For those unacquainted, the Cannabis Cup is the premier festival for (you guessed it) cannabis competitions, product displays and industry networking. Previously held in Amsterdam in years past, the United States only ever saw the “medical” competitions until three years ago, when Colorado very famously voted for the legal sale and cultivation of marijuana and paved the way for the first “US Cannabis Cup.”
I attended the Cup for the last two years as an employee of a marijuana dispensary and spent both of my days working; readers may refresh their memory about how I felt after my first Cup experience two years ago. Back then, I was a relative MMJ industry newbie and was extremely happy with my personal experience, despite a total lack of organization that left many out-of-staters unhappy.
While I didn’t have a formal review for Weedist last year, I will say now that it was easily the best of the three years I’ve attended because the sampling was so out-of-control. The mobs of folks trying to enjoy the incredible abundance was something to behold. Many of the problems from the first year were cleared up (including a venue change), with better signage and organization that led to a vastly improved experience.
This year’s event was already going to be an interesting one, as just two weeks before the big weekend, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (or MED for short) issued a letter to all dispensaries that giving out cannabis samples is, in fact, a violation of state law. The city of Denver and state had to know that businesses had already invested thousands of dollars into booth fees, samples, entry fees, and promotional swag and that they were effectively ruining the party before it even began.
Unfortunately, that’s just par for the course at this early stage of legal cannabis, as it seems that the people in charge just can’t seem to help themselves from slowing down the progress of one of the fastest growing legal industries in the country.
So after a friend from Massachusetts gave me his ticket after his travel plans changed, I had to accept and go to my first Cannabis Cup as a spectator, ready to enjoy myself instead of being on the clock.
Right from the start, I got a bad feeling because the traffic was backed up in such a way that we had to park in the furniture outlet stores across the highway from the Denver Mart. The line just to get into the venue was stretched around the parking lot like a busy day at the most popular ride at Disney World. It was hard to tell exactly what the hold up was, but needless to say, I knew there was no way I was going to wait for over an hour just to walk in the door. My friend and I decided to kill some time by checking out the mini-festival that some very enterprising business had created in the parking lot next door and wait for the line to die down.
After walking around the half-dozen or so trailers and tables that were set up in the small parking lot across the street that really had nothing to do with the Cup itself, we went and killed some more time in a bar, which was exactly the opposite of what I figured we would be doing. After about an hour or so, the line had inexplicably died down to almost nothing and we were able to get in very quickly upon our return. They checked my ID to make sure I was over 21, and then I was given a wristband that stated ‘freedom comes with responsibility,’ and allowed to enter the convention hall.
The big question that everyone had on their minds was, of course, “What was up with the samples?” The good news is that, despite the announced ban from the state, there were plenty of free dabs and bong hits to go around, but it was hardly the free-for-all that I was smack in the middle of last year. People were blazing joints and blunts freely and there were plenty of chances to enter raffles and other giveaways, but I do have to say that I heard more than one booth worker tell someone that they weren’t giving out any samples as per the MED’s letter.
There were plenty of people smoking their own, since that is totally legal since the Cup was a private event, so at least that was something. But it still made for a bit of strange experience, as it was generally hit or miss for who might have the free goods. The tables that did have goodies were easy to spot since they had a crowd of people around them waiting. One of the more interesting things to note was just how many people seemed to be openly selling what looked to me to be home-made edibles and dabs.
Yes, people were selling grams of hash for cash in a completely under-the-table fashion, which is EXACTLY what Amendment 64 in Colorado was supposed to stop. But can anyone blame them for taking advantage of a weird gray area? I certainly don’t.
I got to check out some displays from various grow light manufacturers, closed-loop system companies, genetics company, and also got some coupons to dispensaries and some free stickers and buttons. In that regard, it was like any other trade-show. As a fan of all of these things, I definitely did enjoy it, but it was still a bit lame.
And maybe that’s not the worst thing, but I certainly can’t say that I had a blast. For me this was just a good way to spend an afternoon in the city where I live, but I really can’t imagine how happy anyone who traveled from another state was since the entire thing was a bit underwhelming.
Walking away from the 2015 Cannabis Cup, I really felt that the winner of the entire event was the guy who owned the Taco John’s right outside of the venue, since they were swamped with munchie-afflicted tourists. Good for Taco John’s.