Santa Rosa Hosts High Times Cannabis Cup

The latest High Times Cannabis Cup, held June 28-29 at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in Sonoma County 60 miles north of Bay Area, was another well attended, highly successful event.

Most of the action, as always, was in the 215 area, where dabbing remained de riguer, so much so that an announcement went out about where to find flowers for the old-school attendees. Cloud Pens took the best product award and scored second place for best booth. Though their slick design in pastel colors was appealing, the women staffing the booth couldn’t tell me what solvent or method was used in the cartridge. Another booth staffer in a bikini, who offered me a dab, said it had no CO2 when I asked her about solvents (she probably had that backwards). Another group, Cowboy Extracts, whose sign said, “Fuck Butane,” was promoting their CO2 extracts. At the Vapor Warehouse booth, a gal who wisely offered free water misting to attendees was able to provide me with some pertinent information.

Women weren’t present only as “booth babes." Valerie Corral of the Women’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana received the Lifetime Achievement Award along with her husband Mike. Debby Goldsberry, Diane Fornbacher and Liana Held appeared on panels about cannabis lifestyle and business. And one enterprising rapper/designer brought her Kushed Out Fashions line of clothing and accessories, so women can represent in style.

Former NORML director Jon Gettman

Check out the winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup in Santa Rosa

The program featured the usual popular panels on cultivation and dabs, and two heavyweights: longtime activist Jon Gettman, the author of the original petition to reschedule medical marijuana, and B.E. Smith, the first marijuana farmer arrested after Prop. 215 passed in 1996, who spoke on constitutional issues.

Gettman’s Sunday afternoon talk was billed as a “star panel” and he told the crowd the “stars” were themselves, who he urged to get involved in the discussion in a Jeffersonian democracy model. The former NORML executive director gave a strong, well-reasoned presentation and engaged in a Q&A afterwards. But he seemed a little out of touch with the issues affecting small farmers in California, as he spoke about ending the black market that most of them are arguably involved in.

Noting that the discussion has moved beyond the injustices of pot prohibition to making money on marijuana, it’s now, “Not just about controlling some vice, it’s about launching brand new industries.” Gross profits and tax revenues from Colorado and Washington, he said, are what’s influencing other states, but “we will learn a lot more from California when you legalize it; you are the leaders.”

Gettman argued that to move forward, we must gage what the public interest is in legalization versus prohibition. One thing all sides can agree on, he said, is lowering teenage use. Gettman noted that in recent years, adult use is up, while teenage has gone down, auguring for positive outcomes for progressive polities. However, he maintained that the idea of keeping the price high so marijuana stays out of kids’ hands is a false one.

Jon Gettman: 'We will learn a lot more from California when you legalize it; you are the leaders.'

Gettman, whose day job is teaching corporate strategy, thinks there will be “an economic bonanza” if we tax at $15 per ounce instead of at some higher rate. He cited government figures that 500,000 people in the U.S. are growing their own pot, and noted that was competition for a legal market. (Instead of concentrating it, perhaps we should be spreading our product around.)

His first question from the attentive audience was about rural communities and the loss of entry level jobs, and the ability to own land eventually, with a new legalization model. Gettman replied that the illegal market must go because of the 800,000 people who are unjustly arrested every year for marijuana. What about a traditional large-scale agricultural co-op like Blue Diamond as an economic model? “I want to make that viable,” he answered. Asked about protected zones and varietals, he said that would require research.

A big question, he noted, is whether we want a vertically integrated market or not (the current California bill would not permit vertical integration, allowing single license only for growing, processing or retailing, not any combination of the three). He spoke about “creative destruction” of the current illegal market, meaning perhaps keeping good players in business.

There are three possible models, Gettman explained: prohibition, government intervention and the free market, which has risks and rewards. Pointing out that only seven companies control the national market for tobacco, an “oligarchy” sells processed product in a system that limits the ability to grow for oneself. The more competition we have, he concluded, the greater the check on corporate takeover.

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Ellen Komp

Ellen Komp

Hemp/marijuana activist and writer based in Berkeley, California. She blogs at