High Times’ pot mega-fest returns to Sonoma County
Wine Country is set to get a bit more fragrant this weekend.
The world’s most high-profile weed magazine returns to Northern California and the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa on Saturday-Sunday, June 3-4, for the High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup, NorCal, which celebrates the people, products and culture that pushed cannabis to new heights of popularity and political acceptance.
Reggae stalwarts the Wailers and rockers 311 anchor the musical offerings at the event, which expects to attract 25,000 marijuana aficionados. The two-day celebration culminates with an awards ceremony Sunday for the best marijuana, hash and infused food in California. More than 400 companies have entered the judged competition, including CookiesSF of San Francisco and Greenwolf of Los Angeles.
This year’s NorCal cup will also feature curated edibles pairings, cooking demos, a cannabis-infused massage spa and a career fair, along with standard offerings like expert seminars, an expo and, of course, a large, fragrant smoking area for qualified medical patients.
Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older, and 39 states have some form of medical pot law. High Times magazine has championed those efforts for decades, and the brand is synonymous with throwing awesome parties, said High Times culture editor Mary Jane Gibson.
“Cup events are expanding in scope as more and more cannabis brands join in creating the biggest celebration of cannabis anywhere,” Gibson said.
The NorCal cup is a 7-year-old offshoot of the brand’s late and fabled Amsterdam Cannabis Cup that ruled pot events for 24 years beginning in 1987. High Times stages similar events in Southern California, Las Vegas, Michigan and Rhode Island, and the Cannabis Cup events series is known as “the biggest weed party in the world,” Gibson said.
Still, not everyone has been in a party mood.
A 2015 event scheduled in Kings County was canceled when officials in Lemoore rejected High Times’ permit request. Last year, federal officials threatened to shut down a Las Vegas-area Cup if promoters allowed cannabis smoking at the venue, which was on an Indian reservation.
And the NorCal cup is only now returning to Sonoma County after a 2014 party that “left the facility fairly messy” resulted in a two-year exile from the facilities, said Becky Bartling, chief operating officer of the Sonoma County Events Center, which manages the fairgrounds. With a beefed-up events staff and sanitation plan, the Sonoma fairgrounds has finally welcomed back the event.
“These events are coming out of the shadows and becoming more mainstream,” Bartling said. “With that you’re seeing the event become more professional in its production.”
Bartling added that cannabis events like the High Times NorCal cup and the much larger, locally produced Emerald Cup in December are good fits for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, located just south of America’s pot-growing heartland in Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties.
“The geographic location works well. The industry in this area is growing and booming, and that just makes it a prime location,” she said.
Cannabis Cups are also a great platform for budding businesses.
“Winning the High Times Cannabis Cup for best edible in 2014 was both an honor and a dream come true,” said Kim Geraghty, founder of San Francisco medical cannabis cookie-maker Madame Munchie. “At the time, we had no clients as we had just released our first product, and this helped in many ways.”
This year’s cup will honor California pot grower Eddy Lepp, who served eight years in federal prison for growing more than 40,000 cannabis plants on a 20-acre Lake County medical operation called Eddy Lepp’s Healing Fields, which was listed among High Times’ “Greatest Marijuana Gardens of All Time” in 2014.
“It’s an honor to be in the same boat as Mr. (Bob) Marley, Willie Nelson and Tommy Chong,” Lepp said, noting past recipients of the award. “I’m deeply humbled . ... I never set out in the beginning to be famous or get rich. That was never my motivation.”