4th Annual High Times US Cannabis Cup in Denver, Colorado
Away from the enticements of “FREE DABS!” in the recreational smoking area and the allure of glowing marijuana buds, bathed under a vivid purple grow light in the indoor industry section, I found myself standing in the doorway of Forum 1 at the Denver Mart—a poorly lit reception hall. A small riser sat at the front—upon it a folding table with matching chairs—and in front of that there were several rows of chairs to accommodate the attendees of the seminars for High Times Cannabis Cup weekend.
Seminar: “Unalienable Rights vs. Civil Rights”
Location: Forum 1
Host: B.E. Smith
Time: 2:00 pm
I was excited begin my slew of seminars by attending a talk on rights by a grower and activist. I didn’t Google B.E. Smith before I came to this seminar, but if I had I would have discovered that he was a reality star on the show “Weed Country,” as well as a veteran in the war against drug users. (Note: his involvement in reality television would have thrown up an immediate red flag) After waiting around a bit in my padded conference chair, a homely old man made his way into the auditorium, escorted by Dan Skye—the Editorial Director of High Times—and took to standing in front of the small group of about 11 people—including myself—that had gathered. After a short introduction from Dan, who quickly made his way out of the door, B.E. set to speaking on the subject of his seminar, “Unalienable Rights vs. Civil Rights.” He began with outlining his beliefs, one of those being that he only studied the first ten amendments and that the others didn’t apply to an individual unless they worked for the government. He then told us about refusing to pay taxes when he learned that his earnings were going toward government-funded abortions, which was his reason for moving into the backcountry. After that, he eluded to a story about the time he raised hell over being stopped by a sheriff in the middle of town and this is when I began to notice a pattern. All of Smith’s stories, however endearing, being told by a stoned, old man, were merely that; the stories and musings of a stoned, old man. None of the tales were connected by his random interjections of law and history, nor did they have an underlying message pertaining to the rights of growers and marijuana activism. After asking the crowd what he had been talking about after losing his place—twice—and telling us he was too stoned to be talking to anyone, he began spinning more of his yarns and I decided that 60 was enough of B.E.’s allotted 90 minutes.
Seminar: The Art of Edibles
Location: Forum 1
Host: Elise McDonough–High Times
Jamie Lewis–Good Chemistry
Josh Fink–Medically Correct
Allison D-Ray–Ettalew’s Medibles
Wheeler del Toro–Author/chef
Angel & Erin–Healthy Creations
Time: 3:30 pm
I found myself back in Forum 1. It was still poorly lit, and the room was darkest at the front, where B.E. had stood speaking only a few hours before. The chairs in the room were filled—who doesn’t want to hear about space brownies? The panel was introduced, upon which sat Josh Fink, the executive chef at incrEDIBLES, whose Cookies and Cream 25mg candy bar I can vouch for. After the rest of the participants were introduced, with each member giving a small hello and sharing what inspired them to begin creating marijuana edibles, the panel jumped into discussion. This group of edible elite was well spoken and direct, and it was clear that their hearts are in the work they do—it’s not only their livelihood, it’s a passion. The group discussed questions such as, “How can patients decide on a dosage level that’s right for them, and what advice can you offer a cannabis naïve person whose interested in trying edibles for the first time?” This question piqued my interest, as the incrEDIBLES cookies and cream bar I had a few days before had left me stoned for hours after having just a few pieces. The panel unanimously agreed that you should start small. “You can always add more but if you add too much to begin with and you end up on the crazy train… well, then have fun on that ride,” Alison D-Ray of Ettalew’s Medibles commented. Also touched on were the current and upcoming limitations soon to be set on edibles restricting dosage amount and enforcing regulated servings. D-Ray made a point of the importance to sticking to those limitations so that edible manufacturing may be represented as a professional industry to the fullest. While the panel was speaking on active THC in infused edibles, I noticed a lot of people flowing into the room finding places to sit on the floor, in an open area on the carpeted floor behind the audience. A small din stirred up and eventually the whole room was talking, even those who had been watching the seminar from the beginning. The group of marijuana chefs and artisans at the front of the room were trying to raise their voices over the noise of everyone talking to finish their thoughts, but no one was paying attention anymore. Someone set off a fire alarm and no one moved from the floor or their seats, they just kept talking. After they were done with their final points, the panel set to talking among themselves, standing, shuffling about, so I packed up my things and made my way towards the Plaza to catch Rob Corry speaking on the main stage, leaving a sea of talking people behind me in Forum 1.
