The Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen. (Christina Capasso, The Aspen Times)

Cannabis art classes cause confusion at Aspen Jewish Community Center

In wrapping up the Jewish perspective on drug policy reform, Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit Le’or says it this way:

Yes, Jews love weed. We go together like Ben and Jerry. Like bagels and whitefish. Like summer camp and, well, pot. Even if you haven’t smoked it in years, you can’t deny the love affair between Jews and marijuana.

Such a harmonious relationship is probably one of the reasons the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen recently announced its plans for a series of pot-infused art classes this summer.

Last week, The Aspen Times reported on the center’s “Art with Mary Jane” classes, which would “welcome and encourage smoking and eating marijuana during lessons taught by local artists at the center.” The first classes were scheduled for Aug. 18 and Sept. 8, and they would be strictly BYOC (bring your own cannabis).

Suzanne Horwich, director of arts programs at the new 19,000-square-foot center, hoped to offer the community a twist on the popular canvas and cocktails-style classes — a trend already gaining steam in Denver.

“I pitched this idea not knowing if it would fly or if I would instantly lose my job,” Horwich told The Aspen Times. “They were supportive of doing something groundbreaking.”

Just hours after the story was originally posted, a new headline appeared on the Times’ website — “Jewish center in Aspen nixes pot-and-art classes” — after Rabbi Mendel Mintz said the center would not be offering the events.

“I think what really happened here is we just got a bit ahead of ourselves,” Mintz told The Snowmass Sun (an affiliate local newspaper). “The idea wasn’t formally vetted, and it didn’t have the full approval from everyone who I needed to get involved and that (Horwich) needed.”

Although the center did clear the idea with its lawyer and local law enforcement, one such approval still needed was from the City of Aspen due to the fact the classes were planned to be open to the public and at a charge. The cost of each two-hour class was $125, according to the original report.

City Clerk Linda Manning told The Snowmass Sun, “We wouldn’t have approved it.”

In a statement exclusively shared via email with The Cannabist, the Chabad Jewish Community Center says, “Contrary to earlier erroneous reports, we will not be holding a cannabis-related art class, nor any other cannabis programming. While we embrace creativity and encourage our members to come forward with innovative ideas, many are not brought to fruition after vetting, including this one which was not approved.”