The High Times 4/20 Cannabis Cup: A Lesson For All Cannabis Event Businesses

Since 1974, High Times Magazine has provided a platform for cannabis. It was the only place you could read about cannabis culture, advocacy and news. High Times was the magazine that started cannabis journalism, providing a much different spin to marijuana reporting than the twist Harry Anslinger left on herb in the media. The brand’s also helped pioneer the culture and promoted acceptance by way of their famous event: the Cannabis Cup. The most recent rotation of the herbal fest happened last Friday April, 20-23. But it wasn’t easy—even in this new legal era.


The High Times Cannabis Cup started in the ‘80s in Amsterdam, showcasing the worlds best flower, hash, edibles, glass and all things herb. Cannabis enthusiasts travelled from all over the world to be apart of the emerging canna-world; as well as to have their products judged in the High Times contests. The cup was finally brought to America in 2010, sparking a green wave in the States. As the Cannabis Cup provided a place for people to advocate and recreate in the name of the plant, it also positioned High Times as a leader in the cannabis event space.


Fast forward to 2018 and legalization in California is far from black and white. In fact, no one really knows what the hell is going on, considering the final draft of the laws have yet to be released. But with particular regard to the cannabis event space, nothing is certain. High Times experienced this last week in the worst of ways. The Cannabis Cup held on 4/20—the international day of herb— at the NOS Event Center almost didn’t happen due to local politics, poor planning and the fact cannabis law in California is barley comprehensible.


Just a day-and-a-half prior to the event, the City of San Bernardino voted 6-0 to deny a temporary cannabis event license to High Times for the Cannabis Cup. This came as a shock because the NOS Event Center and, thus, San Bernardino have hosted High Times flagship event for years—when cannabis prohibition reigned in California.


High Times’ CEO Adam Levin took the news in stride. “The new regulations of the cannabis world provide new hurdles to overcome,” Levin told Cannabis Now. “High Times looks forward to continuing to pioneer this new world and work with the state and municipalities to put on legal events around the world.”


Although the event still took place, buying and selling cannabis—the biggest draw of the festival—was prohibited. In fact, no vendors were allowed to have cannabis on the premises either. But all scheduled culinary options and music performances still happened.

According to reports, the city council leaned to oppose the cup because state law requires a 60-day minimum between submitting an application and the day of the event. In other words, people need to apply to the city at least three months in advance. Somehow, High Times and the San Bernardino City Council were just days away from the cup, and an event permit had yet to be approved. Ultimately the council decided that, even if they did approve the event, it would still be in violation of state law.

Councilmembers expressed frustration—not because they didn’t want the festival to happen, but rather because of the procrastination on High Times part.

“I feel like my hands are tied on this because it’s being shoved down our throats at the very last minute and I don’t like that,” said councilmember Marquez. “Why are you coming to us three days before the event?”


A representative from High Times apologized to the council for the late filing, saying confusion about the new process led the company to handle the filing through the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) at the state level before approaching the city. The High Times rep stated they also assumed that their previous relationship with the NOS Center would more or less ensure permit approval.


But that obviously didn’t happen. It should be noted, however, that Lori Ajax, Chief of the BCC, penned the San Bernardino City Council stating she’d approve the event if the city did. Alas, the City of San Bernardino did not grant High Times a permit.


It’s never fun to be the example, but this situation points to an array of larger themes, the first being that the power at the city level outweighs the power at the state level—so pass your plans and ideas through your city council first! Second, it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you or your company have, or how much cash your event will bring to a city— if you don’t maneuver through the application process properly, your business/event won’t receive a permit. Lastly, when has assuming ever done anyone well? Although pre-legalization placed the power of hosting cannabis events on venue owners, thus why High Times assumed they’d get approval, we live in a new, painfully regulated and legally complicated cannabis era. Relying on assumption is and always will be destined for trouble.


Although High Times has received lots of criticism for not having weed at their event, this isn’t the first time they’ve run into trouble. In 2017 the Cannabis Cup in Vegas was cancelled due to bad weather. That was also the same event the federal government (yes, the Trump administration) issued a warning stating they might intervene, causing High Times to throw a dry event. So, they’re no stranger to hurdles, hiccups and drama. But hopefully, this is the last time—and the last 4/20—they’re prohibited from doing what they do best: celebrating the burning bush.

A Study: What Happens To Terpenes When You Dab?

A Study: What Happens To Terpenes When You Dab?


The cannabis plant is extraordinary because of its medicinal and therapeutic properties. There are multiple chemical compounds that give it healing characteristics, such as: cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. And these are just the ones in which we know. (Imagine the knowledge we’d have if scientists were legally able to research the plant in full?)


