Story and Photos by Sharon Letts
Along Point Richmond’s waterfront, doors down from stoney Emeryville and Berkeley, sits the historic Craneway Pavilion – former home to a Ford manufacturing plant turned arms maker during World War II, where the infamous “Rosie the Rivetera™” photo was taken.
The Pavilion is a tribute to glass, and apropos for a Cannabis Cup, with greenhouse-like windows streaming sunlight into the large hall overlooking San Francisco Bay.
Inside the Pavilion, High Times staffers sign-in attendees, handing out swag bags full of current issues of High Times Magazine, t-shirts, and other accoutrements of the trade.
Non-profits line up advocating for legalization. Ernst and passionate supporters hand out literature proving medical necessity, and pray for miracles, as legal collectives are raided and closed throughout the Golden State.
A large seating area and stage hosts discussion panels on the never ending legalities of Federal bullying versus State sanctioned laws to info hungry attendees. Topics throughout the two-day event include the changing landscape of medicating, with safety issues, cultivation, and an Edibles Panel delving into the burgeoning batch of producers and its own related health issues â€“ sugar consumption in general.
Beyond the lecture hall, tables of smoking implements, lights, containers, books, and other ancillary offerings of the industry are offered up alongside New Age sitting areas scattered throughout, with musicians gently beating Djembes on colorful rugs, while a seemingly Native American woman dances silently round dreamlike paintings.
â€œItâ€™s NORML to Smoke Pot!â€ is distributed on a lapel button by NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and High Timesâ€™ own Cannabis Cookbook declares on its handout, â€œâ€¦ recipes that will get you high.â€ Itâ€™s a guarantee.
Outside the words are put into action. With security standing by, itâ€™s a â€œchoose your weaponâ€ kind of atmosphere. Potheads of the Sixties smoke spiffs, munching on colorful and sugary edibles, next to twenty-something gangstas strutting bling with brand names on every stitch of clothing, lighting up what looks like laboratory paraphernalia with small butane torches.
It’s a definite contrast to the peeps inside begging for legal mercy. Makes you wonder if the party outside hinders the steps forward inside?
And, where is the beloved bud everyone is fighting for?
In the ever changing world of Cannabis culture, the big, green, sticky bud, oozing with personality and goodness, trimmed to perfection, may be a thing of the past. Or, it may be left to connoisseurs of Cannabis, as with fine wines – with only the highly discriminate partaking of its nuances.
But, this is a High Times event and getting high is its mission, with no apologies.Â Itâ€™s no secret and no shame. One manâ€™s t-shirt declares, â€œGod made weed, Man made beer. In God we trust.â€
The debate over meds vs. recreation, or alcohol over Cannabis can be ended from any barstool in the country. Or, better yet, ask any bartender, emergency room physician, or mortician, and he or she will tell you â€“ the stonerâ€™s argument wins every time, legal or not.
Why? Because according to Drug-Rehab.org half of all deaths, including crimes, murders, accidental deaths, suicides, drowning, boating, aviation, and fatal automobile accidents are caused by alcohol consumption. Add that to fifty percent of all deaths in the U.S. related to brain damage, cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis of the liver caused by the wicked brew, then compare that to zero stats on Cannabis disease (let alone deaths) and you have a good reason for High Times â€“ pun intended.
In its short life on U.S. soil, the High Times “Medical” Cup is allowed to proceed under a warm and fuzzy medical blanket, yet a large percent of the outdoor â€œmedicating areaâ€ is seemingly Stonerville, celebrating all things High Times, bent, not on the historically coveted bud, but the strong, penetrating rushes of the dab.
The bud is still there, tucked in between high-tech lounges with corporate sponsors and DJs spinning, while scantily clad women bring out trays of freshly baked, medicated hot cinnamon rolls, as patients roll by in wheelchairs.
The sweets are as sexed-up as the dabs, provided by bud-tenders of the past â€“ the new alchemy of Cannabis, with smoking implements looking more like hardware in a lab than pipes.
Some booths offered up buds and seeds, while others sold concentrates. Harborside Health Center bypassed the dab for a hash bar, with health professionals sharing healing sprays and salves for people in pain.
Growers are still hybridizing and submitting bud for competition, and the bud is still good, itâ€™s just that the trim seems to be more coveted for dabs, butane torches are required, and women with large breasts are still wanted â€“ they just donâ€™t really need that cola in their cleavage any longer… they just need to stand there, literally, holding a dabbing stick.
This 70s throw-back witnessed no camaraderie in a dabbing circle, because there is none. No â€œpuff, puff, passâ€ with dabbing. The new solo-high is done alone, like so many social networking sites – with higher times the common goal, and 20 second attention spans looking for instant gratification, and a big, fat rush.
And so sits the dichotomy of the culture of Cannabis. I can almost hear the now departed Rodney King, begging, â€œCanâ€™t we all just get along?â€ I knowâ€¦ let the hippies of the past grow bud for the future â€“ outdoor, in the sun â€“ all sticky and green. Let them sit around their smoking circles with talk of changing the world. And let the hipster of the future use the trim as they wish. Waste not, want not. Have and have not – legal or not. In sickness and in health, for High Times, por vida.
Sharon Letts is a writer based out of Humboldt County, originally from Redondo Beach in Southern California. Craig Carroll is a retired high school English teacher hailing from Laguna Hills/Mission Viejo. Together they pen “Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine,” in online zine Toke of the Town, as well as covering Cannabis fests for national and International Cannabis magazines.
By: Craig Carroll
In the medicating area, it was all about the â€œdabsâ€ – that golden goo for connoisseurs of drooling oblivion. High octane THC extract packaged in what looks like gobs of Shrek like ear wax, purified into potent amber ambrosia, set to take your mind and body on an instant roller coaster rushâ€¦ welcome to Canna-heaven!
It saturated The Cup. Some booths asked for $5 donations to blast you into orbit, but most set us up for free. Step right upâ€¦ they heat the metal bowl with a butane torch, drop in a little dab, and take a deep inhale. It was like being shot out of a cannon, a rocket ship jettisoned to planet High, like twenty choice bong loads distilled down into one overwhelming and yummy blast…! The rush was knee warbling, and deliciously tasty. My buddy and I hit the dabs hard right from the start, making the rest of the day, well… a bit challenging.
â€œDoing dabsâ€ refers to a now commonality on the West Coast, gaining popularity in the east. It is a colloquial term for smoking Cannabis concentrates, called hash, hash or honey oil, wax, ear wax, amber glass, and budders, to name the most common. While high THC Cannabis topping past 20 percent is considered strong, concentrates can be above 70 percent in potency.
Concentrates are made primarily by using butane to extract the resin from the Cannabis in a process from those reminiscent of backyard chemistry to higher tech labs. In the end, the now purer and highly potent THC is collected into a thick oil, or a more solid matter closely resembling ear wax, hence, its name. Refine it further and it takes on a beautiful clear amber glass appearance.
Smoking concentrates is a cross between juggling glass, fire, and a gooey substance ready to erupt into a monstrous cloud of THC aimed directly at your brain.Â A glass herb bong is modified to accept the direct flame of a butane torch on an attached dime size swinging metal plate, or bowl, heating it enough so that when the dab is put directly on the metal it combusts into a cloud of smoke. The partaker has to time their inhalation to precisely catch the wafting smoke through the glass pipe.
There were a huge variety of bongs, pipes and tubes for dabbing. All were made of glass, and there were many nice bubblers. The metal adornments on some were quite ornate, intricate and beautiful. And all delivered a full, heady, shuddering hit that set us back on our heels, staggering in our own skins.
Overall, we tested the limits of our metaphysical temerity by ingesting huge clouds of high octane THC through chemistry-like apparatuses until we were lost in our own minds. My friend and THC cohort, â€œJack,â€ said it best after trying (and failing) to engage the front girl at Harborsideâ€™s booth/hash barâ€¦ “Craig, it’s like no one understands me after smoking all those dabs. And we keep making circles around this medicating area, getting higher and higher. I keep forgetting which booths we’ve gone to, who I’ve talked to, and what the hell I’ve even said!”
And so a new high octane norm shows its party dress at this yearâ€™s Cup. I can only wonder what decadence our Canna-scientists will concoct for next yearâ€™s competition.