Pubdate: Thu, 23 Apr 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


There was plenty of weed at the Cannabis Cup celebration last weekend 
in Denver. Billed as the biggest marijuana party in the world, the 
Cup is a three-day psychedelic mash-up of counter culture, high 
technology and entrepreneurship, equal parts Woodstock, SXSW, 
Comic-Con and Gold Rush.

After the state Marijuana Enforcement Division announced a couple 
days before the event that businesses with Colorado licenses wouldn't 
be allowed to offer free samples, I wondered what the effect might be 
on the party, since freebies are at least part of the reason more 
than 40,000 people, many from out of state, are willing to pay $40 a 
day for tickets and wait for more than an hour just to get in the place.

The freebie ban didn't apply to out-of-state businesses, so the dab 
and shatter booths immediately attracted long lines. There was no 
shortage of product and sharing was common. I attended the trade 
show; elsewhere, there were concerts, 4/20 celebrations, plant and 
strain competitions and shuttles to take you where you needed to go.

I hadn't been in the building more than 10 minutes before I found 
myself staring into the familiar countenance of Keith Stroup, the 
founder of NORML and one of the most recognizable voices for 
marijuana reform in the U.S. over the last decades. Stroup was one of 
those people in the 1970s publicly questioning the "facts" as 
presented in the wake of the Controlled Substances Act. The Justice 
Department, for instance, was telling us that cannabis use made 
people apathetic, unable to concentrate or work, unreliable and 
stupid. My experience being completely the opposite, watching people 
like Stroup ask the questions I was seeking answers to was important 
to helping me begin to understand the travesty that comprises the War on Drugs.

Surprised, the first thing I could blurt out was, "Did you ever 
actually believe that you would be standing at something called the 
Cannabis Cup in a state where marijuana is legal in your lifetime?" 
He smiled and allowed that he did, but wasn't sure he would live long 
enough to see it.

We talked a bit about the growing acceptance and continued stigma of 
marijuana today. "There are now a majority of people in the United 
States who support marijuana legalization," he said. "But many of 
them have a bad opinion of pot smokers themselves. I couldn't believe 
the large numbers of people who have a negative impression of people like us."

I thought about that the rest of the time I was at the Cup, which in 
itself encapsulates the dichotomy of the marijuana movement in loud, 
bright colors and bold strokes. Tens of thousands of attendees of 
every age, stripe and color, almost every one of them smoking joints 
or vaping, strolled past hundreds of display booths for products and 
services like Bong Beauties, Magical Butter Bus, Dope Ass Glass, Rare 
Dankness, Scapegoat Genetics, Gorilla Extracts, Super Smacked, 
Freakies Smokeshop, Vape Genies, Med Max Nutrients, Ganja Gold, 
Smoked Out Clothing, Weed Wipes, Fryed and Dyed and Get Shnockered. 
There were booths of growers, investors, CO2 extractors, herbalists, 
arborists, mechanical trimmers, plant systems, branding companies, 
bakers, health products, ointments, lotions, salves, cleaning 
products, genetics, clothing, social media sites, magazines, even a 
company offering canine protection.

Every aspect of cannabis culture was on display. Some of the 
products, like stylish bags and clothes made from hemp, wouldn't look 
out of place in any high-end tourist outlet. Still, the ambience 
reeked of the counter culture from whence NORML and the legalization 
movement came. Watching Cup antics on television news probably won't 
do much to convince the more than 40 percent of Americans who still 
oppose legalization to change their minds about marijuana users.

There are plenty of people, myself included, who would like to see 
the image people have of marijuana users move beyond Cheech and Chong 
comedy sketches, stoner movies and dumbed-down TV characters. The 
National Cannabis Industry Association, which is lobbying Congress on 
medical marijuana and banking bills in committee, last month fired 
Tommy Chong as a celebrity activist for this very reason.

But in the long run, as we have with alcohol, we'll have to get used 
to the extremes. Events like last year's Classically Cannabis series, 
which paired marijuana with chamber music, certainly helped people 
see this drug, and its users, in a different light. The Drug Policy 
Alliance recently released a series of photos through a Creative 
Commons license that depicts people using cannabis in their homes. 
Attractive displays of marijuana merchandise - potholders, mugs, 
cookbooks, flasks, tote bags, coasters and Blundt Cakes - are now 
requisite in every store on the Pearl Street Mall right alongside the 
CU and state logo merch.

The Boulder campus was open Monday on April 20 for the first time in 
three years, and more than 125,000 people attended the Cup and other 
4/20 events. Denver police issued 160 pot-related tickets over the 
weekend, mostly for public-consumption violations.

But perhaps the most positive sign of change came on Sunday night, 
when  DenverPolice tweeted this message about the coming 4/20 
celebration: "We see you rollin, but we ain't hatin' HAHA... 
Seriously though, #Denver, please remember to #ConsumeResponsibly 
this 4/20 weekend."

The reference is to a song by rapper Chamillionaire. But what came 
through was the attitude: Friendly, not confrontational. And that 
pretty much defines the weekend of the biggest marijuana party in the 
world 2015.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom