The High Times Cannabis Cup, the premium cannabis celebration that has taken place in Denver over April 20th weekend for the last three years, will be moving to California after county organizers denied a permit for the event. Since Colorado legalized the sale and personal consumption of marijuana for all adults over 21, the Cannabis Cup has been one of the biggest marijuana events in the country thanks to the wealth of local businesses that would not only benefit from marketing to the large crowd, but could also legally provide goodies for the thousands of people that came into Denver for the festivities.
High Times holds many “medical” Cups around the country in states where medical marijuana is legal as a way to celebrate and support the local medical growers and businesses in places like California, Michigan, and Washington. When it was first announced that the 2013 recreational event would move from its long-standing home in Amsterdam, NL to Denver, it was a huge victory for the scores of cannabis fans that could now experience a massive marijuana trade show and sample giveaway without the time and expense of a trans-Atlantic flight.
I personally attended the first “open” Cup in 2013, which was in fact a segregated event that had separate areas for medical and recreational. As a Colorado medical marijuana card holder, I was able to reap the borderline-over-the-top amount of free samples handed out to a reasonable group of patients and had a great time. Recreational attendees, many of whom traveled from far outside of Colorado, most certainly had a different experience; long lines for a small amount of samples, hours-long wait just to get in, and poor crowd control in the recreational area left many cold. The 2014 moved from the original smaller venue to the Denver Merchandise Mart, whose larger area and non-segregated events allowed for a better experience for everyone. Last year’s Cup in Denver drew over 35,000 visitors a day to the Denver Merchandise Mart, but new rules meant that vendors were not allowed to openly give out bong rips and edibles; this didn’t stop people from doing it anyway, but the harsher oversight certainly put a damper on the festivities.
That’s why it’s not too surprising that the event was denied a permit in Denver this year, and that further efforts to move it to Pueblo in southern Colorado were also unsuccessful. This follows a pattern of Colorado state officials not being on board with marijuana legalization, despite the public voting for recreational sales and continually supporting the thriving cannabis industry in Colorado. It’s understandable that officials would be wary of thousands of tourists partaking in excess, and I can say firsthand that past years have seen several people needing medical attention after too many strong dabs. But it’s hard not to think of the economic benefit of thousands of people coming into the state for a unique event that will now bring those tourists to the new location in San Bernardino, California.
The bottom line is that the officials in the state of Colorado should really make a choice about how to handle recreational marijuana and cannabis events moving forward. The overwhelming success of both the Cup event and the industry as a whole in the first few years is impossible to deny, so efforts could be much better spent creating a safe and effective framework for businesses and consumers to operate in instead of blocking responsible expansion at every turn.