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Road Trip: Denver

By: Sharon Letts

Road Trip: Denver 1

Freedom Tours

For those lucky enough to be one of the tourists arriving at the Denver Airport seeking the unalienable right of having a heavily medicated good time, Colorado Cannabis Tours has just the package.

Colorado Canna Tours
Colorado Canna Tours

California bride-to-be Justice LaPrade and her fiancé Cory Schafer booked a full weekend trip specifically to plan their upcoming 420 wedding on April 20 in Oregon. Lodgings were at the nationally known Hampton Inn downtown, with vaporizers available at the front desk for use in the rooms.

Schafer said he went along with the weekend to please his love, but admitted he dreaded the entire thing prior.

“I ended up having one of the most fun and memorable experiences of my life,” he fessed up. “The freedom of it all was mind-blowing. In California, you still have to keep weed hush-hush just a little bit, but Colorado is an amazing place. It was great meeting so many people from the industry.”

The couple’s adventure included boarding a party bus soon after landing in Denver, with more than 30 people from both legal medical and prohibition states alike filling the comfortable limo-style bus. Stops were meant to impress and included Medicine Man’s 30,000-square-feet state-of-the-art grow facility, hosting both medical and recreational dispensaries out front.

Tour CEO and co-owner Mike Eymer hosted the ride that lasted nearly three hours, stating that its next stop, Peak Dispensary had been on the tour since the company began booking. The shop was stocked to capacity with more medibles, flowers, topical lotions, oils, and other products than I had seen anywhere in a very long time, partly due to Denver’s steady flow of cannabis tourists.

Next door to Peak, participants were given a chance to purchase their own pieces from one of Denver’s largest glass shops, Illuzions, with spectacular art pieces priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. Yet another stop was the chance to observe fine glass artist Chris Schultz as he worked at Glass Craft, a retail shop offering classes on glass blowing.

Puff, Pass & Paint!

Heidi Keyes is part owner of Colorado Cannabis Tours, but her heart’s passion can be found on canvas, with cannabis playing a big role in her artistic life.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in drawing and painting in 2009, she said she took a leap of faith and started Puff, Pass & Paint with great success. As of this writing, she’s expanding with a studio in Portland, Oregon.

Puff Pass Paint
Puff Pass Paint

“I began using cannabis as a teenager in Wisconsin,” she shared. “It has always been a huge part of the way that I make art. It helps me relax artistically into my work and life, allowing me to enjoy the process of creating instead of just focusing on the end result. For this reason, cannabis and art are the perfect combination for folks who want to make art, but are nervous or simply don’t know where to begin.”

Her studio filled with more than 20 hopeful artists—a mix of locals and out-of-state participants from the bus tour earlier in the day. A surprising amount of people were over 50, all from prohibition states such as Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina.

The tables were full of art supplies, paints, and easels with blank canvases. A generous amount of ground plant material sat in the middle of each table, next to glass pipes and joints rolled by Keyes’ assistant that never seemed to stop passing by.

One painting Keyes created of a Colorado rocky mountain scene was used as an example as she instructed the class on how to achieve each stroke: a meadow here, mountains there, snow here. It was a fun and a relaxing way to create a painting, with each finished piece of work uniquely different.

“Cannabis encourages them to laugh and find their creativity again,” Keyes informed. “Everyone has the ability to freely make art, but many of us start to lose that quality in adulthood because we’re so concerned about other people’s reactions.”

On a more serious note, Keyes said that even though her class is recreational, she has witnessed many coming to town for real healing.

“I talk to people every day who are coming here to try different medical treatments and explore different options with cannabis for pain relief and healing,” she said. “It does make me sad that people must travel from all over the world to come here to use it medicinally because they would be sent to prison if they utilized it at home.”

Keyes added she is grateful that the tours and classes such as hers are helping to normalize the plant for many, so that it becomes less of a negative stigma.

Pungent Nuptials

The date has been set and daddy (or sugar mama) has laid out a huge amount of cash toward the big day. There will be cake, there will be a big dress, there will be food, and there will be romance. Worst case scenario, there will also be alcohol and drunkenness, and perhaps by the end of the evening, the beautiful dress will be crumpled at the base of the toilet bowl with the bride puking her guts out from too many toasts while the groom is passed out on the bed.

Unless, of course, the bride and groom are savvy cannabis aficionados who have chosen to forgo alcohol for bud. In legal, recreational states, guests no longer have to crouch behind the hall by the trash cans to partake of their favorite celebratory herb: hosts can offer it up inside.

Denver event organizers Bec Koop and Phil Wolf offered up the first Cannabis Wedding Expo with great success. While mainstream media was trying to wrap its head around the event, longtime cannabis farmers, patients, and recreational users arrived with pen and paper in hand, making note of the many options available to create a green and chill wedding.

“If the herb is already in your life on a regular basis, then it should be in your wedding,” shared founder of Denver’s Cannabis Concierge Events, Bec Koop.

Canna Wedding Expo
Canna Wedding Expo

Koop said she had been working in the wedding industry since 2011, and by 2013 she had the “aha” moment to add cannabis to her floral designs, creating Buds & Blossoms. Soon she was adding long stemmed buds to bouquets and creating “budonniers” for the men’s lapels. “From your bouquet to your bowl” has become a tagline, offering up custom “his and hers” glass pieces for the occasion.

Due to the difficulty of finding venues and vendors open to the idea of hosting cannabis weddings, Koop created Cannabis Concierge Events, teaming up with other event planners to offer party packages of all shapes and sizes for the cannabis connoisseur.

“Some businesses simply had no interest,” Koop shared. “Many thought the idea was interesting, and some were simply afraid to have their business names attached to something that would change our history.”

