Whether or not pot-tourism is on the agenda during your next trip to Colorado, if you want a souvenir of the Centennial State’s blockbuster legal marijuana industry you’ll need to do your shopping before arriving at the airport serving the Mile High City.
That’s because in mid-January, Denver International expanded its rule banning the sale and possession of pot anywhere on airport property to include the sale of any products bearing the “likeness, description, or name of Marijuana or Marijuana-themed paraphernalia” in all retail outlets at the airport.
The ban covers the cannabis-themed t-shirts several airport vendors started selling after the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado and the pot-leaf adorned socks, unisex boxers and flip-flops Ann Jordan of High-ly Legal Colorado was hoping to sell in the terminals.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” Jordan told RGN. This isn’t drug paraphernalia I want to sell. These are souvenirs. No one is going to get high on my socks.”
The 67-year-old retired teacher argues that airport gift shops sell shot glasses and beer-related items adorned with the Colorado flag and that sale of cannabis-themed memorabilia to tourists arriving and leaving the state via Denver’s airport shouldn’t be considered much different.
But that’s not how officials at Denver International Airport see it.
Non-commercial products (i.e. brochures detailing local and state marijuana regulations) and publications (such as newspapers) which mention marijuana are allowed. But “as the gateway to Denver, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain West – including states like Wyoming in which marijuana is not legal – we don’t want marijuana to be the first thing visitors experience when they arrive,” said DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery. Also, DIA operates under both local and federal rules, “and federal law does not recognize marijuana as a legal substance,” he said.
Existing airport vendors have agreed to stop carrying the pot-themed t-shirts now that the new rules have rolled out. And the ban on selling marijuana-themed souvenirs is fine with the Hudson Group, which operates a wide variety of newsstands and special retail concessions at DIA and, at airports nationwide. “We sell every kind of souvenir known to man; plus some,” said company spokeswoman Laura Samuels.
“There are so many other types of souvenirs that highlight Denver and Colorado. And we wouldn’t want to take the chance of upsetting parents coming through the airport with their kids,” said Samuels.
But Jordan of High-ly Legal Colorado isn’t giving up. “I have attorneys who are doing research to see how much of a case I have. It may be a 1st Amendment issue,” she said.
It may not. In 1992 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that airport terminals are not public spaces and Colorado marijuana law, passed by voters in 2012, allows property owners to declare pot-free zones.
Meanwhile in Washington State, where the first licensed stores selling recreational marijuana opened last July, no pot-themed souvenirs are for sale at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“We review all products that are sold by vendors, as most airports do, and we have not had any requests [to sell] such products,” said SEA spokesman Perry Cooper, who would not comment on what will happen if – and when – they do.