I’m not sure if it was the delicious and potent Willie Nelson herb or the event itself amplified or conjured this feeling out of thin air, but there was something ineffably freeing and joyful about being able to gallivant in the outdoors freely enjoying and celebrating cannabis. This is what happened when Culture Vultures went to the US High Times Cannabis Cup.
“I’m at the High Times Cannabis Cup”
“I’m at the High Times Cannabis Cup”. That sentence ran a steady lap in my head as I stood in line awaiting search and entry into said Cannabis Cup. Sure, you can call it lame, or corporate, or an after-thought; it was, in fact, intended to be held in Denver, Colorado, but the venue holders got cold feet about all the people and publicity so they backed out, and thus, here we are in San Bernardino. It wasn’t any of that to me. To me, I was 15 years old and first discovering, then obsessing over High Times. The amount of immaculately grown, trimmed, cured, and finally photographed cannabis — cannabis that exceeded my wildest dreams — I had seen in the glossy pages of its magazines was hard to fathom. I was now standing in line waiting to be pat down; Kiana was in a comically shorter line designated for female attendees and had gotten through quick enough to have to wait for me under the velvet green canopy that greeted Cup goers. Once we got through and were christened with medical wristbands, we made a beeline for the Prop 215 area where the booths and vendors were.
Where we were and what we had access to still hadn’t fully sunk in. For me, it was truly exciting to see the festive and carnival aspect of it come to light. There was a festival vibe, but a complete 180 from the “festival vibe” you’d see at Coachella, which was taking place during the same weekend. It wasn’t obnoxiously self-aware and facile. Sure, there were barely-clothed women dancing and gyrating (let’s keep in mind that there are also barely-clothed women at the cultural celebration, Carnival), but there were also wounded vets, young professionals, seniors, college students, the list twisted endlessly. It was representative of the cultural melting pot that is the cannabis culture. With cannabis, it’s about coming together in celebration of the plant. It was really something Kiana and I loved and felt fortunate to be a part of.
Now that I had flowers and concentrates from growers and collectives — Nameless Genetics, DNA Genetics, Cannabiotix, JAHnetix, just to name a few — I thought I would only ever read about at my fingertips, we were overloaded with options. I could barely think straight and we hadn’t smoked anything all day. We wandered briefly before finding an ATM to take out cash. After getting some needed funds we headed for what looked like a giant bouncy house; it was shelter, but unfortunately, wasn’t an actual bouncy house. Beneath the inflatable castle that topped the house was a sign that read Downtown Patient Collective, a Riverside dispensary. Still trying to acclimate ourselves to the farmer’s market-like nature of the event, we found ourselves pulled into conversation with one of DTPC’s budtenders.
Shocked to see someone stocking Willie Nelson, I turned to Kiana, told her what I knew about the strain and going off of nothing but our love for Willie Nelson, we bought a gram. We sat down in the shelter of this inflatable castle, where I tried and successfully rolled a joint (losing a good half gram of herb to the wind but c’est la vie on a windy afternoon). Bracing ourselves for the strong wind and unwavering sunlight that awaited us outside of the castle, we walked into the outdoors with a joint in hand. I’m not sure if it was the delicious and potent Willie herb or the event itself amplified or conjured this feeling out of thin air, but there was something ineffably freeing and joyful about being able to gallivant around this amazing space freely enjoying and celebrating cannabis. As Kiana and I began to get our sea legs beneath us and our wits about us, we surveyed what lay before us as giant smile after giant smile rolled over our faces like immense waves crashing on a shore. Our wildest imaginations couldn’t have conjured such delights and we stood in awe of the sheer happiness and celebration that coursed through the event. No amount of heat or wind could strip that away.
Over the course of the next 8 hours we would indulge in a dizzying array of concentrates and flowers that never ceased to amaze the senses. Kiana and I became loyal followers of Nameless Genetics whose flowers — Nameless OG, Mega Wellness OG, and Golden Cookies — were some of the best we had ever had. The two concentrates they were giving out as free dabs — Ultra Premium Nug Run Wedding Cake and Mega Wellness OG Ultra Premium Nug Run — were, not-so-shockingly, incredible. There were almost too many vendors to check out and we, of course, didn’t get to all of them, and since this was a last-minute move from Denver to San Bernardino, I can only imagine how many other LA vendors there would have been had there been time to prepare. Though there was a lot to take in and, as we mentioned, undoubtedly things we missed, I couldn’t be more emphatic when saying it was an eye-opening experience shaded with memories I will never forget.
It was at the Cannabis Cup that I rediscovered my love of the cannabis plant and where I became even more comfortable saying I love the plant without fear of being labeled as a fiendish stoner loser. One could view the Cannabis Cup as a scene of excess and debauchery, but so is Carnival or other joyous celebrations, to some extent. For Kiana and me, it was a deeper dive into the culture and it’s inhabitants. I have inhabited the culture to varying degrees since the 15 year old boy who dreamed of sampling the buds strewn across the pages of High Times; for her, it was her first time in the pool and the water was just right. We left the Cup soaked in euphoria, smiles, and maybe just a touch too much sun for my fair skin, but again, c’est la vie.
We also left with some amazing herb to enjoy at home; herb that served as a reminder of the memories of the weekend, our reinvigorated or newfound love, and a new understanding of cannabis, its culture, and where we fit in. We left any lingering shame or sheepishness about cannabis usage at the cup; hell, we rolled it into a joint and smoked it. I no longer pay any mind to terms like pothead or stoner; they’re mere pejoratives that lack context and substance. Cannabis use doesn’t dictate who you are as a person, nor does it dictate your ability to be successful. Kiana and I left the Cup proud to call ourselves cannabis connoisseurs and lovers of the plant. We were so inspired by the cultivators and manipulators (hash-makers) of this amazing plant, we are now seeking to forge out our own path in the culture and to carry with us the aura of the weekend: to be fearless in our love of anything, be it cannabis, writing, film, music, or one another. To live life with love in our hearts and smiles on our faces. That’s what going to this year’s Cannabis Cup was like.
We’ll see you there next year!