If there was a bigger year than 2013 in the history of cannabis, people are getting too high now to remember it.
The passage of Amendment 64 in November thrust Colorado into the national spotlight as one of the most progressive states in the union when it comes to smoking the reefer. Come January 1st, anyone 21 and up with a valid ID can walk into a licensed pot shop and purchase a joint of indica, sativa or “whatever gets you baked, man.”
Here are my suggestions for celebrating the New Year in style:
Wu-Year’s Eve ($65)
Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, 9 p.m. Tuesday (2637 Welton St., Denver)
2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” and one of the first anniversaries of Gen Y’ers feeling very old. The nostalgia is guaranteed to flow like so much champagne (or Olde English 40 ounces) at Wu-Year’s Eve, with Clan members Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah taking the stage at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom. One of the city’s most storied hip-hop venues, Cervantes features many lounge-like areas for those needing to chill. Sponsored by Yolo Rum — yes, that’s a thing — and local dispensary Livwell. expect to see many a blunt and bowl in the air as the clock strikes midnight. While they don’t expressly approve of toking, I’ve never once been given the boot for discreetly consuming at Cervantes. Hell, they let me in a Ghostface show with only one shoe on once. Also performing: The Foodchain, DJ Hoppa.
String Cheese Incident ($75)
1stBank Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield)
Also making the 20th anniversary rounds is the String Cheese Incident, although making the rounds is a full-time job for them (and some of their followers). While the parking-lot scene isn’t as robust as, say, a show at Red Rocks, you’re much less likely to get the stink eye for firing up a little ganja considering the myriad of other drugs the kids are doing these days. New Years Eve caps a three-day run that featured special guests such as Bootsy Collins, the Flaming Lips, Steve Berlin and Karl Denson with Chris Littlefield. If you’re not the biggest SCI fan (a confession I must make), the people-watching will get you through the lengthy jams, although I was ill-prepared to see a child dressed as a pixie walking around with his parents, spinning like it was a dizzy-bat softball game. You’ve been warned. Also performing: The Del McCoury Band.
The Black & White New Year’s Eve Gala Fundraiser ($100 GA, $1600 sponsor package)
Casselman’s Bar and Venue (2620 Walnut St., Denver)
Formal-wear and stoners may seem like an odd pair, but the Hemp Connoisseur’s “Black & White New Year’s Eve Gala Fundraiser” isn’t your traditional 420-themed celebration. A throwback to the days of prohibition, party goers are encouraged to don their sharpest threads while flapper girls roam the party with passed appetizers. Party organizer and founder of THC, David Maddalena, told me he wanted a party “that appealed to professionals,” so be on the lookout for the who’s-who of the cannabis industry. If you’re looking to get down, swing music will be pumping at through the venue, and if you need a little liquid courage to get out on the dance floor, the premium open bar has you covered. For those with two left feet, casino games are there as a convenient excuse. While marijuana won’t be sold (because that’s illegal, yo!), guests will be encouraged to toke up for a good cause: proceeds benefit Healing Homes, a new non-profit that helps wildfire victims rebuild with hemp building materials.
All-You-Can-Eat Southern Buffet ($45 per person)
Jezebel’s Southern Bistro and Whiskey Bar, 6 p.m.-12:00 a.m. (3301 Tejon St., Denver)
Scott Durrah and Wanda James rose to national notoriety in 2010 after “The Daily Show” profiled their dispensary operation, with correspondent Jason Jones going so far as to lick James’ hand in an attempt to get high. Durrah has since become the Bobby Flay of cannabis celebrity chefs, with a soon-to-open Simply Pure Cooking School in the works and a recent appearance on CBS News’ “Sunday Morning.” For non-medicated fare, I’d recommend checking out Jezebel’s for modern takes on their favorite southern classics like gluten-free fried chicken, something I could only endorse if I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed it before the lack of gluten was brought to my attention. If you’re planning on going the distance on New Years Eve, gas up your tank with their all-you-can-eat buffet starting at 6 p.m. Feel free to stimulate your appetite as voraciously as you’d like — this is a staff that loves a good stoner.
