Two Days of WOW The Cup, the cup, the cup, the cup, the cup!!! What do you mean “The Cup”? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the question posed, except by maybe a handful of people, but, most people in the movement know what the words, “The Cup” signify "The best of the best of the best, Sir”... and only the best will even attempt to compete for a coveted “High Times Cannabis Cup”.

The competition is very rigorous, and the judges (secretly hand selected by our good friends at High Times) understand the quality of the various categories: both medical and non-medical; Indicas, Sativas, hybrids, edibles, extracts, etc., and are very rigid in the use of that knowledge to determine the top three outstanding entrants in each category.

When I first received word that NORML of Waco Inc. was granted a booth at the “2014 High Times Denver Cannabis Cup” the feeling was surreal. That feeling soon turned from one of excitement to ‘holy crap’ we have a booth at “The Cup”, and a lot for which to prepare. It’s more than being at one of the largest cannabis industry’s parties in the world, one begins to absorb quickly that you’re going to have a booth at one of the largest cannabis industry’s parties in the world and you’d better bring your A-game.

Then came the evening I received the email with a detailed map of the complex and our location, booth 2039. I scanned the map to discover a major score, our location; we were located inside the pavilion, next to the exit leading into the “recreational activities area”. It was everything I could do to keep a modicum of self-control and keep from jumping up and down (doing a Tom Cruise on the sofa) and with a primal scream disturbing the neighbors watching their evening news. This, to me, was the news of the week, and now nothing less than an “A-game" would suffice.

Over the next few weeks, new banners were ordered.(thanks for the rush job Stevan Hass), merchandise inventoried, reordered, and packed. Copies of IRS and Secretary of State registrations were obtained just in case of becoming detained, one never knows what an officer of the law might assume when traveling with various denominations of bills, especially when a large percentage are tainted with the residue of some drug. And of course the travel plans, which changed three times, and accommodations were all secured. ( Hint: when staying with a group, secure a house. Prices, deposits, and amenities will vary, but it’s well worth it.) And yes some hotels and rentals are very 420 friendly and will allow cannabis consumption in the room or balcony, few allow cigarette smoking, if any. As always book early, one doesn’t want to find themselves traveling over an hour just to the event, especially if one is a vendor for such a large scale event.

As the weeks went by the intensity grew, I began to question if everything was going to run as smoothly as anticipated? Was everyone going to be able to be at such an event without being overwhelmed, or even worse? Of course the answer to that question was, “everything is gonna be fine.” The freedom one experiences in areas of Colorado can be to many, ineffable. The ability for anyone over the age of 21 to enter a legal cannabis retail store, check out the products, and make a legal purchase, can be as exciting as buying a new car, or as common as a local purchase of milk at the store. For most the experience is the ‘Kid in the candy store, drooling at the different flavors with a glare in their eyes'. But, coming from a state where a beautiful sack of buds can be a glorious sight to behold but can also interrupt one’s life for a few years, the overwhelming excitement is to be expected. So relax and try not to worry, the attendants at most recreational purchase dispensaries are very familiar with the expressions of the joy and excitement of one’s first legal cannabis purchase.

Okay, the trip I didn't cherish. 14 hours one way in an huge pickup truck, with only stops for food, gas, and the occasional need, isn't the most enjoyable way to travel to any destination. But, with the merchandise, and our 3rd option, the truck, it was the only way to guarantee an on time arrival in Denver. (Another Hint: When traveling in a vehicle which has a rating of 15 MPG, plot an expeditious course containing a variety of gasoline stations. The gas flow, can eat your cash flow.)

After about 10 hours of crossing Texas and the northern part of New Mexico, we turned up I-25 and crossed the border into Colorado. A sense of calm, along with exhaustion, gave me a peaceful feeling that life had just gotten better and the word "paranoid" could be temporarily deleted from my vocabulary, we were now in Colorado. The sun was just beginning to paint it's morning pattern over the sky, the outlines of mountains began to emerge from the darkness, and although weary from the journey the phrase, "All is right with the world", filled my thoughts.

