As the world focused its voyeuristic tendencies on the Southern California desert for Coachella’s second weekend, tens of thousands of freaky folks flew their freak flag in far more temperate Denver, Colorado, for the annual High Times Cannabis Cup.
Founded in 1988 by counterculture magazine High Times, the Cup started as an annual celebration in legal weed haven Amsterdam, where stoner aficionados would network in the city’s infamous coffee shops and congregate to vote on the best marijuana strains of the year. As medical cannabis legislation swept through the United States, High Times brought the event stateside in 2010, where it now has several yearly incarnations, the biggest of which is pegged to the April 20th “stoner holiday” taking place this year in Denver.
Not surprisingly, April is a big month for Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana—and thus the first place domestically to cash in on the budding marijuana tourism industry.
Amongst the throngs of THC devotees, who kept the air hazy with a thick layer of spicy smoke, there were celebrities, including Snoop Dogg, members of the Grateful Dead, the cast of Super Troopers, Cheech and Chong, and, according to High Times, more than 700 vendors featuring any and all forms of marijuana related items. Booth after booth of clothing, stickers, concoctions to help pass drug tests, books, growing equipment, more scantily clad women than a Vegas boat show, arcane-looking glass water pipes that look more like a prop from a Dr. Seuss book than something to smoke from, and, of course, weed in any and every form imaginable.
Who knew there were so many ways to get stoned? It’s come a long way since a pipe carved from an apple. Concentrations of near-pure THC wax, called dabs, were most popular, but there were also soft drinks, candy bars, muffins, lotions, and, naturally, giant sticky buds coated with sugary crystals of psychoactive abandon.
If Willy Wonka had swung through the infamous Acid Tests and taken up with the Grateful Dead rather than a built a chocolate factory, it would look much like the Cannabis Cup. And these displays are just the beginning.
Even though marijuana is legal in Colorado (provided you’re over 21), the actual laws can provide a web of red tape. While there were copious free samples to consume, only the legally licensed Colorado cannabis companies couldn’t hand out free samples, thanks to some legal fine print and a threat from the state Marijuana Enforcement Division. Ironically, if the licensed vendors were to break that rule, they could result in their loss of license, even while others were able to pass out samples to help show off their businesses.
This same law provided a sort-of loophole for non-Colorado based businesses, however, who were welcome—and happy—to provide ample hand outs, since they ultimately had nothing to lose.
Once you have properly “medicated” yourself, which is insider talk for getting stoned cross eyed, it’s off to any number of events and seminars. Cooking demonstrations, concerts, and comedy presentations are interspersed with more serious seeming fare, like “The Truth About Contaminants in Cannabis” and “Social Media Marketing in the Cannabis World.” Perhaps a testament to the level to which acceptance the once fringe cannabis counterculture has now ascended, even stoic cable news giant CNN was on hand to premiere their pot-centric show High Profits.
The grand finale, of course, is the awarding of the actual Cannabis Cup, a mystical golden cup often pictured in High Times overflowing with chunky buds that would make your trippy college roommate cry with joy.
The awards were doled out Sunday night, going to strains of the plant with names that sounded like magical mystery cereal brands—Ghost Train Haze, Veganic Strawberry Cough, Louie XIII, and Emperor Cookie Dough.
The High Times Cannabis Cup continues through today, April 20, with a more forums and seminars and a concert, “Snoop Dogg’s Wellness Retreat,” with Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, and A$AP Rocky.