DENVER — When Lauren Gibbs gets married in rural Colorado this July, she’ll wear a traditional white dress in front of about a hundred guests. She and her fiance will exchange vows, then celebrate into the night.
A big, countryside ranch will host. The Colorado River cuts through the property. Surrounded by Rocky Mountain nature, alpine forests collide with blue sky where friends and family will toast the bride and groom.
“It will be the picturesque, classic Colorado wedding,” Gibbs tells me.
It will also be a fantastic place to get high.
Two weeks after describing her “classic Colorado wedding” to me over the phone, Gibbs is standing before a rapt group of about 15 people (all women, save this reporter) at Denver’s Point Gallery. She is detailing all the ways guests will be able to get stoned at her nuptial.
Next to the craft beer bar at Gibbs’ wedding reception will be a “bud bar.” A “bud-tender” will advise interested guests about various marijuana strains available for consumption. There will be a range of choices, with strains aimed at everyone from the curious-yet-inexperienced to what Gibbs calls “the most serious consumers.” Guest will be able to vaporize, pack bowls or roll something up.
“I’ll definitely have one high-CBD, low-THC strain,” Gibbs tells the group, referring to a type of marijuana with a chemical makeup that induces a body high more than mental trip. “You think about your aunt who has never toked before and doesn’t want to get really high and lose her shit — this is a great way to start.”
Decades of activism have led to this, what organizers bill as the world’s first-ever Cannabis Wedding Expo. The intention is to connect marijuana fans/lovebirds with like-minded entrepreneurs in one of the few states where recreational consumption is legal. Three hundred people pack Point Gallery’s hip, high-ceilinged art-space at the one-day event on Jan. 17. More than 40 companies flaunt gourmet menus, floral arrangements, sexual enhancers and more — many of them cannabis-infused. Gibbs is one of several speakers.
But on another level, the event represents something bigger: Marrying a $60 billion wedding industry to a pot world that’s astronomically lucrative but in the infancy of its legitimate monetization. The event is the latest step in marijuana’s sluggish trudge from Reefer Madness to mainstream. Marriage was until recently, after all, the square-world institution.
“Colorado is already a prime destination wedding location,” says 30-year-old Bec Koop, cofounder of the Cannabis Wedding Expo. “Then you throw cannabis on top of it. What we want to do is turn this from a trend into a tradition.”
Koop is a florist, like her mother before her — but with a twist. She creates both standard and marijuana-themed floral arrangements for weddings and other events. (Confused? Picture a boutonniere made of intertwined nugs and flowers, or a centerpiece with fecund marijuana stems protruding amid the petals.) Straddling both the cannabis and regular flower worlds, Koop was frequently told what she calls “horror stories” of cannabis fans’ wedding day dreams being dashed — even after legalization took effect in January 2014.
That summer, Koop finally heard the tale that pushed her into action: A wedding photographer in Breckenridge walked in on a guy smoking a blunt with his groomsmen. Saying the blunt session violated their deal and made him uncomfortable, the photographer bailed without refunding the groom his $4,000 contract.
“It was truly born out of struggles!” Koop says of the expo, which she founded after partnering with Philip Wolf.
Wolf is another entrepreneur in the ecosystem that has surrounded the actual buying and selling of marijuana since Coloradans voted for recreational use in 2012. His company, Cultivating Spirits, puts on gourmet multi-course meals in which various cannabis strains are paired with wines, appetizers, entrees and desserts. A cannabis-themed wedding convention seemed a logical venture for the pair.
“To have an event that looks very normalized for people outside the cannabis industry, that’s very important for the growth of the cannabis industry,” says Wolf. With sandy hair flowing past the shoulders of his dark blazer on expo day, he looks like the Allman Brother who went to business school. “We need people from other states and countries to look at Colorado and say, ‘Wow, they are doing it the right way.'”
Colorado and Washington voters passed recreational marijuana legalization on the same day back in 2012, but Colorado put the law into effect six months before Washington. The state has enjoyed cutting-edge status in the popular imagination since. It’s now the petri dish of American legalization, but not all has gone perfectly. Talk to enough of the more cynical Coloradans, and a picture emerges: You can sell the stuff, but you can’t put the money anywhere; you can buy the stuff, but you can’t smoke it anywhere.
Federal law still deems marijuana a serious offense, making it essentially a cash business in the state. That’s absurd, considering that 2015 Colorado marijuana sales have a good chance of hitting $1 billion when final numbers come in next month. From a consumer’s perspective, you can only smoke (or even take marijuana edibles) on private property with the owner’s permission. But just what constitutes private property and permission isn’t always so easily defined.
Those hiccups pale compared to recent gains, according to all I speak with in Denver. But Wolf’s point is essential: Steady normalization will be key to the industry’s growth and mainstream acceptance. It’s a wise and noble outlook from the expo cofounder.
Meanwhile, I enter the Cannabis Wedding Expo with a philosophy of my own: When your editors say you can get high for work, you should definitely get high for work.