Pubdate: Mon, 16 May 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Scott Jensen


The second Northwest Cannabis Classic trade show at the Dena'ina 
Civic and Convention Center over the weekend had plenty of free 
giveaways, including marijuana leaf stickers and lighters. A few 
exhibitor booths even had edibles such as candies and cookies.

But they wouldn't get you high.

"These aren't infused," said Martin Christensen of the Oracle Cookie 
Company, pointing at the elaborately flavored cookies he had laid out 
for convention attendees to try. "The cops actually came over and 
asked me, 'Are these infused?' "

Anchorage Police Department Sgt. Josh Nolder and two other officers 
walked the convention floor to make sure pot wasn't being consumed, 
bought or sold.

"We're also here to make sure that no free samples are being given 
out," he said, adding later that "the majority of people who came 
here, came to get free marijuana."

Although Alaska law allows possessing and gifting up to 1 ounce of 
marijuana, a resolution passed by the Anchorage Assembly in advance 
of last year's convention prohibits pot giveaways inside municipal 
buildings during trade shows. It is a decision that Northwest 
Cannabis Classic organizer Cory Wray disputes, saying people coming 
to a marijuana convention want to sample marijuana products.

So Wray made it happen. The exhibitors who rented spaces to sell grow 
lights, pipes and their ideas weren't allowed to provide samples of 
cannabis to attendees, but most of the 100 people who paid Northwest 
Cannabis Classic $299 to become convention VIPs received cannabis 
inside their swag bags. The regular day and weekend entrance fees 
ranged from $35 to $60.

"It's worth it," said Mary Cathey, pulling two small packages of 
marijuana from her VIP bag on Saturday. She eagerly paid the fee, not 
just for the pot but for other benefits, such as exclusive breakfasts 
and dinners, preferred show seating, special access to exhibitors and 
a pass to the convention after party held at Pot Luck Events, a 
marijuana social club in downtown Anchorage.

Wray contends, "VIPs are not paying for a little bag. They're paying 
for all the other events."

The pot samples didn't sit well with conference-goer Charles Simon, 
who didn't pay for the VIP package.

"I was told on the phone that there'd be samples, so that is why I 
came," he said. "So whoever got a VIP bag, got a free sample of hemp 
and nobody else can get any samples. That makes it unfair to the 
crowd. That's what's got me miffed."

"They can't do that," said Steve Medina, the Dena'ina Center 
operations manager. "We heard they were handing out VIP bags, but I 
don't know what is in them."

Medina said the contract the Dena'ina Center has with Northwest 
Cannabis Classic spelled out the rules according the Assembly's 2015 
resolution. "It's the same as last year. Nothing's changed."

"This is not our first rodeo. We did this last year," Wray said.

Despite last year's precedent, Medina said he put a stop to this 
year's VIP samples. By mid-afternoon Saturday, he said he instructed 
convention workers to remove the pot from the bags. But by that time, 
many of them had already been given out.

"They're pushing the envelope," Medina said of the cannabis group. 
"They'll do what they can until they get caught."

"If Dena'ina wants to sue me because I broke their contract, then 
that's up to Dena'ina," Wray said.

He insisted that state law should prevail. "People have civil 
liberties. And one of those liberties that the voters of Alaska have 
approved was Ballot Measure 2, which gives people the right to 
possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and give it away."

And then he questioned the convention entirely: "Am I happy that 
there's police walking around in there creating tension and making 
people feel uncomfortable? Absolutely not. Will we come back? 
Probably not. Will any show come back? Probably not."

Charles Simon came back, walking in through Dena'ina's front door 
with a satisfied smile on his face.

"Sadly, I had to go home to truly enjoy this experience," he said with a laugh.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom