Cannabis and canapes at a Colorado art gallery

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Colorado, the first US state to legalise cannabis, holds its first party aimed at a more sophisticated clientele. Nick Allen hears why they were there

Relaxing on a plush black leather sofa while waiters supply canapes of Camembert stuffed with fig butter, Candy Nuss, 59, and her sister CynDee Williams, 62, a grandmother-of-four, are giggling like schoolgirls.

"I brought some marijuana with me tonight," Candy says as she opens a silver case revealing two carefully rolled joints. "It's called sour diesel. It's a great strain that's really tasty. It's beautiful. A really good high!"

Conservatively dressed and bespectacled, the sisters would not look out of place at a Women's Institute meeting. Instead, they are attending a "cannabis-friendly" evening at a high end art gallery in downtown Denver.

Nearly a month after Colorado became the first US state to legalise recreational use of the drug, taxing its sale, the party is the first attempt to cater for a more sophisticated type of user.

There are modernist paintings on the walls, expensive wines, and a menu of gourmet "munchies" like bacon wrapped Medjool dates, and brie, mango and poblano chilli quesadillas. It is cannabis for the chattering classes.

"We don't want the crappy side of it and this place seems lovely," said Wendy Bruner, 67, a successful estate agent and grandmother, who attended with her husband of 43 years Jeff, who retired after working in human resources.

"I never liked smoking it back in the 70s, I choked and I didn't like the taste of it," said Mrs Bruner. "But now there are these edibles it's fabulous. I have my little cakes, my little granola bars, and it's great.

"It blows my mind how many people our age are doing it. My brain's always racing and it mellows me out. It just takes all the worry out of things. I think people will realise this is not a stepping stone and you're not going to be a cocaine freak in three months.

People have this mindset that 'Oh I'm compulsive and if I try it, I'll soon be on heroin'. But it's just like having a wine."

Mrs Bruner, who doesn't like alcohol, said her family thought it was a "riot" that she was using cannabis and she could no longer be their designated driver on nights out.
The $125 (£80) per ticket party was dreamed up by Jane West, 37, an event planner who runs Edible Events. Miss West, now one of Denver's burgeoning class of successful cannabis entrepreneurs, decided to create a "sophisticated and safe" venue for professionals, an alternative to the wild hedonism of some of the city's other pot parties. Her event quickly sold out and more are planned.

"When I looked around Denver there was nothing that really fitted my demographic, that I felt comfortable with," she said. "So I decided to have events that I would like to attend. It's really about normalising cannabis, making using it as ordinary as ordering a glass of wine. This is for people who would go to an art gallery opening, or a four course dinner, but also like cannabis. They want somewhere nice to go with great food and good people."

Like any professional event planner she obtained liability insurance. Hers came from Lloyd's of London. "Since it's the first event of it's kind it was difficult to do, and so we had to go as far as Lloyds of London.

They've been very accommodating," she said.

In Colorado cannabis can only be sold at three dozen licensed shops, so guests brought their own drugs. They puffed on vaporisers containing cannabis oil, or carried edibles like cakes and brownies in their handbags.

Lighting up joints indoors is still not allowed under Colorado's law against passive tobacco smoking, so old-fashioned joint rollers retreated to a luxury limousine bus parked outside.

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