Yeah, we're sure people are coming here to see the Capitol building.

Five billion dollars. 

That's how much the 16.4 million tourists who visited Denver spent on their vacations last year, setting a new state tourism record for the 10th year in a row, with one million more people coming here in 2015 than in 2014.

If you had to guess, what do you think all these people are coming here for? What are they dropping billions and billions of dollars of their hard-earned money on?

It sure as shit isn't the Denver Mint.

If you asked us, we wouldn't hesitate to attribute at least some of that tourism to legal weed. With only a few states in the country boasting recreational pot programs and Colorado being smack-dab in the middle of them for easy access, one could logically assume that a sizable portion of those millions of gawkers are here to get higher than our elevation.

Yet, in the most recent survey of Denver's tourism rates, legal weed got exactly zero credit for bringing all the boys to the yard.

The survey was done by Longwoods International, a firm which has measured Denver's tourism economy since 1994. According to their data for 2015, so called "leisure travelers" drove the nine percent boost in visitor traffic.

They also found the top places people visit from are Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Phoenix and the generalized black hole that is Texas. On average, tourists spend about $136 a day here, and the places they supposedly visit the most include the Denver Zoo, the Denver Art Museum, Red Rocks, the Botanic Gardens and … Buffalo Bill's grave.

… Look us in the eye and tell us that a few New Yorkers who live off overpriced skunk weed don't come to Denver and drop a few Benjamin's on a joint before chilling out at the zoo and Buffalo Bill's grave, of all places. That's like textbook stoner behavior.

Why not acknowledge that? What's the point of being G-Rated about the most bountiful boost to our economy in years?

Long story short, it's because Longwoods International is headed up by a guy named Richard Scharf, who was opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana back in 2014. Because weed is still federally illegal, he claims, his company hasn't been tracking data on how much of Colorado's tourism is connected to legal pot. He thinks doing so would "hurt the city's image."

“There are people who may be coming here, but there’s just no data right now to support what that piece is in our profile,” said Scharf to the Denver Post, adding that possibly maybe eventually, he could begin counting marijuana tourists among Denver’s visitors in the future as more states embrace recreational sales. But for now, he's just going to pretend like they don't exist.

“We have a lot of vertical segments we think people come to see," he added vaguely. "Art and culture, culinary, agritourism. The majority of people come to see and do a lot of things.”

… A lot of things, like stock up on Colorado's internationally-acclaimed bud and get so high they forget that weed is still illegal in Texas or whatever state they're from, perhaps?

Well, Longwoods can live in their magical dream world and pretend legal weed isn't real all they want, but we're hoping their 2016 numbers show a little more honesty about why people really love Denver. It's not exactly a secret what's stoking the fire of our economy, and data from other sources has estimated that tourists made up at least half of recreational sales in 2014.

We're pretty sure that the fact that tourists were just given the ability to buy as much pot as locals won't hurt, either. Previously, tourists were only allowed to purchase a quarter-ounce per day, but the recent passing of a bill that allows them to purchase a full ounce has to attract a few Californians here and there. Let's call it what it is, eh?

All that being said, one of tourist's favorite things to do aside from zone out at the zoo's rhino exhibit, is to have massive, frequent melt-downs while on weed which they like to clog emergency rooms about. In fact, physicians found that the rate of emergency room visits possibly related to marijuana have doubled among out-of-state travelers in the first year of recreational pot sales. The rate went from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014.

So, maybe it's a good thing we don't advertise our (clearly prevalent) weed tourism?

Either way, there's no sense in failing to give credit where credit is due. So, legal weed: thanks for bringing all those nice tourists to our fine state last year. It got a little trafficky here for a second, but as long as you keep dropping billions, you're welcome to stay.