Cannabinoids, like THC and CBD for instance, are the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. They’re also the most popular molecules in the plant.


Terpenes, however, give cannabis its smell. Secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes are the pungent oils that give the herb distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. Working in conjunction with cannabinoids, terpenes help ease asthma, depression, work as antiseptics, antioxidants, antifungals, they’re anti-carcinogenic, relieve inflammation, and so much more. Terpenes are found in all plants in nature—you can use it interchangeably with essential oils.


Flavinoids, or cannaflavins, on the other hand, are much less popular than cannabinoids and terpenes, yet play a vital role in medicinal value of the plant. Scientists have identified thousands of flavonoids throughout nature. But there are some only native to cannabis (this is where the term cannaflavin comes from.). Similar to terpenes, flavonoids share a role in how we perceive cannabis through our senses. Flavinoids are in part responsible for providing plants with color. They also help protect plants against the elements such as harmful UV rays, pests, and diseases. Furthermore the cannabis plants odor and flavor exist because of the synergistic relationship between terpenes and flavonoids. Research has also shown that flavonoids are pharmacologically active, meaning they have medicinal benefits to humans.


It’s hard to deny the healing benefits of the herb. But over the last five years, a new form of smoking has become a trend: dabbing. Smoking dabs, or concentrated cannabis wax, gets you a lot higher than smoking flower. It’s the smoking equivalent to eating edibles, only it hits you two hours quicker, often launching those who imbibe to Neptune for hours. But according to a recent study by the Department of Chemistry at Portland State University, dabs not only degrade the medicinal benefits of cannabis by disrupting the structure of terpenes (and likely flavonoids, too), but the heat also creates toxins in the wax vapor.


The study specifically focuses on the chemistry of myrcene and other common terpenes found in butane hash oil (BHO) cannabis extracts. The extract used in the study was Fire OG. Researchers carefully recreated the inhalation topography and temperatures employed by users. The study, which is the first to investigate the degradation of cannabis compounds from dabbing, found that terpenes myrcene, limonene, linalool were essentially burned off. Thus, no terpenes were ingested via smoke.


Additionally, the presence of methacrolein, a noxious irritant that can cause tissue damage;  and benzene, a ubiquitous potential cancer-causing pollutant often found in air, were found in high concentrations in dab vapor. “The two products appearing in high abundance in the spectra were the toxins benzene and methacrolein (MC),” reads the study. “MC is a well-known degradation product of isoprene alcohol, which is known to degrade the structure of myrcene and other terpenes.”


According to the study, Benzene, alkyl benzenes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are known to form during terpene thermolysis—when terpenes get hot. But these toxins aren’t only found in dab smoke. Traces of benzene have been detected in cannabis-flower smoke, too.


 “It’s imperative to study the full toxicology of [cannabis] consumption to guide future policy,” the conclusion of the study reads. “The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of vaporization, may in fact deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products. The difficulty users find in controlling the nail temperature put users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene. Additionally, the heavy focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of these compounds when heated.”


They say the healthiest way to use cannabis is by eating it. Perhaps it’s time to collectively get over the fear of edibles and tinctures, and medicate with them instead, as the compounds in the plant seem to remain fully in tact when cannabis is in those forms. We need to keep pushing for further legalization so we can understand the greater effects of the plant on the human body. Knowledge is power.

The Cannabis Plant: The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana

Although hemp (Cannabis Sativa) and marijuana (Cannabis Indica) are two varieties of the cannabis plant, they’ve developed a hell of a rivalry within the industry. Marijuana advocates swear that hemp doesn’t yield the same quality medicinal product because it lacks major cannabinoids, such as THC. Even though hemp is rich in CBD, marijuana advocates argue it’s not the same because in order for CBD to reach its full therapeutic potential, it needs THC and other cannabinoids to create the same type of synergy; which is a simplified breakdown of a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.


Hemp advocates, however, swear by its power. Aside from the fact hemp has benefits for skin and hair, and can be used to make paper, cement, construction materials, bio fuel, clothing, plastic composites and more, those who endorse hemp say it does have equivalent therapeutic benefits via its CBD-rich leaves and stock.


They also say marijuana advocates smear hemps name for the purpose of gaining sales. Conversely, marijuana advocates say hemp-sales(wo)men sell snake oil to make a profit on sick people. Sadly, because it’s illegal to do legitimate scientific research on the plant, there are no solid facts on which variety is best for what. So what the hell’s the deal?


Here’s a deep dive in understanding the differences between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD:


Hemp CBD Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid known largely for its muscle relaxing properties. Isolated on its own, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that’s been consistently reported to be an effective treatment for epilepsy and seizures.

