Mike Goldstein of New York photographs himself with plants at a grow facility in December 2014. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Review: Are marijuana tours in Colorado worth your time and money?

Someone overindulging on edibles is an all-too-familiar occurrence on the tours. Green says tourists commonly say, “This doesn’t do anything for me,” and then eat more without waiting 90 minutes for the effects to start. By the end of the tour, Green says, they are zombies. Despite hearing and reading the dosing recommendations for edibles several times, at least one person every tour disregards the 10-milligram serving size and personally discovers the discomforts of an edible overdose, a.k.a. an “overdowd.”

Time for lunch! I am imagining we are eating at Cheba Hut, the sandwich shop with a fun, marijuana-themed menu, located conveniently close to Native Roots. Instead, we load up in the bus again and head to Icehouse Tavern at 1801 Wynkoop St. Here we get a special menu, but unlike the previous stop, special feels restrictive (not exclusive) because we have only three entrees to choose from. What do you do if you really have the munchies? For an additional charge, anything can be ordered off the full menu, including alcohol.

The lunch service is only OK. The conversation among the table is by far is best part. Maybe my lunchmates are being talkative because I am The Cannabist writer on board and want to share their opinions, but our outdoor patio table is deep in analysis of marijuana today.

We talk about the illegal cannabis culture of Northern California and the emerging legal cannabis culture here. One woman explains her medical marijuana healing and shopping philosophy based on smell. The discussions divert our attention from the grumpy waitress, the happy-but-infrequent busser and the the slow arrival of our food. So far, this is the longest stop of the tour. The conversation is so engrossing and enjoyable, though, that we become the distracted ones holding up the bus.

Wait a minute, we gotta get on the bus!

Black Friday, Colorado-style: Yes, pot shoppers waited overnight for $50 ounces at Denver stores on the day after Thanksgiving 2014

On the road, I’m losing track of what is being passed around. Since the dispensary visit, people are busting out their legal purchases to sample and share. Bowls are passed around, and Harris continues to share snippets of what I recognize as recent marijuana news. Now the music is tuned to some radio station, and after a Metallica song the music gets turned off or fades to black, whatever. Then an ill-timed recommendation to view the Denver skyline has us looking at the side of the Purina factory on I-70. Doh!

We are heading to the last stop, and more people are getting excited as the topic of discussion shifts to the grow tour. We will be visiting one of the biggest commercial marijuana grows known to mankind, Medicine Man, 4750 Nome St. After we arrive, we have a somewhat-long wait for the show to begin. Finally Pete Williams, the flamboyant co-owner of Medicine Man, comes out to greet the group. Williams is not as much fun of a tour guide as expected, especially since he’s known for dressing up like Willie Wonka and parading around the Cannabis Cup for the last two years passing out golden tickets.

By this time of the tour, most everyone is totally baked and wants to see growing plants or be inspired by the grow room construction. Even though the awe-inspiring warehouse is an incredible display of industrialization with wide hallways and rooms (and rooms) of plants, the tour presentation is out of touch with the audience.

It’s actually rather boring, especially if you’re high.

Most of the time we are standing in a few places, not seeing lovely growing plants, but instead staring around at giant CO2 tanks, massive plastic water troughs, pallets of plastic pots, gray utility boxes and bottles of nutrients while listening to Pete’s long-winded speeches about hermaphroditic plants, the benefits of early pollination and critical remarks on “kitty litter rooms” (huh, kitty litter rooms?) with peppery quips tossed in like, “We are not held hostage by our employees!”

Umm, we are the ones being held hostage in this situation. We want to see plants! Let’s get moving!

One person clearly on his own trip is Slim, who is starting to reel from chugging the Dixie a few hours earlier. “I need to sit down,” he says as he melts into a kneeling position in the industrial hallway. One helpful guest sees him and praises, “Good man — Tebow it out, Tebow it out!”.

“You’re freaking out. Don’t freak out. You’re not going to die,” Harris consoles him. He’s dying from social embarrassment as he is losing his mental composure and physical ability to stand. He awkwardly gets led back to the bus, where he guzzles water bottle after water bottle after water bottle.

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Back on the grow tour, we are immersed in a few blissful minutes walking around one of the veg rooms. The room has three rows of shelving, double stacked with 18 plants per section. The shelves seem to line up forever. We’re probably looking at 2,500 plants in this one room. The green leaves glow under the lights, fans gently oscillating a breeze throughout the room, and Grateful Dead tunes mellow out the industrial vibe.

I can’t believe we are walking all around the room. This is thrilling!

After the moment of paradise, we listen to Williams ramble on about the advantages of Medicine Man technologies and consulting services for businesses, and then the grow tour is over. The people in the group either make purchases or chill/loiter for 45 minutes inside the bus or outside on the lawn. Unlike the first dispensary, there is no special check stand for our group, no special pricing, no personalized thank you from the manager.

Most of the group waits around outside, and this is definitely the longest stop on the tour.

We return to the hotel, where an optional 4:20 smoke sesh on a private hotel patio closes the marijuana-fueled day. Overall, the tour is a good, basic insider look at marijuana businesses in Denver — and it’s worth the $150 ticket price.

The marijuana destinations are great. Illuzion is unlike any other head shop. Native Roots had a polished, professional presentation. And Medicine Man has an amazing grow facility. The restaurant is mediocre; The quality of the food isn’t that great. It would be better to pay extra, order from the full menu and indulge your munchies.

The on-bus pot smoking is fun, and so is socializing and laughing with marijuana enthusiasts from around the country and the world. The guests shared some funny marijuana stories, and the bus roared with laughter several times throughout the day.

On the down side, the waiting was boring. There were not enough activities or entertainment options or music (for down times while we traveled or waited). On the return ride to the hotel, noshing on snacks would have been very satisfying, especially since most guests were sufficiently stoned and satiated.

The guides should definitely show more compassion to the fools who don’t listen to the edible dosing advice. Stocking the cooler with some fruit juice to help raise blood sugar for overwhelmed tourists and keeping them company is a good start towards helping the inevitable overindulgent guests.

I’m familiar with the can-do, do-it-yourself spirit of the Denver cannabis scene, and the tour fits comfortably in that style of business. It’s a pretty fun time. The tour would be a better overall experience if details like the music, the laser light show and the trivia questions were more consistent — and if the tour banter was more polished and scripted, less personal and opinionated.

At one point a retired Illinois school teacher on board says the tour reminds him of a Ken Kesey and Merry Pranksters adventure. Calling the tour a psychedelic hippie adventure is a stretch, but there is some truth to the analogy: We’ve been smoking pot in a bus driving around Denver all day! 

Kesey once said, “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” Are you on the bus?