A new state law in Washington is changing the medical marijuana landscape and any public events that are associated with the plant.
Washington State, from here on out, will be funneling all marijuana-related activities directly through the state liquor control board. This change in marijuana management has claimed its first victim, and it's a big one. The High Times Cannabis Cup in Seattle has run afoul of the newly implemented bureaucratic red tape, and despite event coordinators’ best efforts, they have been forced to cancel the event.
Cannabis Cup event staff tried to walk the fine line of appeasing state officials without compromising the event, but to no avail. First they tried to obtain a liquor license (just for paperwork purposes, as there would be no alcohol allowed onsite) and a special event permit, but struck out there. Vetting other options, High Times looked at some of the state's big open-air venues, like city parks and the Port of Seattle. However, these were also untenable, as the parks and the port get a lot of federal money and are very hesitant (to say the least) to open their doors to High Times.
High Times editor-in-chief Dan Skye said of the cancelation:
"This event would have been our 22nd event, and we have had tremendous success all over the country. Our events are getting bigger every single time we hold one, and they are getting more popular. So it’s just problematic for us when we can’t mount the cup as we have done in so many other states and so many other cities without this kind of push back.
It got to the point where we cannot find a venue in Washington that will do it, so we decided to go elsewhere …
It’s shame because we had a great turn out last year and … as far as I can see, the politicians and bureaucrats are completely screwing up your marijuana program there … taxes are out of control … and the black market is back.
So, I don’t know. We’re trying to legitimize things — that’s our point. Just like any other trade show."
The problem for the event is twofold. First, the newly implemented Initiative 502 coupled with the rules for getting a liquor permit do not allow for marijuana to be used or sampled on the same premises as booze. And second, the current recreational marijuana laws don't allow for cannabis use or sales outside of a licensed brick-and-mortar dispensary. Cannabis consumption on dispensary premises is also not permitted.
“We’re trying to legitimize this industry with a trade show that is open to all people, so they can sample the best merchandise of the Washington area. So, the people who are going to lose out are the Washington businesses. They did very well there last year, and we’re disappointed … We have bent over backwards to work with the LCB, and it just has not worked out,” Skye said.
Even though the judging sessions for the Cannabis Cup take place in private and up to a full week before the actual event, it was the hunt for a venue that would allow for consumption in private areas and a section where vendors could show off their goods that ultimately did the event in. At past Cannabis Cups, marijuana growers and distributors openly sold and sampled cannabis and cannabis-related products under the 'gray area' of former medical marijuana regulations.