Our group’s house, which could accommodate up to 16 guest, was only 15 minutes from the venue, and 5 minutes from the closest recreational purchase store, was a plus, especially after such a long, seemingly endless trip. Not all dispensaries are recreational, a quick check of their site, or an app. will help. It’s always the little things which can help make one’s trip as hassle free as possible. Of course nothing always goes as planned. Our specific setup time, 7pm Friday, was moved due to the delayed departure of a three day glass and industry convention. So after waiting and checking in with the people at High Times, receiving our badges and asked to setup at 8am on Saturday, we were off to grab a bite and try to get in a few sales. (BIG HINT: Check the times on dispensary closing, nothing more deflating than pulling up to an empty parking lot and locked doors.) Luckily one of the members of our group had to pick up another from the airport and made some stops along the way, saving the evening. I do believe the weariness of travel, waiting, and the legal use had everyone relaxed for the evening. Sleeping was going to be a breeze.

At 6am, April 19th, I awoke to my phone telling me that it was time to wake and bake. One has to love a smart-phone. After the short night and a little dab head, I began to slowly get my bearings and realized that there wasn't time to waste. I intermittently began to hear the sounds of others moving about the house and readied myself for the first part of the morning, getting to the venue and setting up our booth.

After about two hours of checking in, unloading, and setting up, Rick Cusick came and asked if he could use a table. What are you going to say, "No.."? We had brought a folding table just in case, and in case happened. ( HINT: prep for any situation.) The other vendors were working as quickly as possible to have everything ready for the magnitude of people whose numbers would nearly double last year's event.

After the initial phase we had a couple of hours to ready ourselves for the first day of the "Cup", and one of our people volunteered to stay behind as oversee the booth with our promise to return as quickly as possible. (HINT :calculate for event traffic, enough said.)

The lines of cars waiting for entry into the parking lot, some over five miles from the venue, and the people in a zigzag line (pun intended), extending around the building, with over an hour before the doors opened. I don't need to give you a hint to be early, very early.

As day one began about 20-40 thousand people from across the globe emerged into the indoor/outdoor 2014 High Times US Cannabis Cup in Denver during this momentous 4/20 weekend.

The excitement rose to a level of pure exhilaration. The cornucopia of humanity flowed through the myriad of vendors just as eclectic as the attendees. Everyone eager to discuss the latest in education, entertainment, and cannabis and hemp products. Everything from extract makers, breeders, musicians, non-profit organizations, glass blowers, seed companies, clothing, and the ever important recreational activities area, where lounges, booths, and samples for your relaxation were provided, and all on display, eager for the contact.

The sights, sounds, and the familiar aromatic smells of the 2013 Cup were beginning to return. Stronger this year, I believe mostly in part to the prominence of the legal recreational vendors, which were very refreshing after a couple of interviews, a few dozen impromptu hellos, being caught outside in a downpour at 4:20, and a few hours of working the booth. Everyone must contribute some of their time at the table to ensure an enjoyable and successful experience for the entire team. As the first day came to a close and the feeling of relief washed over me, I was now on a mission to find food and enjoyment, both were accomplished successfully making the evening very pleasant.

Day two, April 20th, was the day of days. The crowd seemed to increase by the hour as people were elbow to elbow, the lines to check out the latest smoking products, dabs or bowls of flowers were expanding exponentially, especially at the magical hour on this very important day, 4:20 on 4/20 !!!

The movers and shakers in the cannabis movement were around every corner, some for business, and all for fun. Danny Danko, Mike Hyde, Russ Belville, Henry Rollins, Bobby Black, Keith Stroup, Irv Rosenthal, Ponyboy of Los Marijuanos, Diane Fornbacher, and Allen St Pierre were amongst the familiar faces in the crowd of cannabis activists. Of course, the people from Texas made it a point to stop by the booth and say “Howdy”. Actually during the trip we observed more Texas license plates on vehicles than any other state, save Colorado. What does that tell you?

Day two sadly came to close, the winners announced, the thinning of the crowd began, and so the 2014 High Times Denver Cup had disappeared in a wisp of smoke with the lingering smell of cannabis still clinging in the air. As we packed out our gear, worked our way through traffic, the invitations to the numerous parties flowed in, constant throughout the weekend, and became very tempting, but two full days at a cup can wear on the youngest of attendees, so we decided to safely party at our abode.

The next morning, as I prepared myself for the arduous trip back to Texas as I couldn’t help but wonder, not only about Denver 2015, but why couldn’t this feeling of personal freedom I felt during my experience be felt everywhere, by everyone? Hint: Get involved, participate, know your representatives, and vote effectively… It will happen! ~