Laughter coupled with the smooth lyrics of “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre echo through the halls of an otherwise vacant medical building. Eager guests follow the music to Suite 30, where they enter a thick haze of marijuana smoke and search for a paintbrush and a canvas. All around, blunts of varying shapes and sizes are being crafted, rolled, lit, inhaled and finally exhaled, their smoke adding to the hanging cloud above. “I’m going to open up a window,” an instructor says. “I don’t want everyone to be hot-boxed out!”
This is a common sight at Puff, Pass & Paint, a new Bay Area art class that combines weed, wine and painting. After paying $49, class members are provided with a canvas, painting supplies, wine and an assortment of chips, but they must BYOC (Bring Your Own Cannabis). This class, offered most days of the week in either San Francisco or Oakland, is the first of its kind and already very popular, according to artist and founder, Heidi Keyes. Each session is meant to be intimate, with around 20 students, which causes tickets to sell out quickly.
“It’s really set up to encourage people to be creative, and cannabis definitely helps with that,” she said.
Puff, Pass & Paint is just one of a series of new marijuana-infused events created by the Puff, Pass & Paint organization. This group is a loose collective of art teachers who aim to have students create art while relaxing under the effects of cannabis. Depending on the city where sessions are offered, they provide a wide variety of classes, which include Puff, Pass & Pottery; a writing class called Lit on Lit; the Cannabis Cooking Class and Puff, Pass & Poof—a beginner’s magic class.
Keyes started the classes in January 2014 in Denver, Colorado, where recreational use of cannabis had been legalized just two years before. “It was something that a friend suggested to me as a joke,” Keyes says. “She was like, ‘You know those wine and painting classes? You should do that with weed.’”
According to Keyes, she has always been passionate about painting and marijuana legalization, so she decided to try merging the two. After creating a Facebook event and seeing how many people were interested, Keyes had to expand. “It blew up from there,” Keyes said. “I immediately had to start adding more classes because they were all sold out.”
Puff, Pass & Paint now also offers classes in Washington D.C., Portland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Oakland, with plans to expand to more cities. The class is only held where marijuana is legal for recreational use, and the organizers frequently partner with local dispensaries and artists.
The recreational use of marijuana was legalized in California in November after the passage of Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The act allows individuals 21 and older to legally use and grow marijuana for personal use. On January 1, 2017, the sale and subsequent taxation of recreational marijuana went into effect.
That month, Puff, Pass & Paint came to the Bay Area—classes in Oakland and San Francisco are already selling out multiple venues, with about 20 classes per month between the two cities.
“I’ve had people come to class in San Francisco and then book tickets for Oakland right away,” Keyes said. “It definitely shows that it’s something that people really do enjoy, especially since they’re coming back.”
Keyes still lives in Denver, but travels around the country to start up and often teach Puff, Pass & Paint classes. That journey brought her to the Bay Area on Friday, when she and two other teachers held a sold-out 7 to 9 pm session in a medical marijuana building on International Boulevard in Oakland.
As the class begins, Keyes stands in the middle of three tables, arranged in a “U” formation. Her plan is to teach everyone how to make paintings of sugar skulls, which are traditionally seen at Day of the Dead celebrations. As she goes over each step, the 22 participants attentively watch and follow along, paintbrush in one hand, blunt in the other.
For most of the guests, it’s their first time experiencing an art class like this. “I heard about it and was pumped, because a lot of my friends do the whole wine and paint thing, but I’m more of a smoker,” said Bernadette, a member of the class who declined to give her last name.
The theme of the night is skulls, but the three teachers encourage creativity and let their students paint whatever they desire. The atmosphere is light and friendly. Some guests share vape pens and joints, while others share paint supplies, conversing and laughing hysterically all the while. The two-hour class also features raffles, awarding winners Alchemy vape pens and cartridges.
“It’s not often that a lot of people can meet in one spot without fighting or having some sort of conflict,” said Anthony, a first-time class member who also declined to give his last name. “If we can get high together, why can’t we do everything else together?”
By the end of the night, ashtrays are full, most of the wine bottles are empty and everyone is putting the finishing touches on their pieces. Keyes circulates through the room examining each person’s handiwork, issuing compliments along the way.
While signing their work before leaving, guests reminisce about the night. “I smoked the biggest blunt I’ve ever smoked,” said Sadaf, who declined to give her last name. “I’ve never seen three blunts joined together before.”
Members of the class leave Suite 30 with smiles on their faces and canvases in hand. Most are already planning to book another session.
With the exception of a March 13 class, Oakland’s Puff, Pass & Paint is sold out until April. In San Francisco, bigger classes are held and spaces are still available, but going fast.
“It’s going to grow for sure,” Anthony said. “And now weed is legal, so they can’t bother us.”