High Times is bringing its Cannabis Cup competition for recreational marijuana to Denver April 20-21, the first time the event has been held in the United States. For the past 25 years, it’s taken place in pot-friendly Amsterdam, where coffee shop owners and seed manufacturers compete for the title of Best Bud in The Netherlands.
But Colorado is now more liberal about marijuana than even Amsterdam — where it’s illegal to grow pot in the Netherlands, it’s a constitutional right in Colorado. With the passage of Amendment 64 in November, adults 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of pot, grow a limited number of plants and smoke weed with virtual impunity, as long as it’s in private.
Although a system for buying and selling recreational marijuana is still being worked out by a special task force that will offer recommendations to lawmakers next month, a smattering of bring-your-own pot clubs have sprouted up around the state.
But since there are no legally recognized recreational growers yet, strains entered in the Cannabis Cup will come from Colorado’s robust medical marijuana industry, said Bobby Black, a senior editor at High Times.
“Being that there isn’t really a system in place yet for sales, we’re sticking with the models that work,” he said.
High Times has run a medical-strain competition here for the past three years. The only real difference for this year’s event is that anyone 21 and older can attend and smoke. Previously, only qualified medical patients could sample the entries.
The Cannabis Cup will be held on April 20, the day in which tokers the world over light up in solidarity at 4:20 p.m. In Colorado and Washington, this year’s gatherings are more likely to celebrate their historic laws, even though in both states, 4/20’s entire point — smoking in public — remains illegal.
Black said that despite the date, there will be no public marijuana consumption at the Cannabis Cup, which is being held at a private club in Denver, with a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. High Times wants to follow the letter of the state law, he said, even if possessing marijuana in any amount for any reason is still illegal under federal law.
“Obviously this is new ground for all of us,” he said. “This whole situation is unprecedented, (but) I don’t foresee a problem. People have been smoking pot at concerts forever. I’m sure plenty of people have smoked weed at Red Rocks before.”
“Pot tourism” by out-of-state smokers is considered a mixed bag in Colorado. Some worry about the state’s reputation as the Amsterdam of the Rockies while others welcome both the influx of tourism dollars and the chance to set an example of adult marijuana use that could be used as a model for other states considering legalization. The Cannabis Cup is likely to be first opportunity to evaluate the impact of out-of-state pot tourists.
“We’ve done pretty well in Denver the past several years,” Black said, estimating that 4,000 to 5,000 people attend the medical cannabis cups. “But we’re expecting it to be a lot bigger. The ability for people now to come from out of state and enjoy a smoke without needing a (medical marijuana) card opens the floodgates for more attendees. We hope it will really blow up and be the start of something really big.
“We think that people will see that these events are not going to harm anybody and that allowing legal smoking for adults is not going to unravel the fabric of their society,” he said.
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