There aren't a lot of organized art classes in America where you can accidentally stick your paint brush in a plate of cannabis buds - at least until now.
At a blue-gray row house a mile and a half from the United States Capitol Building, art teacher Briana Bendetto prepared to teach her Friday night painting class.
Manager and instructor of Puff, Pass and Paint DC, Bendetto adjusted an easel holding a painting of a mountain sunset, nudging it up against a plate of cannabis buds. Behind her, class assistant Benny rolled a joint.
Slowly, Bendetto's pupils arrived. Each new knock on the door prompted friendly greetings, some hugs, and a quick ID check. Tins of marijuana and packages of rolling papers were pulled forth from bags and purses, arranged in whatever space could be found beneath paint-smeared easels and plates of jewel-toned acrylics on the crowded folding tables.
“Everything that you can do with alcohol, you can do with cannabis as well," explained Bendetto. "And have an even better time."
Puff, Pass and Paint DC is the first east coast outpost of the popular Denver-based event series. Begun by Colorado Cannabis Tours, the class gives attendees the freedom to smoke cannabis to their heart’s content – while painting.
As marijuana is legalized in more states, companies like Colorado Cannabis Tours are creating spaces and activities where cannabis aficionados can smoke judgment-free. Colorado Cannabis, for example, also hosts pottery and crafting versions of the paint class, and a “cannabis-inspired writing class” called “Lit on Lit.” Meanwhile, in California, the Malibu hills played host in August to a cannabis farmer’s market called Emerald Exchange. In addition to cannabis sellers, the Exchange featured activities like ganga yoga classes and a 5-course cannabis-infused menu.
The draw for these events, according to the attendees of DC’s Puff, Pass and Paint, is partially the novelty of being able to smoke legally with strangers, but also the desire to spend time with other people who are cannabis connoisseurs.
Attendees at the Friday night paint class in DC swapped smoking tips and passed around blunts, discussing which made the smoker more creative or mellow.
Class attendees come from Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and even as far from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, said class assistant Benjamin “Benny” Cusati.
"It was a culture shock,” Cusati described first time attending the class. "I come from a state where it's just totally not legal at all... come here and it's just like, sweet justice."
“You can feel safe because nothing’s going to happen,” Bendetto added. “We abide by all the rules.”
Classes are currently held in Oregon, Colorado, California and Washington, D.C, and must abide by marijuana laws in each location. In the nation’s capitol, that means meeting in a private residence and a ‘BYO’ marijuana policy.
This Friday night, every seat and easel in the living room was full.