Walk into the recently restored Marijuana Mansion on Grant Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve entered the Victorian era – a time when the Mile High City was home to just over 100,000 people and the main mode of transportation was horse and buggy. The walls and archways of the sandstone abode are complete with wood carvings; the vintage chandeliers and stained-glass windows light up the dark wood floors; and a rotary dial telephone is mounted to the wall in the hallway.
Climb the staircase to the second floor, and the atmosphere changes slightly. Walls are covered with colorful flowers, mushrooms, and cannabis leaves; bright neon signs read “High Society” and “Marijuana Mansion;” and lights made out of bubblers hang from the ceiling.
“Every room has something to do with cannabis,” says Lisa Leder, the owner of the Marijuana Mansion, who opened the cannabis-friendly private event space at the start of 2020. Akin to a Meow Wolf or a selfie museum, the space offers an immersive art experience into the cannabis plant’s past, present, and future. Leder designed several of the house’s 11 rooms and also collaborated with female artists such as Ellie Paisley, Ally Grimm, and Shannon Barber. From the Green Room, which pays homage to the 60’s counter culture movement, to the Moroccan Room, which is inspired by the history of hash in Morocco, each space has a unique feel to it.
A property owner and developer across the country, Leder first saw the listing for the Marijuana Mansion in 2019. The property came with the mansion and the abutting carriage house.
“When I walked in and saw the bones of the building and how beautiful it was, a lightbulb went off in my head that this would be the coolest place for an event space,” she says.
Built in 1889 by one of Denver’s most renowned architects, this three-story house was initially used as a family home. In 1977, it was named to the National Register of Historic Properties. About a decade ago, the building was nicknamed “The Marijuana Mansion” because of the pro-cannabis legalization work that occurred under its roof. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Colorado headquarters were located there when they helped create the cannabis legalization laws for the state in 2012. And the law firm Vicente Sederberg also had its offices in the house when they drafted legal language for Amendment 64 – the country’s first successful recreational marijuana bill.
“The house has a lot of components of history,” Leder says. “It’s iconic of the time it was built, and it can’t be knocked down. It’s on the ghost tour because it’s haunted, and it was dubbed the Marijuana Mansion. All of the puzzle pieces just fell into place.”
After purchasing the property, Leder and her team got to work on repairing, restoring, and redesigning. The work took about six months, and the new and improved Marijuana Mansion opened its doors in January 2020 for private events, self-guided tours, and photoshoots. It was open for a couple months, but when shutdowns started taking effect in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Leder closed the mansion’s doors for nearly half a year. Today, the event space is open at full capacity, and the carriage house in back is home to a Green Dragon dispensary.
Current cannabis regulations in Colorado make it so the Marijuana Mansion cannot be a public consumption lounge, so those who go on tours of the space can’t consume cannabis. However, if it’s rented for a private event, consumption is allowed. Leder hopes Colorado regulations relax in the future so public consumption is allowed on the property.
“Colorado has always been on the forefront of legalizing cannabis, but in some ways, Colorado hasn’t progressed that far,” she says. “They say they have these licenses, but the regulations make it difficult. It shouldn’t be any different than going to your local bar.”
Now that the mansion is fully opened again, Leder and her team are making updates to the rooms and plan to change the designs in certain areas on a consistent basis. She also wants to add more of an educational component to each room so visitors can learn about the laws and science around cannabis. Leder hopes the space can be a resource for tourists but also locals – opening it up for yoga and comedy nights. Although she originally launched the Marijuana Mansion as a place to host events, its popularity gives her hope it can grow into even more than that.
“I want to show that cannabis isn’t bad. In fact, it can be sophisticated, it can be fun and the same as a glass of wine,” Leder says. “We can just enjoy the plant and go to a nice place to do it.”
Denver’s population is nearly 3 million today. While horses and buggies may be from a bygone era, the sandstone mansion on Grant Street is still an integral part of the city’s past and its future.
Photos by Jacqueline Collins and courtesy of the Marijuana Mansion.