When Jim McAlpine was contemplating the creation of what would become his 420 Games — athletic events “that promote the healthy and responsible use of cannabis” — he knew what he didn’t want the active gatherings to look like.
“These are the antithesis of the Cannabis Cup,” McAlpine told The Cannabist this week. “I want this to be the exact opposite of that. I look at those events as consumption-based events. They’re really focused on weed, on ‘Let’s get high.’ My events from the outside look like your average 5K run.”
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As McAlpine preps his 420 Games’ first foray into Colorado — with events at Denver’s Berkeley Lake Park on Sept. 24 and at the Boulder Reservoir on Oct. 1 — he can’t help but look ahead to his cannabis-tech conference New West Summit (Oct. 14-15 in San Francisco), another 420 Games in Oregon (Oct. 29 in Portland) and the openings of his new Power Plant Fitness gyms (in San Francisco and San Jose in early 2017).
Yeah, McAlpine has a lot going on. Did we mention former NFL player Ricky Williams is his partner in Power Plant, the 420-friendly gyms? True story. In fact somewhere in the last six months, McAlpine grew into one of the cannabis industry’s most exciting entrepreneurs.
The Cannabist caught up with the Bay Area-based former ski-industry entrepreneur to catch up on all of his endeavors — and to schedule a yoga hang while he’s in Denver, because weed yoga, right?
The Cannabist: So the 420 Games are not consumption-friendly? This is not people running a race with joints in hand?
Jim McAlpine: We ask people not to smoke at our events for a specific reason — to change the stigma. The last thing we want is a cloud of smoke hanging over the site. We explain that you can medicate discreetly with a vape pen or edible before you come to the event, but it’s a family-friendly event and we ask you not to smoke here.
Cannabist: Sounds like any other 5K.
McAlpine: It’s more advocacy for a cause instead of a smoke-in. With my gym and the 420 Games, people are like, ‘It’s a stoner run’ or ‘a stoner gym’ — but actually we’re fitness first, cannabis second. And we’re using fitness to show that people can incorporate cannabis into their lives and still be active.
Cannabist: What do the 420 Games feel like? What’s the vibe?
McAlpine: All of our first events are the same. There’s a 4.2-mile run — we say ‘We’re going the extra mile for cannabis,’ because a 5K is 3.1 miles. It’s to show we’re not lazy. That’s how the event starts out in the morning, with bananas and bagels and Power Bars. We get everybody to the starting line and do a run like everyone else. When the run is finished there’s an award ceremony, everyone gets a medal and there are speeches in the village. There will be booths from cannabis companies but also booths from active outdoor companies like Bear Naked Granola.
Cannabist: Ha, will Bear Naked or any other non-weed companies be exhibiting at the Colorado games?
McAlpine: No, they won’t — but the Libertarian Party of Colorado will be at the Denver and Boulder events. We had a Bernie booth at the L.A. event.
Cannabist: So you’ll be out here. But who else is going to be out and about?
McAlpine: Avery Collins, who is sponsored by (pot-infused edibles company) Incredibles and is one of the top ten ultra-marathoners in the world, lives in Steamboat and he’ll be running in Denver and Boulder. He’s an incredible athlete and a Colorado local, and he won our San Francisco event.
Cannabist: What are your thoughts about consumption-based events in the marijuana space?
McAlpine: There’s a place for those events, but from my perspective they give the industry — and cannabis — a bad name. If this was the alcohol industry, it’s a drunk-fest — and the drunk-fest doesn’t make the alcohol industry look good. There’s always going to be a place for the stoner lifestyle. And I don’t look down on stoners. I was a stoner once, and I don’t want to see stoners ostracized or chastised. I want to be a beacon of hope to show people that you can still use cannabis and change your lifestyle and be very active. I use marijuana every day, and I’m very successful. It’s not the plant that holds them back — it’s their lifestyle, and they need to rearrange their priorities.
Cannabist: I want to hear all about your weed-friendly gym concept. Where are they going to be? When are they opening? What’s the deal?
McAlpine: We’ve got two locations slated to open in the near future, one in San Francisco and one in San Jose. Those are both slated to open in early 2017. My plans are to get these open and up and running, but quickly after we’re looking to franchise the model and bring it to Oregon and Colorado and southern California, expanding the Power Plant Fitness brand out of the Bay Area and into a national chain.
Cannabist: People are finally starting to understand the connection between cannabis and working out.
McAlpine: I literally thought about this idea when I was 18 years old, and that’s about 30 years ago. I was in my garage at my parents’ house, I had a gym and my friends and I would have a bong hit and we’d smoke weed and work out. I love to lift weights while getting high. In L.A., Ricky Williams came out to the (420 Games) event. I told him the world was finally ready for it. He cracked a huge smile and said, ‘Dude, I’m in.’ It was really organic. We met up at my event and ran the course together, and as I explained it to him it hit him as it hit me that it’s time to do something like this.
Cannabist: Some of the previous media around Power Plant made it sound as if your customers were going to be smoking a bowl on the treadmill, but I’m guessing that’s not going to be the case.
McAlpine: Yeah, everyone calls it the stoner gym. But it’s a calculated fitness program. People can’t come in and start smoking just anywhere. There’s a room for consumption, and we work with people to understand if cannabis is something they should be using in their workout regimen. I want people to understand that this isn’t a place where you can come in and smoke weed anywhere. It’s a place where our trainers understand cannabis and athletes, and they’ll work with each person to examine how cannabis affects them. There will be some people we’ll advise to not use it.
Cannabist: So there’s a specific system in place.
McAlpine: When you sign up for our gym, every member will go through a CPA, or a cannabis performance assessment. Your first workout with a trainer is sober and without cannabis in your system. On your next workout you can consume cannabis and you’ll be asked about how it affects you, does it make you faster and better — or slower and not as strong — because everybody is affected differently. We’re going to take data on how your first and second workouts went and compare the two. There’s a questionnaire, and our trainers will give you a plan: Either you shouldn’t use it to work out, or you should.
Cannabist: Fascinating. But I want to talk about the New West Summit, too. There are so many cannabis business conferences out there, so what separates yours from the others?
McAlpine: At the end of the day, all of my ventures are about normalizing cannabis and changing the face and perception of what cannabis is. Walking away from athletics, now we’re walking into my old career, technology. So I’m bringing out Richard Branson and the voice of Siri and people from Apple and Facebook and GoPro to speak about disruptive technologies. You know, Lyft simply adopted a couple mobile apps and revolutionized the taxi cab industry. What we’re doing at New West is the same thing we’re doing at Power Plant Fitness and the 420 Games: We’re integrating cannabis into the mainstream. My other ventures are fitness-first, but (New West) is technology-first — we’re normalizing cannabis by putting it into society in a way that nobody else has done before.