Florist Bec Koop is putting the finishing touches on a wedding bouquet, which in this case are buds of cannabis tucked among the roses.
"The motto is 'Straight from your bouquet to your bowl,'" she laughed. "You can literally take it out and smoke it."
Koop owns Buds & Blossoms, a Denver-based florist specializing in pot-infused weddings. She discovered almost no one was catering to cannabis enthusiasts for special occasions, even in Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal for two years.
Many venues don't want it on site, or can't allow it because of restrictions in the law. She also heard horror stories, like the wedding photographer who walked out as soon as he saw pot being consumed, leaving the bride and groom at the altar.
"I started to find the venues that would say 'yes,' and then I started to find other vendors that would say 'yes,'" she said.
Koop, 30, started Buds & Blossoms with a 35-page business plan and $1,500 in 2014. She already had a regular florist business, which she supplemented by working at a medical marijuana dispensary.
"One day as I was working at the dispensary up in Alma, Colorado, I happened to have some extra flowers left over from an event," she said. "I decided to cut down my own personal [marijuana] plant out of my garden, put some red roses around a cannabis plant and said, 'Oh, my God! Weed weddings!'"
Her first wedding was in 2014 ... on 4/20. "It was Alice in Wonderland themed."
Soon, the cannabis side of her flower business took off, from six weddings last year to a dozen this year, plus other events like yoga brunches, wine and food pairings, bachelorette parties.
Services often include a "bud bar," which is like a wine bar with pot. These can cost up to $85 an hour, though the host has to supply the pot (more on that later). "We've had weddings of upwards of 120 joints."
Koop said customers come from all over the world. "I have tons of Floridians for some reason," she laughed.
As a result of her success, she started downsizing her regular floral business and quit her second job. "I've dealt with many 'bridezillas' on the traditional side, and all of my cannabis couples are so cool and comfortable and relaxed," she said. "If they start to get worked up, I'm like, 'Smoke this joint, you're going to feel better in a minute, trust me.'"
She also enterprised an even better way to make money. Koop and two partners started Cannabis Wedding Expo after she was rejected from a regular wedding convention. The first one was a hit, with 75 vendors. Koop plans to have nine expos in several states by 2018. "The profit margins off the expos are quite nice," she said.
However, Koop is discovering what a lot of would-be "ganjapreneurs" are finding out. It's one thing to make marijuana legal. It's another to start a business that stays legal because of all the rules.
For example, Koop cannot buy the cannabis herself, otherwise she'd need a license to sell marijuana to her customers. "My clients personally purchase the cannabis, they gift it to me, and I incorporate it into the different packages."
She charges for her services, which are slightly more expensive than for a nonmarijuana wedding because of the extra work it takes to keep the plant looking fresh. Bridal bouquet prices range from $75 to $250, plus the price of the pot. So-called budtonnieres for the groom cost less but still incorporate cannabis.
Transporting the cannabis to an event is also a challenge. Under Colorado law, you cannot have more than two ounces in your vehicle at one time. For big weddings with a big bud bar, that can require several trips.
Plus, cannabis cannot be within reach of a driver. "So I couldn't have the bridal bouquet right next to me, keeping an eye on that beautiful baby," Koop said about driving to a wedding with floral arrangements. "I have to instead make sure it's all locked up and totally stable in the back of my vehicle."
Banking too is a problem in the pot industry, because marijuana remains illegal at a federal level. "I had to put up a solid fight with several banks to show that I run my business 100 percent legal, and that I have no sales or distribution in my business model." She currently has a line of credit with a national bank, which she asked me not to name. "I don't want to get shut down."
Then there are the wedding guests — and even sometimes the bride or groom — who are uncomfortable being around marijuana. "That's when you set up the bud bar in a completely different area." She said it's very important to make sure pot isn't front and center for those who don't approve.
Finally, there is the plant itself. Finding the right strain to complement roses in scent and color takes work, but the biggest challenge is the rest of the plant. "The leaves are brutal," Koop said. For something called a weed, marijuana doesn't hold up well without water. "That's been a very large challenge, trying to find ways to sturdy up the leaves, sturdy up the stalks."
Ironically, Koop's partner does not consume marijuana in any form. "He calls it the great social science experiment." She was not a fan of marijuana either until she had her knee surgery. Koop said someone suggested she smoke a joint to treat the pain, "and I was like, 'Oh, my body feels good.'"
Koop hopes to eventually franchise the wedding business, and said she's having more fun with Buds & Blossoms than she ever had as a typical florist.
"Best story ever was a grandma came up [at a reception], and she wanted to try some cannabis soda. She took a little sip, and she was like, 'My grandson tells me I'm going to feel great!'"
Koop said she made sure the first-timer had a small dose. "Within about an hour, she was out dancing harder than I've ever seen a grandma dance," she laughed. "She totally had a blast and came up to us afterward and asked where she could get some more."
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