"Actually, this seven days of non-stop toking at coffeeshops is pretty lame by comparison to what a good world-wide convention in a jurisdiction that allows civilization could be.
The Cannabis Cup itself was ineptly run - but everyone had fun nonetheless..."
Marc Emery, 1994
a brief history
The first Cannabis Cup took place in 1988, when Steve Hagar, editor of High Times, flew to Amsterdam with “Dr Indoors” and a photographer to judge the best seed companies. It remained essentially the same for the first three years. In 1991 the Cannabis Cup became a Coffeeshop Crawl, and in 1992 both coffeeshops and seed companies were mixed in the same competition. It was not until 1993 that the event was opened to the public, and fifty people took part in the Cannabis Cup judging that year. 1994 saw the event dramatically increase in size and scope, with 700 judges, a Hemp Expo, and a Hemp Fashion Show. This year’s Cup was the biggest ever, with over two thousand people attending from across North America.
Marc Emery, our publisher and fearless leader, attended the Cannabis Cup last year. He wrote an article about the event which appeared in the final issue of Marijuana & Hemp, the predecessor of this magazine. An excerpt of his sentiments can be found above. It’s safe to say Marc’s criticisms didn’t go over too well with Steve Hagar, and in fact they created a bit of a rift between them.
Although Marc didn’t attend this year, I couldn’t help comparing the Cannabis Cup that I saw with Marc’s description of last year’s event. Were his complaints valid? Well, sure, although Marc was probably being harsher than necessary. Was it ineptly run? I didn’t think so, although it could clearly have been much better organized.
The Pax Party House where the Hemp Expo and seminars were held was incredibly hot and crowded. The display tables were cramped together, forcing the interested to shove through a crowd in order to get a closer look. The seminar room was also overcrowded and thick with smoke. If you weren’t at the front then it was hard to see and hear the speakers.
As for the Cannabis Cup itself, most of the ceremonies were held in The Melkweg, a club with two stages. The main stage was dubbed the Cannabis Cathedral, and was presided over by one Garrick Beck (of Rainbow Gathering fame) decked out in a magician’s pointed cap and shimmering gown. He was assisted by the incarnation of Shiva, who spent his time traipsing around the stage in a kind of stoned delirium.
The actual opening ceremonies had the various coffee shop owners bringing out their finest herbs for public consumption, usually accompanied by a lot of lights and hype and beautiful women. Most of them wanted to toss their buds into the eager and salivating throng, but were restrained by the Wizard, who insisted that all offerings be gathered in the ceremonial bowl. Whenever the bowl was full its contents were distributed into smaller bowls, which were then carried into the crowd by scantily clad maidens.
I’m not sure if this distribution technique was necessarily better than just tossing the weed out into the crowd. Although it divided the rioting into smaller, more managable groups, the half-naked girls who brought the large bowls of free marijuana into the grasping multitudes looked just a little bit terrified.
vive la difference
While I was watching the girls dancing on stage with Shiva cavorting among them, I realized why Marc Emery’s criticisms of the Cannabis Cup weren’t really fair. He wanted a conference, and he got a party. True, there was the Hemp Expo and the seminars in the Pax Party House, but the Cannabis Cup began as a party, and so it remains.
I think that Marc would have enjoyed the Drug Policy Foundation conference in Santa Monica this year. There were no dancing girls, no free pot. Instead there were many people in suits, talking and networking, making presentations, giving awards, and exchanging business cards.
The DPF conference probably accomplished more in terms of organization and networking within the anti-prohibitionist movement, but the Cannabis Cup got more media attention, and it was certainly more fun.
the thrill is gone
Maybe we’re just jaded in Vancouver. I think that for many of those that attended the Cup, this was their first taste of freedom. Many had never before smoked a joint in public, and the experience of being able to sit in a public place and casually have a spliff must have been an incredible experience for them. I’ve had the opportunity to smoke pot in a number of different restaurants in Vancouver, and although I always enjoy it, the special thrill has been diminished by experience.
the sad museum
The most disappointing part of my Amsterdam experience was the Hash Marijuana Hemp Museum. Perhaps the full page ads in High Times made me expect something incredible, but I was not impressed at all. I thought that their displays were pathetic and severely lacking in anything interesting. There was only a few exhibits and they did not appear to have been well maintained. Their activist resource list was out of date and did not include Hemp BC, Cannabis Canada, and many other worthwhile organizations. I’m afraid the Museum gets a big thumbs down.
the cannabis castle
My favourite part of the whole Cup was the Cannabis Castle, owned by Ben Dronkers of the Sensi Seed Bank. Buses ran from the Pax Party House to the Castle twice a day, but the cost for the tour was two hundred American dollars. I attended the VIP party on the last night, having managed to talk myself into one of a very small number of seats remaining on the only bus.
Since the Cannabis Castle was essentially an orgy of food, herb and scantily clad women, it might seem ironic for me to praise it as my favourite part of the tour after my previous comments. However, when I partied at the Pax Party House I felt somewhat guilty, as if I should be conferencing. At the Cannabis Castle I just wanted to party, and they made it very easy to do so.
Downstairs were the grow rooms, where party-goers could go in small groups and observe the plants at various stages of development. Some of the grow rooms had beautiful women, wearing lace and little else, dancing and undulating among the plants. One room had a television running soft porn films, surrounded by beautiful budding plants.
The main floor had a banquet table full of food (a fair amount of it vegetarian), a minstrel who could simultaneously play a flute out of each nostril, and more beautiful scantily clad women who brought marijuana and drinks and removed empty plates and glasses. Upstairs Eagle Bill had his vapourizer running full tilt, insisting that anyone who take a hit be seated so they didn’t fall over.
quality of smoke
This brings me to what is supposed to be the focus of the Cannabis Cup: Who had the best buds? Well, I voted for Darren’s BC buds, even though I never got to smoke any. He’s the first to admit that the vote isn’t just about quality. He took third place because, as he put it, “The fact that someone had the courage to pledge their own name and risk the penalties of international smuggling touched people.”
I could be biased, but the best pot I smoked was the stuff I had the night I got home. BC buds are the best. The Dutch herb was uniformly good, although I found that some of it didn’t burn too well. Dr Sumach has suggested that this is because of unmetabolized fertilizer salts.
It wasn’t as cheap as you might expect either, coming in between $5 and $12 a gram at most coffeeshops. Like many others there, I enjoyed smoking the hash, which is something that we don’t get to see much of here in Vancouver.
I’m curious to see what happens to the Cannabis Cup in the years to come. Will it remain a quest for the best buds, or will the 50,000 uses for hemp grow to overshadow the flowering tops?
With so many new hemp businesses and marijuana lobby groups forming everywhere in the world, one thing is for certain. The Cannabis Cup is going to be bigger than ever next year, and High Times is going to have a heck of a time trying to keep the whole thing together. We’ll have to wait and see if they manage to pull off the same miraculous blend of order and chaos, wisdom and wildness, dignity and depravity.
Who knows? Maybe we can hold it in Vancouver.