Seminar: The Monster I Created: Has Colorado’s Over-Taxed and Over-Regulated Marijuana Industry Sold Its Soul?
Host: Rob Corry
Time: 4:00 pm
Walking out to the Plaza I saw where the mass that sabotaged the last seminar had come from. They were overflow from the room that housed the large stage where Rob Corry had taken up propagating. They were the dabbed out zombies from the Rec Area—poor bastards whose souls had been taken by the Colorado sun and concentrated THC goop. They were scattered everywhere, but left enough room for a steady line of people, just arriving to the Cup, to cut through into the Industry Showroom, to eventually acquaint themselves with copious amounts of free pot outside. The chatter was much louder in here than in Forum 1 and Corry was bellowing into his microphone to cut through the noise. I made my way to the right side of the stage, Corry’s left, and set up camp along a wall, next to a few other stoner encampments that sat about divvying up their free shwag, and directed my attention to Rob Corry. Corry is Colorado’s number one/go-to/ace-in-the-hole marijuana lawyer. He even helped to write some of the Rocky Mountain state’s legislation, which eventually made recreational marijuana use legal. He’s known for being one of the leaders in the pot movement, as well as being arrested for trying to smoke a joint at a Rockies game. One of the first things I heard Corry say was, “sorry for my lack of preparation,” as he motioned to one of the two projectors that displayed a crooked PowerPoint on each side of the stage. He praised the crowd for making it to the Cup and especially thanked those who lived in Colorado that were in attendance, as the Cup being recreationally legal (as opposed to solely medical) had been a decision that was in their hands, and something they voted in favor of as a state. He mentioned that while Barack Obama had received only 1.2 million votes in the state of Colorado during his presidential run against Romney, when Colorado voted to make recreational use legal, the proposition received 1.291 million votes, thus suggesting that marijuana was more popular in Colorado than the president of the United States—a point he reiterated as he went on. Corry did bring up the fact that marijuana is a viable source of income and new jobs, not only for Colorado but also for the country, which is hard to argue with when you look at the taxes pulled in during the first month of legal, recreational marijuana use. A member of the crowd asked, “Can you speak on being denied employment due to marijuana use in the state of Colorado?” This was a question I had seen on many forums and Google searches in the weeks leading up to my trip to Denver. Corry explained that if your employer states that you cannot use marijuana and work in an establishment that there is no way around it, but softened the blow of the truth with a joke about forcing his employees to smoke pot. In the last bit of Corry’s spiel, he eventually came back to Obama and the 43rd’s history with marijuana, and pointed out that Michael Phelps smoked pot and won some gold medals, which all gained him some claps and cheers. Towards the finale the crowd had grown impatient—just as they had with the edibles seminar—and eventually drowned Rob Corry out into the background.
I made my way outside to meet up with my friends and joined the living dabbed to meander about in the light rain that had started to fall over the Denver Mart.