CBD is found in both the psychoactive, THC-rich cannabis and the non-psychoactive hemp plant. Hemp CBD oil is derived from industrial hemp, which produces nearly no amount of THC—.03% to be exact. Industrialized hemp legalization is shaky. Day-by-day the legality of hemp changes. It’s gone from legal to a schedule-one substance in a matter of days. It’s now only legal for university research—and even that is a bit wonky.

Hemp CBD Oils Are Not Created Equal

Scientists and researchers often tip their hats to efficacy of CBD, as it can be a potent and powerful product with amazing therapeutic benefits. But the ways in which CBD is extracted from industrial hemp plants, then manufactured, concentrated, formulated, etc., and delivered and/or administered to a patient is largely suspect. This is the epicenter of the rivalry.


Customers have reported becoming violently ill from poorly manufactured hemp-CBD products, many of which either contain mysterious inactive chemicals or ingredients different than those listed on the label. Many of these poor quality hemp-CBD products have been traced back to China, according to a spokes person for Papa and Barkley, a prominent cannabis company in Southern California.

Medical Cannabis Producers Are Producing Top Quality CBD

You might’ve heard of strains like AC/DC, Harlequin, Cannatonic, Sour Tsunami, Ringo’s Gift, and many others that are high in CBD. Since 1996, there have been several medical marijuana markets in the western United States widely known for growing CBD strains. States like California, Washington and Oregon created an avenue for seasoned cannabis cultivators to farm cannabis medicines for their patients.

Growers in these markets have been producing both high-THC and high-CBD strains of marijuana and merging them into edibles, concentrates, and topicals of all forms to assist people with their therapeutic needs. These markets are now known for having stricter testing standards than what’s required for produce in the agriculture industry. Thus, these states often offer purer CBD products.

CBD Works Best Combined With Other Cannabinoids

Although scientists in America can’t study cannabis, researchers and doctors can study the plant in Israel, which has become the mecca of cannabis discovery and innovation. Cannabis contains hundreds of compounds, 80 of which we’ve identified as cannabinoids (once we’re free to study the plant in depth will we likely be able to determine more). CBD and THC are the two most popular cannabinoids in cannabis, as they’re usually available in the highest concentrations. And, as we stated earlier, they work synergistically.

Embracing the full-spectrum of cannabis’ naturally occurring phytonutrients is part of a process called whole plant medicine. This practice is highly regarded in the holistic and alternative medicine communities, existing in stark contrast to the practice of fractionated medicine, a process involving the heavy use processing and chemical synthesis popularized by the pharmaceutical industry.

While not suggested for children due to its euphoria-enducing properties, adding any amount of THC to a therapeutic dose of CBD largely enhances CBD’s effects, according to Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam. This is what he refers to as the aforementioned “entourage effect.”

Although there is no definitive answer, right now the best wisdom we have is that CBD is most effective with other cannabinoids—not as an isolated compound. In other words, CBD derived from marijuana is more powerful than the CBD from hemp. But that doesn’t mean we should write-off hemp altogether. We need hemp in order to create more sustainable, Earth-friendly alternatives to every day items, such as paper and gasoline—both of which cause severe damage to the environment. In sum—CBD aside—both hemp and marijuana are equally beneficial to humans and the planet.

New Laws Around Cannabis Advertising and Marketing

When you open a cannabis-friendly magazine or newspaper, you’ll see dozens of advertisements for dispensaries, 420-doctors, delivery services, events and product companies. But since the Medicinal And Adult Use Cannabis Regulatory And Safety Act (MAUCRSA) has gone into effect, the amount of cannabis ads have dwindled, which seems counterintuitive. Wouldn’t you want to advertise your cannabis business since the herb’s legal under state law?


The MAUCRSA actually outlines strict rules regarding advertising and marketing. Newspaper outlets, websites, publications, and all advertising and media platforms are only allowed to provide advertising to state licensed cannabis businesses. The way in which the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) plans keep tabs on who’s adhering to the rules is by requiring advertisers to incorporate an official state license identification number on the ad.


Over the last week, the BCC sent letters to Weedmaps—the marijuana-advertising monolith, and Sacramento publication News and Review, telling them they’re in violation of the law because they host advertisements and listings for unlicensed cannabis dispensaries, delivery services, product businesses, etc.


When scrolling through Weedmaps’ site, there are hundreds—if not thousands—of listings for cannabis businesses all over California; a number far greater than the amount of licenses issued by the Bureau. According to Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau, if Weedmaps continues to violate state law, the company will face criminal and civil penalties.


Ajax said the agency initiated enforcement action against Weedmaps and other advertising platforms, such as News and Review, due to complaints from licensed retailers around the state who argue unlicensed retailers have an unfair competitive advantage because they don’t the pay taxes or license fees that went into effect with the state's new cannabis regulatory system on Jan. 1. "It is prevalent across the state and it is jeopardizing the legal market," Ajax said.

