Marijuana Classes, Hangouts Go Online as COVID-19 Limits Interaction

Puff-and-paint classes are now broadcasting to stay relevant as potential students are forced to stay home.EXPAND
Puff-and-paint classes are now broadcasting to stay relevant as potential students are forced to stay home.
Jake Cox
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Local and statewide orders to stay the f**k home have hit Colorado, blocking any on-site fun at bars, restaurants, breweries or marijuana lounges in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. The stay-home orders have also affected musicians, art instructors and personal trainers.

Fortunately, the Internet can provide more than just porn and snarky comments during self-isolation.

Thanks to webcams, Puff, Pass and Paint instructor Heidi Keyes can still reach students via live-streaming sessions, spreading her knowledge of watercolor painting, drawing and other artistic skills — sometimes with a joint in hand — to those at home. Keyes has been regularly streaming her classes on Facebook for free, and has plans with Colorado Cannabis Tours CEO Michael Eymer to broadcast tours of commercial marijuana cultivations and cannabinoid extraction classes, as well.

"It's really important to have community right now, because everyone is so isolated and, frankly, bored," Keyes explains. "You're trying to think of things to keep you entertained. Right now, art is really important. It makes you think, and it keeps your mind active."

Keyes says she's been leaning toward drawing and watercolor sessions and "anything using supplies that people find at home" to make the classes more inclusive. Last week, one of her Puff, Pass and Paint colleagues taught viewers how to draw with a pen and then color their drawings with a teabag. She also has plans to teach about mixed media, using magazine cutouts to make collages.

Puffing, though not required, still seems to be a popular side activity. "Right now, a lot of people are smoking in their homes anyway," Keyes adds. Puff, Pass and Paint plans to hold daily sessions on its Facebook page everyday starting anywhere from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time — and it's not the only marijuana art class going online.

Keila Castillo, founder of pot-friendly art class Creatively Cannabis, had to get even more creative with her business after her classroom at the Coffee Joint, Denver's only licensed marijuana lounge, was forced to close last week under an executive order from Mayor Michael Hancock banning social pot use. To keep her brushes wet and joints burning in April, Castillo is holding a virtual class on April 20 in honor of the 4/20 holiday, even offering to send students proper supplies.

"I'm going to be doing a few remote painting classes where I'm shipping paints and canvas to participants around the country. Basically same idea as my normal classes, [but] remote," she says.

Marijuana users looking for a sense of community can do more than paint, too. The International Church of Cannabis, a group of marijuana-loving folks who follow a spiritual practice called Elevationism and meet weekly at the church in West Washington Park, has been holding virtual services, hangouts and even movie nights with members. Members are instructed to use an app that creates a watch party on Netlfix, allowing them to watch the same movie together (as long as they have an account) and chat.

Church co-founder Lee Molloy says the virtual hangouts will continue as long as there is a desire for them among members.

Marijuana industry events were also a weekly occasion in Denver, one of the country's legal cannabis epicenters. Those, too, have been forced online. The Cannabis Marketing Association, known for in-person mixers and education sessions, is holding a webinar to address the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The NoCo Hemp Expo, one of Colorado's largest cannabis trade shows, plans to provide a web conference after it was postponed from March to August, while the Colorado chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has also decided to move its monthly meeting online.

The communication might be choppy and the interruptions frequent. But, according to Keyes, it's a lot better than nothing, especially for those who live alone. 

"Yesterday, after I did the live class, I felt so good. People were writing in, asking questions," she says. "I felt engaged with people, which I haven't felt in quite some time."

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