Seminar: “Radical Russ” Belville presents “Debunking the Anti-Marijuana Business Crusade of Project SAM
Location: Forum 1
Host: Russ Belville
Time: 12:30 pm
Forum 1 is the same as the day before—dark and quiet, and I’m sitting in my regular seat near the back. I think it’s pretty funny that I have a “regular seat” in this dingy little space, but maybe I’m only thinking about that because I’m stoned. There’s a white screen in place of the regular table and chairs at the front of the room and a man in glasses and a backwards cabbie hat with a mustache, fiddling with a laptop connected to a projector. It’s “Radical” Russ Belville, the voice behind 420radio.org and an active member of NORML. “If you guys give me a few moments, we’re uh, just having some technical difficulties,” he tells us before switching on War’s “Lowrider” to fill some of the awkward silence in the room and buy time for his buddy to finish rigging up the computer for his PowerPoint. A few more people file in, bringing the total attendance up to about 15, at which point Belville proceeds to begin his discourse. He gave us a short summary of how he got to his position in radio, and even how he was arrested in Utah on the way to Denver for the Cannabis Cup, but made quick to get to the topic of his seminar. SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) is the project and brain child of Kevin Sabet, a drug policy staffer and political appointee who has worked for both the Bush and Obama administrations, whose goals including stopping marijuana from becoming another “big tobacco” and ruining the youth of our nation. Russ illustrated that despite the comparison to tobacco, marijuana is not an addictive form of inebriation and the industry is taking the correct steps to make sure that advertisements and labels are not attempting reach out to kids through bright colors/shapes/etc. Russ really was debunking the shit out of SAM’s talking points. Every news clip he played of Sabat was picked apart with factual information collected from the cannabis community. Russ was getting into some pretty serious pro/anti cannabis politics and this talk was getting interesting. A guy sitting closer to the front row raised his hand in hopes of asking a question. Russ saw him and said, “Hey I’m really sorry but I can’t take any questions, I gotta get through this,” and about 15 minutes later, when speaking on the statistics comparing marijuana and cocaine, decided that it was time to get back to his booth and ended his talk by thanking everyone and queuing up “Lowrider” once more.
Seminar: High Times Presents “Free Weed from Danny Danko”
Host: Danny Danko–High Times
Don & Aaron–DNA Genetics
Kyle Kushman–Kushman Genetics
Time: 2:30 pm
This time, the Plaza’s occupants were split between people who were escaping the hot Easter sun and those who were attending the live recording of Danny Danko’s podcast, Free Weed, which would host a panel of cultivation experts to discuss techniques and tips for home growers. Subjects ranging from the simple—such as germinating seeds in a paper towel, to the complex—nutrient routines, root flushes and genetic makeups were covered. It really is crazy to hear people talk about marijuana in such a way. It truly is an industry—a science to some—and this panel of included some of the leading innovators and entrepreneurs behind it. This group shared the same spirit as those who had spoken during the edibles seminar the day before. Despite the scores of people that lay passed out throughout the Plaza and the constant line of people filtering straight through the middle, this was one of the most intriguing orations at the Cup. After taking questions from the audience and wrapping up the discussion, I took the opportunity to melt into the stream of people that were spilling into the Showroom to kill some time before my last trip to Forum 1.
Seminar: Marijuana For Trauma
Location: Forum 1
Host: Chris Simunek–High Times
Dr. Darryl Hudson–Peace Naturals
Time: 3:30 pm
I sat in my “regular seat” in the too familiar Forum 1, but I must admit, the place had grown on me. It was my dark, cool, quiet retreat from the madness that was ensuing outside its walls. I was settled in for my final panel discussion whose speakers sat before me, ready to speak on the effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD. Heading the panel was molecular biologist, Dr. Darryl Hudson and founder of Marijuana For Trauma and veteran, Fabien Henry, who work together as the collaborative minds behind the organization and they were accompanied by five veterans who have been actively using marijuana to help with their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and chronic pain. Each ex-serviceman explained their individual situations and reasons for using weed as an alternative form of rehabilitation. Ian Bailey admitted to abusing pain medication and explained that marijuana was his way of easing tension and pain without having to worry about using addictive pharmaceuticals. Several patient-veterans agreed that they had a hard time finding a marijuana alternative that worked for them, whether it be a particular strain of Kush or using concentrates rather than vaporizing, smoking flowers, etc. Dr. Hudson suggested that marijuana’s affect on short-term memory may be beneficial to veterans with PTSD, as it allows their attention to shift from the things that may be bothering them and to focus on things at hand. The doctor also explained that pot is a tool—not the final solution—for affected veterans and that the plant is merely an aid to getting one’s mind back on a level plane. Keeping with Cannabis Cup tradition, the panel announced they would be dispersing early, as 4:20 pm was fast approaching. Which, I guess, was a better reason than any other I was given that weekend.
I made my way to the Rec Area to get lost in the crowd before the worldwide stoner holiday was officially celebrated.