First Legal Sale Press Conference (free)
3-D Denver’s Discreet Dispensary at 7:30 a.m. (4305 Brighton Blvd., Denver)
If you fancy yourself a person who appreciates history, aren’t planning on being hungover and could care less about parades, then you should wake-and-bake for the first-ever retail marijuana sale taking place at 3-D. If you’re also one of the millions who’ve never stepped foot in a dispensary, it’s worth the trip for the 80-foot-long “Garden Viewing Corridor” alone. Yes, the on-premise grow lets you watch cannabis plants mature before your eyes, albeit at a less-than-thrilling pace. Guest of honor Sean Azzariti declined to comment on what his first purchase might be, but there certainly won’t be a short supply of strains, including the in-vogue Girl Scout Cookies and classic Sour Diesel. Speakers also include Yes on 64 co-directors Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente, as well as Betty Aldworth (Yes on 64’s advocacy director) and 3-D owner Toni Fox.
Boulder Polar Plunge (adults $20 before Jan 1st, $25 at the shore)
Boulder Reservoir, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (5565 N 51st St., Boulder)
When the Young Professionals Alzheimer’s Association got cold feet about their involvement with the Boulder Polar Plunge, many feared it would be the final frigid foray into the icy waters of the city reservoir. Fortunately, the Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP) stepped up and will benefit from the hundreds of lunatics taking the plunge on New Year’s Day. I can assure you that few things are better for snapping out of a stone-over, and money raised directly benefits HIV/AIDS patients in Colorado — a group that also benefits tremendously from medical marijuana. Participants are encouraged to wear the funkiest of costumes, and the waiver on the BCAP website doesn’t prohibit marijuana use — although I’m not sure it qualifies as a performance-enhancing drug here. Be one of the first 100 to make the leap and you’ll take home an insulated Polar Bottle on top of your long-sleeve 2014 Plunge tee. Then warm up with a warm shower. Or a warm bowl. Your call.
Formerly scheduled at City Hall and Norad Dance Bar, now a roaming shuttle
Organizers of Cannabition feel that sometimes it is truly better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. The most above-board of green events this holiday season looks like it won’t be getting off the ground after failing to reach a compromise with the city of Denver. Organizers Matt Brown and J.J. Walker thought they had struck a deal with City Hall Amphitheater, then Norad Dance Bar, but at each step, the city made it clear that boozin’ and bongs don’t mix in their eyes. Brown was actually relieved that they received advanced warning. “At least we hadn’t printed the banners yet,” he sighed. Now they’ll be taking the shuttles secured for the party to usher around national media in town to cover the event. So, if you’re looking to get your red-eyed mug on national TV … B-Roll, check out the green carpet at BudMed in Edgewater, with food trucks aplenty and doors open ’til midnight.
Zoo Lights (adults $12, children $8, seniors $10)
Denver Zoo, 5:30-9 p.m. (2300 Steele St., Denver)
There’s a great local light show that doesn’t involve 7-minute guitar solos: The Denver Zoo’s “Zoo Lights”. Wind down after a hectic holiday season with a stroll around more than 150 illuminated and animated animal sculptures, as well as nightly pinata parties and their vaguely listed “cultural entertainment.” Try out a bag of the warm roasted nuts, which pairs excellently with a cup of hot cocoa and a pre-Zoo toke, then enjoy string after string of mesmerizing lights. A little light on actual animals, there are plenty of reptiles in the Animal Encounters area to check out. This is a great time if you’re looking to miss the Christmas and New Year’s Eve crowds, and it makes a great date night if you’re looking to do it like they do on the Discovery Channel. (Through January 5th)
The couch (free)
Your home (Where your stash is.)
That’s how I’ll be celebrating this year.