 Weedmaps’ competitor,, recently announced that it would only allow advertisements of licensed businesses in California, starting March 1. "The California state government has made clear that only licensed retailers and delivery services may advertise via technology platforms," Leafly said in a press release last month.


The Bureau is knee deep in applications right now. But as soon as they’re able to come up for air, it’s safe to assume enforcement will ramp up. In the mean time, here’s a brief outline of the MAUCRSA’s cannabis advertising regulations:

·         Any advertisement must accurately and clearly identify the business and incorporate the business’ state license ID number.

·         Cannabis businesses without a state license cannot advertise.

·          No billboards featuring cannabis are allowed on a highway or interstate that crosses the border of neighboring State.

·         Ads cannot target anyone under 21 years of age.

·         Promotional materials cannot use language, music, gestures, symbols, graphics, characters, or any other content associated with people under 21 years of age.

·         No billboard or signs advertising cannabis may be placed within 1,000 feet of a youth center, daycare, or school.

·         Businesses cannot give away cannabis or cannabis accessories as a promotional tool.

·         No TV or radio ads can be placed in a slot where less than 71.6 percent of the audience are over 21 years of age, as determined by reliable and up-to-date audience composition data.

·         All advertising statements must be true and substantiated.

·         Any direct marketing campaign or materials must accurately confirm the age of its targets before entering into communication with them.

Chula Vista: The First City In San Diego To Permit Cannabis Delivery Services

Cannabis delivery services have been a source of turmoil between city governments and the cannabis industry and community for years. The elusive nature of deliveries made them hard to track, especially because most don’t operate out of a traditional brick-and-mortar stores. But under the Medicinal Adult Use Cannabis Regulatory Safety Act, delivery services are now within the law, as long as they’re either connected to a legal dispensary or a facility not open to the public. Although many cities in California still ban deliveries—and cannabis altogether—Chula Vista is taking a big step by being the first city in San Diego County to permit independent delivery services.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the San Diego City council passed an ordinance that positions the city for a whole new source of income. After four hours of debate the council voted 4-1 to allow up to 12 cannabis retailers — split between dispensaries and delivery services — 10 cultivation sites and an unlimited number of testing and manufacturing facilities. This is a huge move for Chula Vista, and San Diego in general—a county that’s long promoted an anti-cannabis agenda.

The retail limits make it possible for Chula Vista to have more cannabis shops per capita than the city of San Diego, which limits dispensaries to 36 but has more than four times the population of Chula Vista. And Chula Vista will be the first city in the county to regulate recreational marijuana delivery businesses.

“This is a huge deal,” Manny Biezunski, the board secretary for the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance, told the San Diego Tribune. “Chula Vista is making history. This is something we’ve been fighting for at least a couple of years in San Diego.”

The delivery industry was essentially shut out of San Diego when the city declined to include delivery services in its regulations. The fact that the second-largest city in the county is regulating deliveries is a huge win for the industry, and its patients and consumers.

But Chula Vista’s ordinance sets it far apart from other communities in San Diego. Most North County cities have outlawed cannabis sales, outright—like the majority of cities in Orange County and the rest of the state, for that matter. Oceanside has proposed allowing sales and commercial cultivation of medical cannabis only, and Vista's council has discussed allowing a limited number of dispensaries. Nothing has passed yet, and there’s still a lot of push back from city council and community members.

No East County cities in San Diego currently allow adult-use dispensaries, though voters in La Mesa and Lemon Grove passed laws in 2016 allowing medical cannabis shops to open in certain parts of their cities. Prohibition still stands for the most part, however.

With prohibition, however, comes the onslaught illegal dispensaries. Last year, rogue shops continuously sprouted throughout Chula Vista, despite getting raided and shut down. According to county records, 30 cannabis storefronts in the city were shut down—and, of course, reopened.

According to reports by the San Diego Tribune, the council sees regulation as a possible solution to the problem, especially if funds from sales tax revenues go toward enforcement. City Council members also see the ordinance as a way to ensure they write the regulations instead of leaving it up to a ballot initiative.

Now that the council passed its ordinance, the city needs to write specific regulations in order to create the application process.

“We needed to get this ordinance approved tonight because we didn’t want to invest a ton of time starting to write regulations if they weren’t going to approve the ordinance,” said Deputy City Manager Kelley Bacon. “We have a lot of work ahead of us right now to put all of our regulations in place.”

The city expects to pull in as much as $6 million a year through a gross-receipts tax and square-footage fees imposed on commercial cannabis businesses, recovering the costs of licensing and enforcement. The tax, however, must be approved by voters in November.