Thousands of California medical cannabis patients and supporters are snatching up tickets online this week for the third annual "San Francisco" High Times Medical Cannabis Cup on June 23-24 in Richmond. The 38-year-old weed-culture publication is bringing its 25-year-old Cannabis Cup from Amsterdam to the Bay Area for the third time in as many years as part of its new, Medical Cannabis Cup circuit, which now includes annual events in Los Angeles, Denver, and Detroit. The Bay Area's third Cup also includes a number of positive developments amid a tumultuous summer for Cali weed.
First off, the 2012 Cup will be held in Richmond, as opposed to San Francisco. The weed expo/contest/concert is happening at The Craneway Pavilion — a huge refurbished factory on the waterfront with soaring ceilings, tons of natural light, and ample parking, plus shuttle service from Richmond BART. "It's beautiful," said High Times senior editor David Bienenstock. Richmond "has been very welcoming to us for this event. When people come, they will see a world-class venue that reflects well on our movement."
Secondly, the Cup is outdoing itself with its music headliner this year: the legendary Richmond rapper Del the Funky Homosapien. Del helms a Saturday night of live music at the Craneway, and, unlike years past, each Cup ticket also includes concert access. "It's amazing we have such a huge local act and someone who's certainly been a friend of High Times, and a friend of the community for a long time, as well as a great musician," Bienenstock said.
Thirdly, the event has grown into an essential industry meet-and-greet. Dozens of dispensaries, seed breeders, hemp-product makers, and activist groups will staff booths for a Cup Expo all day Saturday and Sunday. Panelists include expert High Times grower/writers Nico Escondido and Danny Danko. "It has that summer-camp feeling; I can count on a lot of my medical cannabis friends to be in town," Bienenstock said. "And it's an important time to bring this community together."
Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee will receive a lifetime achievement award for his work at the five-year-old cannabis college and on regulations in Oakland. In 2010, Lee personally bankrolled Proposition 19, which nearly legalized weed in California. Now, Lee faces the possibility of federal drug trafficking charges for operating his city-permitted medical marijuana dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky in Oakland. Federal agents raided Blue Sky, as well as Oaksterdam and several other of Lee's businesses in Oakland on April 2. Lee has since stepped down as chancellor of Oaksterdam to deal with any potential charges, and he has said others need to lead the legalization vanguard. "We know he's a young man to receive a lifetime achievement award, but it's a testament to how much he has achieved in his lifetime, particularly in the Bay Area," Bienenstock said. "He's certainly not somebody who seeks the spotlight, but we're delighted to be able to honor his work and also keep a light on his struggle."
Eight months into a coordinated campaign by US Attorneys to shut down lawful dispensaries in California, the Bay Area has lost Berkeley Patients Group's storefront, the Marin Alliance in Fairfax has closed, and a handful of San Francisco dispensaries have shuttered, including the Divinity Tree. Outside the Bay Area, local police are working with federal funds, equipment, and personnel to seize property and jail Californians operating lawfully under Prop 215.
These ardent drug warriors face unprecedented support for both medical marijuana and legal adult use of the psychoactive plant. Medical cannabis polls above 70 percent in California. A recent poll by Rasmussen, a conservative-leaning organization, pegged national support for selling pot at pharmacies at 58 percent. A Colorado adult-use initiative on the ballot this fall is polling at 61 percent. Oliver Stone is on the cover High Times this August puffing on perhaps the fattest joint a Hollywood A-lister has dared to smoke. It's a potent symbol of sinsemilla's new swagger.
"It's a bumpy road and my heart goes out to everybody who is experiencing difficulties, but the road we're on is leading to better things," Bienenstock said. "High Times' focus is on the culture and when we pull back, we're reaching a really important tipping point when it comes to people's views on marijuana."
From political primaries in Texas, to races for attorney general in Oregon in 2012 and in California in 2010, "politicians are starting to lose their jobs because of their lack of support for medical marijuana," Bienenstock said.
As California goes, so goes the country, many say. California grows the best weed in the world these days, Oliver Stone says in the August issue of High Times. Its finest cuts will be judged and awarded trophies in a Sunday afternoon, June 24 ceremony at the Cup, honoring the best sativas, indicas, hybrids, and highest cannabidiol strains.
Who will take the Bay's 2012 Cup? A NorCal Purple? Some OG Kush offshoot? An alien Haze? Bienenstock wouldn't speculate. "The field is so broad and diverse and of such high quality that making a prediction is just a fool's errand," he said. One thing's for certain, he added: "When it comes to cannabis, the Bay Area is second to none and the Bay is going to represent."