"Happy holidaze! Cannabis greeting cards include space to insert a joint Denver-based KushKards offering the perfect stoner gifts to light up the season" By: TINEY RICCIARDI

Just like drinkers gift bottles of wine or six-packs of beer, stoners have long shown their appreciation for one another by gifting cannabis. In the days before legalization, baggies of weed, pipes and other smoking accessories were often put in mock boxes or disguised as something else — anything else — to avoid being recognized for what they truly were.

But it’s now been 10 years since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Should cannabis gift-giving still be hiding in the shadows?

Denver resident Lauren Miele doesn’t think so, and as founder and CEO of greeting card company KushKards, she’s actively working to dismantle the stigma that often surrounds recreational use.

KushKards embraces cannabis culture with punny salutations like “light up the holidays” and “joint to the world.” Cards ($7-$10) come with either a one-hitter attached or a slot where a pre-rolled joint can be inserted. The company also sells gift bags with tissue paper ($12)featuring what Miele calls a “polka pot” design — think polka dots, but with weed leaves instead of circles.

They’re not only clever, but they’re also incredibly cute. Moreover, they’re legal to mail to friends far and wide, as long as you don’t attach marijuana. As someone who recently harvested several homegrown plants, KushKards are the top item on my wish list as I plan gift-giving to friends in Colorado this year.

The idea for KushKards started simply, according to Miele. Back in 2013, she wanted to gift a friend cannabis for Christmas and was tired of stuffing a dime bag in a totally irrelevant Hallmark card. Instead, the Fashion Institute of Technology grad decided to print her own greeting card and hand-sew some blunts on it to form her friend’s initials.

“Ever since then, I knew I had something,” Miele said. “Nobody was doing it, so I said ‘Blunt cards it is.’ ”

And so the idea was born in 2013, and Miele spent 2014 perfecting her blunt-rolling skills. KushKards didn’t take off, however, until 2015 when the native New Yorker came to Denver for the Cannabis Cup with “a backpack full of dreams,” she said. A couple of dispensaries showed interest in the products and shortly thereafter Miele moved to the Mile High City in hopes her business would spark up.

KushKards are now available in 4,000 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada, including smoke shops, dispensaries, gift and home stores, and sex shops. Shoppers can find all sorts of themed cards, from “dank yous” to birthday and congratulations cards, that come with one-hitters. And the interest from adult stores also helped spawn a new line of products called  NaughtyKards.

KushKards even recently landed a product placement in the movie “Senior Year” starring Rebel Wilson. The polka pot gift box that’s visible during a scene when Wilson is gift wrapping will soon be available on KushKards’ website, Miele said. She’s adding polka pot wrapping paper, too.

Despite her successes, Miele said they didn’t come easily. Cannabis has long been a male-dominated industry, and breaking into the scene with an ancillary product perceived as “girlie” proved difficult.

“I look back and feel like these guys didn’t take me seriously. They placed an initial order and never called me back for a reorder,” Miele said.

The greeting card industry, too, has yet to catch up. Miele regularly goes to trade shows where her products catch the interest of big-box retailers; however, she has yet to ink a deal with a store that’s not considered niche.