America's Best Cities for Stoners
BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Holy smoke! With Colorado and Washington State recently legalizing recreational pot and some 20 states allowing or soon to allow "medical" marijuana, here's a look at the five U.S. cities that market watcher Movoto.com recently crowned as America's most weed-friendly communities.
"[These rankings] could be useful for pot smokers who are looking for 'friendly' cities to at least visit, or serve as a jumping off point to researching places that could potentially have more in the way of festivals, clinics, etc., than where they currently live," says Movoto's Randy Nelson, who compiled the firm's study.
The site ranked America's 100 most-populous cities on a weighted scale of seven pro-pot factors, from whether applicable state laws legalize herb for recreational and/or medical use to how many "head shops" and other weed-friendly amenities a place has.
Movoto gave cities in Colorado and Washington tons of points for recently adopted state laws that allow adults there to buy and use pot for recreational use. (Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but President Barack Obama said after Colorado and Washington approved recreational pot in 2012 that Uncle Sam had bigger fish to fry" than busting those who sell or consume weed there.)
States that have OK'd pot for medicinal use also scored high in Movoto's study, as did those that have "decriminalized" recreational weed. Those jurisdictions still consider pot illegal, but treat possessing small amounts of it as a non-criminal offense akin to parking near a fire hydrant.
Movoto's analysis also graded cities based on per-capita levels of head shops, hemp festivals, medical-marijuana dispensaries and how many residents hold prescription cards authorizing them to buy pot for medicinal reasons.
Nelson says many communities atop Movoto's list offer cool cultural offerings and laid-back local attitudes that can make them attractive to more than just tokers.
"This ranking was very obviously geared towards criteria that would make these cities appeal to fans of marijuana, but many of the cities [are] superb places outside of their pot-friendliness," he says.
Read on to check out the five cities Movoto considers America's most herb-friendly locales.
All rankings refer to how cities score on various criteria among the 100 most-populous U.S. cities, while all figures refer to just municipalities proper and not to surrounding suburbs.
Movoto based its counts of medical-marijuana cards and dispensaries on numbers tracked by advocacy groups, while numbers of local head shops and annual hemp festivals refer to offerings advertised on Yelp.com and other online directories.
Fifth-best city for stoners: Aurora, Colo.
This Denver suburb (sometimes considered Denver's "twin city") really shines thanks to Colorado's liberal marijuana laws, which began with a 1975 decision to decriminalize small-time weed possession. Centennial State voters then approved medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational pot in 2012.
"The fact that the [study] was weighted heavily in favor of states where possession and use are legal had a lot to do with [Aurora's high score]," Nelson says.
The 332,000-population city also ranks No. 1 among America's 100 largest municipalities for the percentage of residents with medical-marijuana cards, as well as 29th for hemp festivals and 39th for medical-marijuana dispensaries.
All of that more than offsets a low 57th-place ranking for per-capita head shops.