Pubdate: Fri, 04 May 2018
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Barbara Harvey


A cloud of smoke hung over Cal Expo Friday afternoon as thousands
gathered for the High Times Cannabis Cup, the first permitted event in
California to allow recreational use of marijuana.

Organizers expected upwards of 15,000 people over the course of the
two-day festival, which boasts musical performances from acclaimed
artists, including Lauryn Hill, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Rich The Kid,
Cypress Hill, Rick Ross and Ludacris.

The event was at risk of becoming a music-only festival until the
Sacramento City Council approved a license for on-site consumption and
sales in a 6-2 vote Tuesday. Weeks earlier, a similar High Times event
had its permit denied by the San Bernardino City Council just before
it was scheduled to take place.

At Cal Expo, crowds maneuvered their way through the rows of booths
Friday afternoon, sometimes stopping to take long drags from blunts or
sample products. In between puffs from a neatly-rolled joint, Brian
Johnson said he was grateful to the city for approving the license.

Help us deliver journalism that makes a difference in our

Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce.
If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today.

"I think it was really cool for the city of Sacramento to trust the
cannabis community to do something like this," Johnson said. "I think
we'll hold up our end and have a great event with no mishaps. We're
just out here having fun, trying to socialize and enjoy our products."

Other attendees, like medical marijuana user William Bennett, said
they simply came to learn more about the cannabis industry.

Bennett said he wanted tips for growing marijuana at home. Bennett,
who said he suffers from chronic pain caused by a back injury, began
using medical marijuana about five years ago as an alternative to
prescription opiate painkillers, which he said caused him unbearable
side effects. Bennett has since started to grow his own.

"I'm kind of on the fence with recreational, but in the long run, it's
better than people drinking and doing other things," Bennett said.
"You don't hear about people having big brawls and fights at (events
like this). Everyone's just sitting back."

Bennett's wife, Dianne Kirk-Bennett, said she was impressed with how
expansive and well-organized the event was.

"If this is your thing, this is the place to be," Kirk-Bennett

The event has approximately 280 vendors, selling marijuana-themed
apparel and art, vape pens, concentrates, topicals, edibles and a
variety of other cannabis products.

High Times Chief Revenue Officer Matt Stang said it felt "incredible"
to host the event, which he characterized as a watershed moment for
the industry.

"It gives me a feeling that we've really progressed as a country.
We've come to a point where we can have a peaceful gathering to
consume and purchase cannabis with a state sanction," Stang said. "The
ability to do this legally -- it's been a long fight. High Times has
been doing this for 44 years. We started as the voice of the
opposition, and now we've grown into the majority. "

Security was tight during for the strictly 21-and-up event. Unlike
most music festivals, no alcohol sales were allowed.

Joe Devlin, Sacramento's chief of cannabis policy, said the event
would generate more than $200,000 in tax revenue. Devlin said High
Times "has a distinguished track record of hosting safe, successful
and compliant cannabis events," noting that the company had developed
a "comprehensive security plan" that was approved by law enforcement
and had organized a ride share program for those attending the festival.

Stang said High Times had contracted with two separate security firms
to ensure no attendees purchased more than the legally-allowed amount
and to check for impaired drivers. Ticket buyers were given Uber and
Lyft codes at the time of purchase in order to minimize the risk of
attendees driving under the influence.

For those in the industry, the event served as a safe demonstration to
convince skeptics and state government officials.

"We want to make sure that people understand what a great, compliant,
adult-use event can be, because we want this to be the model for the
rest of the country," Stang said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt