There was a snow storm in Denver the night before we arrived. As a result, during our approach to the Denver International Airport, we had to make several passes to wait for the heavy winds to calm down. When we finally came in to land, the jet banked and bounced at the last second, drawing a collective gasp from the passengers, but then it leveled its wings, settling onto its landing gear and coming to a stop. I thought we were going to die, but we made it: we were going to the Cannabis Cup. On a business trip. For real.
Full disclosure: I still have a day job. I was traveling with my brother, our lead content coordinator, and I had taken several days off from work to make the journey. I didn’t lie to my boss about where I was going, but I didn’t exactly say that I was going to the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Denver–on 4/20–and that I would be going to a Snoop Dogg concert.
Whatever happened, it was going to be a kick-ass weekend. My brother and I got our luggage and went to pick up our rental car. A Chevy “Spark.” Yep. Things were getting started off right.
On the first day of the event, we met up with Ganjapreneur.com CEO Andrew Rosener, and the entire Ganjapreneur team loaded into our appropriately-named vehicle and drove to the Denver Mart. The parking lot was full of thousands of people, and an overwhelming sense of positive energy and anticipation was evident as soon as we got out of the car.
As we got to the front of the line, a member of the security staff asked to do a bag check. My brother told him, “I do have some marijuana in there, sir.” The guy laughed and gestured us in: it was a “BYOC” event with designated recreating areas, so it was generally assumed that everyone present had a stash.
Needless to say, the event was awesome.
Within the first thirty minutes of walking around and soaking in the excitement, we noticed that Keith Stroup was at the NORML booth so we took the opportunity to meet him and ask if he would be willing to do a short Q&A. He graciously agreed, and Andrew asked him about how much ground the legalization movement will gain in the next two years, how it feels to witness the progress being made in Colorado and Washington, and what advice he had for aspiring ganjapreneurs.
It was an honor to meet such a prolific figure and activist in the industry, and the experience set the tone for the rest of our trip.
As we moved throughout the indoor section of the event, it was amazing to reflect on the fact that so many people are professionally involved in so many different aspects of the cannabis industry.
There were extraction system manufacturers, payment processing services, cleaning systems, construction specialists, grow light manufacturers, and countless other business services represented among the vendors. It was easy to see that the industry was booming: not only were these business services present, but the displays were extravagant and the representatives were experts in their fields. This was a marketplace, and the market was decidedly competitive.
The outdoor section of the Cannabis Cup was geared more toward consumers, and it seemed to be at least three times the size of the indoor section. Recreating was permitted outdoors, and accordingly, nearly everyone had a joint, blunt, spliff, or portable dab rig in their hands. The booths featured items such as apparel, innovative paraphernalia, art, and even the Tinderesque dating app HighThere! whose founder we interviewed earlier this spring.
There was also a large circle of food trucks (cue the munchies jokes) serving everything from crock pot creations to bags of Doritos filled with taco meat and cheese.
We took lots of photos, but we weren’t the only ones recording. CNN and other news organizations had journalists walking around, there was a HIGH TIMES drone camera flying above the crowd, and there were multiple airplanes pulling giant banners in circles around the Denver Mart.
Over the course of the weekend, there were also several educational seminars and panels on a variety of subjects. We attended many of these, but the most inspiring was probably the “Future of American Legalization” panel with some of the nation’s leading cannabis activists and advocates, including Keith Stroup, Mason Tvert, Charlo Greene, Sean McAllister, Michael Kennedy, and Rick Cusick. The room was packed and although most had been indulging in ganja, everyone’s undivided attention was focused on what the panelists had to say about which states would be next to legalize.
Another seminar we attended was titled “How to Get a Top Pot Job,” and it was also packed. There were some grumbles, however, when all of the panelists said they would not be able to hire anyone with a felony conviction, and also when the vast majority of them said they did not let their employees consume cannabis on the job. The one exception was Ricardo Baca, editor for the Denver Post, who said that he employs a few pot critics who are specifically required to get high and write about it.
On the night of the awards ceremony, my brother and I had partook of some indica and unfortunately failed to document what transpired as the winners were announced. Andrew was given the honor of presenting the award for Best Vaporizer, and he told us a story the next morning about how he had been tasked with babysitting stoned celebrities backstage.
If that wasn’t enough weed culture for us, we capped it off on Monday (April 20th) by attending the Snoop Dogg concert. It was a great show, and an excellent way to wrap up the weekend on a seriously high note.
Ultimately, we left Denver feeling very optimistic about the future of cannabis. There is a huge amount of momentum within the industry, and this was most evident in the diversity of those in attendance. With 50,000 people from all demographics, regions, and walks of life, the one constant was the respect they shared for one another–respect based on the mutual understanding that prohibition must end.
Possessing a plant which is less harmful than alcohol should not get anyone sent to prison, and the cannabis industry–which will exist whether or not it is legal–is better off managed by everyday citizens than by violent cartels and for-profit incarceration facilities. This is why we believe the general public will not tolerate the failed policies of the “drug war” for much longer. The future of the industry is looking brighter each day.
We had a great time and met a ton of people on our trip: IVXX, Black Dog LED, Eden Labs, Apeks Supercritical, Cannabis Clean, Ms. Mary Staffing, Cannabis Greenhouse Systems, Stealth Products, The Magic Trimmer, O2 Grow, Gualala Robotics & LightRail, Sky Processing, Pass The Tree, and The Variety, among others.
It was a pleasure to meet you all, and we look forward to hearing about your success as the industry continues to grow!