With the stigma against the plant still intact in the minds of mainstream businesses, the two mavericks forged ahead, knowing the first time around would be the most difficult sell. “Trying to get the first group of people to get on board for anything is always difficult,” Koop continued. “Many of the vendors don’t even do traditional wedding expos, so we felt very blessed that they were interested in participating.”

The irony was, Koop explained, those vendors who participated felt the cannabis crowd were “their type of preferred clients.” She and expo partner Phil Wolf teamed up naturally with their respective skill sets, coming together in the fall of 2015 to put together others brave enough to cross over.

Wolf began community organizing while studying for a degree in telecommunications at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He worked in both radio and television on campus, winning an Outstanding Service Award for work done. Though he didn’t continue with a career in media, when the cannabis industry took off in Colorado he quickly became involved, opening up the first dispensary in Colorado Springs in 2009. This led to establishing the medible company High Country Healing, which he is still part of today.

A random meeting with a Wall Street investor who had moved to Colorado specifically to start start-up cannabis businesses led Wolf to tourism options. Soon he was involved with the start-up of several companies. Cultivating Spirits then emerged with Wolf facilitating some of Denver’s most high-profile, customized gourmet cannabis tours and tastings to date, pairing food, wine, and fragrant buds and garnering mainstream media attention.

“The terpenes and flavonoids that give cannabis its color, taste, and fragrance we also use to pair with the same flavor profiles in food,” Wolf explained. “Terpenes are essential oils that can enhance your mood. It’s not about getting high and satisfying munchies. Pairing takes cannabis to an intellectual high and a true coming together of all the senses.”

High Art

For the location, Koop and Wolf chose the beautiful and cannabis-friendly Point Gallery on Santa Fe Avenue, co-owned and curated by Frank Martinez, located south of downtown Denver, otherwise known as “SoDo.”

Outside, a stretch limo by Sunset Limo offered an example of a cannabis-friendly ride, while inside the usual vendors lined up, offering 420-friendly services within classic offerings. Music, photography, food, and honeymoon options via Bud & Breakfast, an international online booking service similar to traditional bed-and-breakfast accommodations, with a twist: the home owners are copasetic to the herb.

Four-twenty bride and groom Justice LaPrade and fiancé Cory Schafer headed to the green room to sit and talk with reporters while noted “wandering musicians” Happy Couple Duo played violins.

LaPrade said she and Schafer wanted a cannabis-themed wedding, due to the importance the plant plays in their lives.

“We love working with the plant every day, so adding it to our wedding was only natural,” she explained. “We really don’t drink alcohol either, so being able to choose cannabis is even more meaningful.”

LaPrade said Schafer’s tux will be made from micro-photos of a Cherry Pie nug, as will the train of her wedding dress, which will also be replete with embroidered green leaves throughout the white gown. A set of custom glass via bongs and dab rings are being created for the special day, with dab, edible, and rolling stations set up in the reception hall. Table runners and plates will both be printed with cannabis camo designs.

“The expo gave me a lot of ideas,” LaPrade said. “Janay A Eco Bridal is making me a second bridal dress! We are even considering having Phil Wolf of Cultivating Spirits coordinate our bachelor and bachelorette parties with weed and wine pairings.”

Downstairs in the three-story gallery, Budtender Andrew Mieure explained how his kiosk could supply flower to smoke, oil to vape, or small, edible treats for any event. Fioria and Pink Puff reps discussed the latest in sex play trends with specialty strains and topical oils to stimulate.

Cannasexuality

Los Angeles Sex Educator turned “Cannasexual” advisor Ashley Manta further discussed intimacy in the expo’s lecture room, displaying said products. To the young married couples just starting out, she shared, communication is key to a happy relationship.

“The most important thing I’m going to teach you is how to open your mouth and make words come out,” Manta laughed. “Communication is the key to everything in relationships. For a young couple about to be married, being able to process difficult emotions together in a supportive way is crucial.”

Cannabis, Manta added, is the perfect substance for a honeymoon for many reasons. Manta said alcohol is a big variable, stating it could be a social lubricant, as many claim, or it could lead to arguments, withdrawing behavior, and the typical hangover. She further stated that there is no way to imbibe alcohol without having the typical side effects, other than intentionally consuming only a small amount, which rarely happens during a traditional alcohol-laden wedding reception.

“Cannabis allows more customization,” Manta explained. “A couple could begin the day with a back rub using medicated lotion, then shotgun a hit off of a joint as a foreplay tool. Foria’s topical could be added, with a 30-minute makeout session while waiting for the effect. The happy couple could then vape with sleepy indica and curl up together and cuddle.”

The abovementioned scenarios don’t have analogs for alcohol use, and Manta added that cannabis is highly conducive to experimentation and creative playfulness, helping couples feel more present in their bodies by heightening sensation.

Love, Sex, and Money

According to Bloomberg Business, the wedding industry is a $51 billion dollar industry, employing more than 800,000 people in the U.S. yearly. With the growing popularity and freedom allowed to cannabis users as more get educated to its positive benefits, it’s easy to predict the plant will seep into even more mainstream markets, with great success—and continued healing.

“We definitely plan to host at least one or two more expos here in Colorado in 2016,” Koop said. “Plans are already in the works to expand to Washington, Oregon, California, and Washington D.C. by next January. We also realize the following expos will be larger, but it’s important to us that we keep them as intimate feeling as possible.”

Koop said that just as a glass of wine can knock the edge off of the big day for a stressed couple, so can cannabis.

“The bottom line is, your wedding day is meant to be special, not stressful,” Koop surmised. “If cannabis helps that couple feel at ease, then it should not only be allowed on their wedding day, it should be welcomed!”

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