Happy Trees: Pot-Friendly Painting Is Here to Stay

Happy Trees: Pot-Friendly Painting Is Here to Stay
Courtesy of Creatively Cannabis
Riding to dispensaries and cultivation tours on weed-friendly buses, learning how to cook edibles, and playing in dab-and-disc-golf tournaments have all been activities featured in our weekly Cannabis Calendar, but cannabis-friendly paint classes seem to have found the strongest footing since the state legalized the plant in 2012. Just like a boozy painting session, instructors use cannabis to help lubricate their students' creativity, helping them find their inner Bob Ross by painting portraits, nature and plenty of happy trees.

After operating in private venues and gray areas for over six years, cannabis classes and tours are now receiving official licensing through local and state measures that recognize social pot consumption. But Keila Castillo already had it figured out: She runs her cannabis painting class out of the Coffee Joint, the only licensed pot lounge under Denver's social consumption program.

We recently caught up with Castillo to talk more about her class, how cannabis can influence painting, and the future of social consumption businesses.

Westword: Are stoned students easier to mold? How do they receive coaching?

Keila Castillo: So much easier! I really feel like humans in general are more connected to their creative side and more inclined to follow their artistic intuition when they've partaken of the green goddess. I definitely see a difference in how receptive students are and how (surprisingly) my painters seem to have a better understanding of how to do things artistically the more stoned they are. I guess there is a limit; overall, though, definitely a huge difference from when I used to teach Paint and Sip events.

Do you use cannabis when you paint?

I usually do toke a little when I paint. If I'm painting samples for class, I usually have a big painting day or two where I reward myself for finishing a painting with a dab. Keeps motivation high, if you know what I mean. I'll also smoke a bowl or joint on occasion, but dabbing is most effective and fastest, so I can get back to painting. Sometimes I'll partake during class, but I keep that to a minimum so I don't forget the next steps!

Are there any sort of prompts or painting styles that you feel go best with cannabis use?

Definitely. Flowy or gradient backgrounds — things that allow people to really get into a vibe with the whole process of painting first without having to focus too heavily on the details. I find that people really tend to groove well with trees, water and mountain scenes when they're stoned, which is great for painting Colorado-esque scenes.
Courtesy of Creatively Cannabis
Does eating edibles affect painting differently than smoking or vaping would?

It definitely does. The main difference is that it's hard to tell how much you're consuming until MUCH later [with edibles]. I feel that smoking, vaping and even dabbing allow a person to realize how much they've consumed in a very immediate way, so they're not blindsided later like you might be with edibles. I've had a visitor from out of town over-consume and pass out before, which can be really scary. I was definitely grateful to the staff at the Coffee Joint for their knowledge and expertise on over-consumption that day. To all of the veteran consumers, though, I say definitely try one of our classes on an edible. The body high it gives you makes the event a much more spiritual-like experience.

How has operating a social consumption business changed over the past five years or so, and where do you see it going forward now that laws are slowly allowing it?

I think the biggest difference is the more widespread social acceptance of it, even in states where recreational cannabis use hasn't passed yet. This has already allowed for social consumption businesses to grow in areas like marketing and reaching their target audience. Previously, you couldn't even mention cannabis on Eventbrite or Groupon, and now both have numerous cannabis-adjacent, consumption-friendly events on a daily basis.

Ideally, with increased legislation allowing for more social consumption spaces and "tasting" rooms in dispensaries, one would expect that operating a social consumption business would become easier. However, it seems that some of the legislation, such as language in HB 19-1076, makes it more difficult for cannabis tourism, the lifeblood for most social consumption businesses, to thrive. Hopefully, as a community of cannabis hospitality business owners, we can help steer the course of future legislation in a way that benefits everyone.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell