A man passes a joint during the High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver, on April 19, 2015. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

High Times Cannabis Cup leaves Colorado for greener lands in 2016

After regulatory snags in two Colorado counties, the world's largest High Times Cannabis Cup is headed west

High Times magazine’s flagship event, the U.S. Cannabis Cup, is relocating from Colorado to California next month, The Cannabist has learned.

Colorado’s first-of-its-kind marijuana laws allowed the event to grow into the largest High Times Cannabis Cup in the world, drawing up to 35,000 visitors each day in April 2015 at the Denver Mart in Adams County. But after Adams County commissioners last month rejected High Times’ permit for this year’s U.S. Cannabis Cup, organizers announced a tentative move about 100 miles south to Pueblo — where the Cup ran into more regulatory issues and concerns over timing.

After the multiple clashes with county governments in Colorado, High Times decided to relocate the event to the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, Calif., for April 15-17, a High Times representative confirmed to The Cannabist. The venue recently wrapped a two-weekend run for the the SoCal Medical Cannabis Cup earlier this year.

The Cannabist obtained an e-mail allegedly sent by a High Times staffer to businesses that had purchased exhibition space at the U.S. Cannabis Cup that spelled out the event’s move — and its intentions to expand an affiliated and already scheduled Colorado concert to include an award ceremony.

“There will not be a Cannabis Cup in Pueblo, Colorado, but we will be hosting a one-day Colorado Cannabis Cup award show in Denver on April 19th,” the e-mail says. “There will be 7,500 people in attendance from across the spectrum, consumers, producers and business owners. Cypress Hill, Action Bronson, Cronixx and Parliament Funkadelic will be performing at this event.

“The U.S. Cannabis Cup will be held at Southern California on April 15-17th, and we’re expecting 25,000 in attendance.”

The Colorado event mentioned is a High Times Cannabis Cup-related concert at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield that was first announced in late-January.

High Times editor-in-chief Dan Skye said the magazine’s negotiations with Pueblo County were “friendly and progress was being made” but “our busy calendar of upcoming events persuaded us that the better decision was to host a full Cannabis Cup in Colorado at a later date.

Marijuana samples are divvied up at The Green Solution booth during the High Times Cannabis Cup at the Denver Mart on April 20, 2014.
Marijuana samples are divvied up at The Green Solution booth during the High Times Cannabis Cup at the Denver Mart on April 20, 2014.

“The simple fact is that, regardless of the tremendous strides that our community has made in legalizing cannabis, there’s still a long way to go … It’s been said: ‘Legalization of cannabis is a marathon — not a sprint.’ Only four states currently allow adult, recreational use of cannabis. And although more states are placing the issue of legalization before voters in November, there is still a great deal of education necessary in order to make cannabis truly a part of mainstream American life.”

MMJ America owner Jake Salazar, who sponsored the 2015 U.S. Cannabis Cup in Colorado, was frustrated to learn about the event’s relocation to California, saying that Colorado’s economy will miss out on the tourist spending associated with the event.

“It’s ridiculous,” Salazar said. “This community definitely benefits from having these nonviolent visitors come in and enjoy the freedoms that we have in Colorado, and they support other businesses — not just the cannabis businesses. The restaurants, hotels, convention centers and music and entertainment venues will miss out, too.

“The Cup is an all-out good thing. You don’t hear about a lot of bad things happening on that weekend. But it’s a different story when you talk about the (Great American) Beer Festival and you have guys throwing up and getting in fights all weekend long. These guys attending the Cannabis Cup will go out to the bars while they’re here, but they’re cool customers. They’re just here to enjoy the products.”

High Times officials have said they hope to bring the U.S. Cup back to Colorado in the future.

“I’m hopeful we can do the U.S. Cannabis Cup in Colorado, for sure,” High Times chief operating officer Larry Linietsky told The Denver Post earlier this week.

Click through to read High Times editor Dan Skye’s full statement.

Editor’s note: On March 8, 2106, High Times magazine editor-in-chief Dan Skye shared this statement — titled “Our Cannabis Cup in Colorado” — with The Cannabist.

In 2011, HIGH TIMES held its first Cannabis Cup in Colorado. Last year, we hosted our fifth consecutive event in the Rocky Mountain State and over 53,000 cannabis fans entered the gates of the Denver Mart to celebrate Colorado’s cannabis scene.

So far, HIGH TIMES has held 21 Cannabis Cups in the US. Our events have taken place in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Sonoma County, in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Detroit, Seattle and, of course, Denver.

However, the process of securing permission from city officials and local police to mount a HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup has never been without hurdles. HIGH TIMES has always encountered a variety of requirements and standards that must be met in order to move forward. The simple fact is that, regardless of the tremendous strides that our community has made in legalizing cannabis, there’s still a long way to go.

It is imperative that we work with city officials to satisfy all their requirements so that we can host the best Cannabis Cup experience possible. Over the past two weeks, HIGH TIMES worked closely with city officials in Pueblo, Colorado to secure a permit for a Cannabis Cup in that city. Our negotiations were friendly and progress was being made. However, our busy calendar of upcoming events persuaded us that the better decision was to host a full Cannabis Cup in Colorado at a later date. Our goal is to make sure that every Cannabis Cup is a quality event. We will still be honoring the Colorado cannabis industry with a cannabis competition and a special awards ceremony on April 19th at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.

It’s been said: “Legalization of cannabis is a marathon – not a sprint.” Only four states currently allow adult, recreational use of cannabis. And although more states are placing the issue of legalization before voters in November, there is still a great deal of education necessary in order to make cannabis truly a part of mainstream American life.

The Cannabis Cup is ultimately a trade show and a celebration of our industry. And we are committed to making sure that every one of our events lives up to the high standards we’ve set.