More Americans favour legal marijuana than ever before.
As the $US6.9 billion industry steps into the light, a new subculture around pot is taking shape. It shrugs off the stoner stereotypes of the past and brings like-minded people together to enjoy the plant in legal, communal settings. In San Francisco, private events centered on cannabis are gaining popularity, including gourmet “wake and bake” brunches and ganja-fuelled yoga.
The latest trendy event series in San Francisco has people getting high on marijuana during painting workshops, much like the paint and wine classes taking America by storm.
We attended a Puff, Pass & Paint class to see what it was like.
Puff, Pass & Paint classes got their start in Denver, Colorado, in 2014, shortly after the state legalised recreational marijuana. Founder Heidi Keyes was working as an artist at the time.
'A friend jokingly suggested that I should 'start a wine and painting class -- but with weed,'' Keyes says. She's been a cannabis user for over half of her life.
She decided to give it a go, and the class in Denver exploded in popularity. Today, you can find Puff, Pass & Paint classes in six states where recreational marijuana is legal.
Participants sometimes travel from outside the state to partake. Keyes even gets people who are smoking with others for the first time.
A two-hour class costs $49, which includes painting supplies. While the event is 'BYOC' -- bring your own cannabis -- each event has a sponsor that gives away products to try.
When I arrived at a top-secret warehouse location in San Francisco, I was greeted by a vendor from Alchemy, a company that makes marijuana vape pens. Their devices use cartridges filled with potent marijuana oil and botanicals for soothing aromas.
Each table in the workshop area had a cup with different flavored vape pens inside.
Slim's Baked Goodies handed out weed-laced treats. This red velvet cupcake contained 10 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. I ate mine right away.
I struck up a conversation with my neighbour. Dominic Ripoli works as a marijuana policy consultant and considers himself 'the Lord Varys of cannabis.' (A 'Game of Thrones' reference). He helps clients in the industry write applications for business licenses.
Dominic hit a dab, which is when you take a marijuana concentrate, apply it to a hot surface to create smoke, and inhale to get high. He even brought his own blow torch to light the dab rig.
Participants sign an agreement saying they will consume no more than on ounce of marijuana -- roughly a sandwich bag full -- and will not sell the drug to other students.
This workshop would teach us how to paint Mexican sugar skulls, though Keyes encouraged us to go rogue if we felt inspired by cannabis. 'You can do you own thing,' she said.
I puffed on an Alchemy vape pen that was intended to inspire creativity. The oil contained a blend of orange, vanilla, and cardamom, and it tasted like a cup of chai tea.
Bobbing my head to the hip-hop pounding through the speakers, I decided not to fill in my skull with just one colour, but a blend of colours that would make it look like a galaxy.
I've done a wine and paint class once before, and I found myself growing frustrated throughout the workshop because I didn't like how my illustration was coming along.
However, in Puff, Pass & Paint, I hit the vape pen and tapped into a different state of mind. I let go of my insecurities. The painting didn't need to be perfect as long as I was having fun.
Keyes' words echoed through my head: 'If you make a mistake, just paint over it.'
I took a lap around the room to see how the other paintings were coming along. While a majority of students made Mexican sugar skulls, no two skulls were exactly alike.
Everyone seemed focused on their work, which was probably helped by the marijuana. I saw communal blunts being passed around the tables, to keep the good times rolling.
Then a serious case of the munchies hit. I sniffed out a bag of Cheetos at a nearby table and made myself a plate. The crunch, the cheese, the dusting on my fingers -- it was heaven.
The best part of class was circling the room to see how people's creativity manifested. Dominic told me the only time he paints is when he's high, because it relaxes him.
His girlfriend, Bella, turned her skull into an ethereal nature goddess. She doesn't usually paint when she's high. 'It makes me a little (artistically) lazy,' she said.
Everyone ogled Jabari's masterpiece. He thought the skulls were rather grim, so he took it in a different direction. 'The more I started smoking, the happier I got,' he said.
While my work won't be in a gallery anytime soon, I left pretty pleased with myself. I chose to live in the moment, rather than obsess over the quality of my painting. I ordered an Uber car and smiled to myself the whole way home.
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