirectly affect health outcomes by influencing consumption. The econometric literature typically finds that demand for cannabis is relatively inelastic. Point estimates of the elasticity of demand are often somewhere in the neighborhood of −0.5, meaning that a 10% decline in retail price would increase consumption by about 5% (Davis, Geisler, & Nichols, 2016; Gallet, 2014; Ouellet et al., 2017; Pacula & Lundberg, 2013). Price responsiveness can vary by group. For example, Williams (2004) find that youth are more sensitive to price, and Pacula and Lundberg (2013) report that the evidence, though thin, suggests that falling prices increase not only the prevalence of use but also its intensity, with regular users being more price sensitive than occasional users. These patterns would be consistent with demand being more price responsive for those who spend a larger share of their disposable income on the product, as one might expect.

Legalization could greatly reduce cultivation costs (Caulkins, Kilmer, & Kleiman, 2016; Kilmer, Caulkins, Pacula, MacCoun, & Reuter, 2010). Indeed, wholesale prices have been falling throughout the period of policy liberalization. Washington’s voters passed legalization at the end of 2012. That year, the average wholesale price in Washington was about $2800 per pound (WSIN, 2012). By November 2016, the Cannabis Benchmarks spot index – a commodities price index for the American market – had fallen below $1400 per pound. Schaneman (2017) describes a Washington grower who was struggling to find buyers even at a price of $1 per gram ($454 per pound). Dundee Capital Markets (2016) reports that Aphria, a Canadian producer, has production costs of $400–$700 per pound in US dollars while producing 60 g per square foot in its greenhouses. If production costs fell to that typical of tomatoes grown in greenhouses – roughly $4 per square foot – that would work out to only $30 per pound.

It is unclear how declines in production costs might affect (pre-tax) retail prices. The question has a venerable history (Reuter & Kleiman, 1986; Kleiman, 1992). Caulkins (1990, 2007) laid out two extreme models that may bracket the actual relationship. Under the additive model, retail price equals wholesale price plus a constant, so if wholesale prices fall by $1 per gram then so will retail prices. Under the multiplicative model, retail prices are a fixed multiple of wholesale prices, so if wholesale prices fall by 10% then so will retail prices.

Washington State’s seed-to-sale data provide a unique opportunity to examine this relationship directly because they follow individual units of cannabis as they move from producer to processor and down to retail sale. By contrast, past analyses based on law enforcement data could be vulnerable to selection biases if, say, retail enforcement focused on places or types of the drug that tended to have higher prices than did wholesale enforcement. For example, if retail prices pertained to sinsemilla in the interior of the United States and wholesale price data came from Mexican “commercial grade” marijuana near the Southwest border that might artificially inflate measured markups.

Technical details pertaining to the database complicate finding the price a producer (farmer) was paid by a processor for a particular unit of cannabis, so the present analysis compares the price customers paid the retail store with the (wholesale) price the retailer paid the processor for that same unit of cannabis. One might view this as a lower-level wholesale price to distinguish it from producer (farm gate) prices or prices that pertain to transactions between processors.

Fig. 3 plots the average retail vs. processor prices by quarter, a 45° dashed line, and a line representing a constant 3:1 ratio of retail to wholesale prices for usable marijuana (left hand panel) and extracts (right hand panel). Average prices for extracts jumped up and down sharply in the first few quarters. It is not clear whether that is simply because there were so few observations, whether the extracts market had not matured, or whether perhaps some stores were not yet recording data on extracts correctly, but the plotting points for extracts start from Q2 2015 to avoid those early gyrations.