By Danny Axelrod
Las Vegas is currently abuzz with the possibilities associated with legal marijuana. It’s like it was the Summer of Weed, with dispensaries flowing and the entrepreneurial energy palpable. One company, Cannabis Tours, gave people a chance to come together for group sessions and walk away with self-made masterpieces. Their weekend Puff, Pass & Paint/Pottery/Pastry classes allowed guests to bring their own pot and get high while taking a lesson in how to create.
The link between marijuana and creativity can be traced back centuries. Recently, ancient cannabis scholars have unearthed a tome of a 5th-century BC Chinese philosopher by the name of Stone Tzu. Entitled The Art of Weed, this relatively unknown treatise explores the link between getting high and high art. As I explore these classes, I turn to the wisdom of this timeless work to guide me on my quest for creativity. I also turn to my friends at The+Source Dispensary for some pre-rolled indica strains to get me super stoned.
“Creation is a journey the artist makes alone, but that does not mean he should be isolated.” ~Stone Tzu
My journey begins with a Lyft ride to a nondescript residential neighborhood on the southside of town. They say there are no accidents in life, definitely with ridesharing, and I am immediately greeted with the pungent skunky scent of high grade weed the moment I sit down in the back seat. The drive across town is serene and uneventful as I make small talk and explain what I am up to. The driver is very interested in the Puff, Pass & Paint program, and I mention his car smelled like he may have already attended a class or two.
I arrive at a typical stucco-covered Vegas domicile and I am greeted at the door by a very amicable guy named Mike. The front area of the house is open and tiled with several long tables covered to allow for artistic mess making. He has me sign a waiver explaining that I understand that they are simply an artistic organization and not a licensed dispensary. It also has me affirm that I am just a weed-puffing individual with no intent to sell anything to anybody during our time together. I am on board with all that, so I sign and take a seat at a table of young people ready to fire up their imaginations.
I mean, literally. No sooner do I sit down than a handmade pipe is passed my way. I do accept it, but I draw lightly, knowing that this is going to be an hours-long experience and I need to remember it well enough afterward. From the very beginning, these classes are designed to bring like-minded strangers and groups of friends together for a shared experience. I have come alone, but the ladies at my table are co-workers enjoying an alternative girls’ night out. At another table are a mother and daughter enjoying making art together. Another young couple just heard about it on Facebook and decided to give it a try. Master Stone Tzu’s words ring true as I consider the important connection between creativity and community.
“The supreme art of weed is to subdue one’s intentions and let creation guide one’s spirit. Let the art encourage the hands as to how it would like to emerge. The uncarved block always echoes yes.”
After everyone has had a moment to get good and baked, Mike and his associate Kristal begin the class by distributing clay and water and shaping tools. Since it’s a Friday night, the class is pottery, with Saturday’s devoted to painting and Sunday brunch focused on cooking. I’m not sure what was passed around earlier, but all of a sudden I am very into shaping the clay with my hands. I dip my fingers in a cup of water and slowly caress the, as yet, unformed block. The girl next to me is making…big surprise…a pipe. She’s not the only one, and I decide that I need to find my own way with the clay. But where…?
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
That’s actually a quote from another ancient philosopher, Sun Tzu, but it just fits with what happens next. I hear a noise at my feet and look down to see a small pig grunting and sniffing under the table. Her name is Kaos and she is giving me the once over with deep, soulful eyes. I think of my daughter and her love of animals and use my phone to send her a video. At that moment, the pig’s eyes tell me all I need to know and I set about making my piece.
“If you know the canvas and know yourself, you need not fear the result of either a hundred efforts or a single one.”
I separate my clay out into strips and roll it as if I was making pasta noodles. I then lay out a flat strip and start stacking my layers in hoops one on top of the other. I am creating something that, at best, resembles a chopped off beehive, and at worst, might end up looking like a pile of poop. The important thing is that I feel like I know what I am doing. I light up the SFV OG pre-roll from Remedy (Kristal informs me that the “SFV” stands for San Fernando Valley), take a puff and pass it around as I set to making a jewelry box for my little girl. Mike and Kristal are very encouraging to all the aspiring artists. Like the best instructors, they give pointers but let the participants make their own choices. I really like them as people. I am extremely high. They don’t mess around in the SFV.
“One feeds the body as the smoke feeds the mind and the hands feed the creation. The art of weed is best achieved on a satisfied belly.”
Munchies! They are coming on strong and there is a cornucopia of stoner snacks to satiate. There’s also plenty of beverages, including beer and box wine. My tablemates brought their own and are mixing Washington Apple cocktails with whisky and apple liqueur. Typically, I don’t think mixing strong weed and hard alcohol is a wise idea, but what the heck, I’m taking a Lyft home. Cheers!
As my piece takes shape I listen to Mike’s repetitive suggestion to just keep adding water and smoothing it out. I look around and see that at least two other people are doing more or less the same thing as I am! I begin to get a little peeved, but instead light up the Ultimate Chemdawg91 from Remedy. It’s a deep, dark indica that brings the whole pace of the room down as the group achieves new levels in stoniness. Who cares if we shared a good idea?
“Appear high when you are low, and slow when you are high. This is the way of the weed.”
As the class wraps up, Mike and Kristal share with us how we can pick up our pieces in a couple of weeks and how all are welcome to try the other classes. They also share how smart it is to call an Uber or taxi to get home, which I am pleased to see everyone thought ahead. It takes a while to get everyone loaded up safe and on their way, and as I am the last one to bid my hosts and their pig farewell, a final quote from Stone Tzu crosses my crisscrossed mind.
“The art of weed is applicable to all endeavors. It permeates the senses as sounds, sights, smells, and tastes are joyously fashioned.”
It is the art of life, well-lived.