by Kayla Johnson
All across the state, hopes were high the moment that High Times Magazine announced that the Cannabis Cup was coming to Oklahoma. For years, the High Times Cannabis Cup has been one of the top events in states where cannabis was already legalized, and at last, with our own hard-fought medical legalization in place, it was our turn to have a ride on the High Times train. We have come an astonishingly long way in a short amount of time here, and though we have a long way yet to go, the Cannabis Cup offered an opportunity for medical patients to gather and celebrate, and a chance for businesses to not only get a booth to promote their business, but to submit their products for the competition.
All across the state, people purchased tickets. Businesses, whether dispensaries, growers, processors or head-shops, and organizations purchased booth spaces, with costs ranging from $40-70 for general admission, to starting at $3,500 for a booth space. To compete cost an additional $500 or $1000, depending on whether or not you had a booth space. The money poured in, and as the date grew closer and closer, patients and business owners alike were becoming more and more excited, and rightfully so: with promises of ADA access, tons of vendors and food trucks, and a great music line up, it was set up to be two days of education, community, and celebrating the best of what the Oklahoma medical cannabis industry could produce for the patients.
Despite what was described as months of planning, however, it was quickly apparent on the first day that the organizers had vastly underestimated how many people would be in attendance. Within an hour and a half to two hours after the general admission line opened, it began to back up, until at one point, it stretched from the gate all the way back to the road, and had begun to curve back around just to fit. The traffic flow that came with the crowds was quite similar to the line to get in, with cars lining the entire length of the road outside of the venue, and despite assurances that there would be plenty of parking, as well as handicap accessible parking, the situation quickly dissolved to the point that people simply parked along the stretch of road, and walked, wheeled, or hobbled down the side of a rather busy roadway. Many people, including some with mobility issues, walked a mile and a half or more, only to find that the line was moving so slowly that the estimated wait time was three hours, just to get inside.
The length of the line and the wait were only a portion of the problems facing attendees. As it usually is this time of year in the Sooner State, it was an exceptionally hot, sunny afternoon, and though many people brought water bottles or drinks with them, they were unprepared for the multi-hour wait just to get inside, and for the lack of beverage vendors near the line. Even though the event was outdoors, in Oklahoma, in August, there was no water available, and as anyone from Oklahoma knows, dehydration with the Oklahoma heat can be a dangerous combination, especially when the people standing in the heat are patients who are likely struggling with one or more medical condition. Multiple individuals in the long line gave in to the heat, and EMS was called on more than one occasion to help remove heat-stricken patients who were unable to cool back down. While a medic tent was available, there was more than one report of people being turned away. The situation quickly changed from one of annoyance and frustration at the wait time, to one of serious concern for those who were still stuck in line, and unfortunately, once they were able to make it past the gate, things did not improve much.
While it was likely apparent from the lack of handicap accessible parking, any semblance of ADA compliance had been abandoned. The path to where the vendors and patient areas were located was little more than a dirt road, with deep grooves from tires, and one portion where it was essentially just a muddy pond. Patients in wheelchairs, with mobility concerns, or other health problems that make long distances, especially in high heat, problematic were forced to simply do their best to keep from getting stuck, and hope that eventually, they’d reach more even terrain. The mud was a consistent issue, especially for wheelchair-bound attendees, and for their caregivers and loved ones, it was an exhausting effort to get them safely through. Many gave up, either in the line, or once they were inside, and worn out from the trek and the crowds.
Beyond the issues of the dangerous heat and water situation and accessibility, there was a plethora of other problems, ranging from trash discarded everywhere or piled up in the VIP area, to pickpockets and hustlers preying on those in line. Many of those who had volunteered their time to help the event run smoothly, like Cody Thibodeaux, were as exhausted as those who were trying to attend. “It was very unprofessional, we weren’t given shirts or any kind of identifying band to let people know that we were volunteers, and it made helping difficult, because nobody realized I was trying to help move things along. There was no water available to the volunteers, either, and it made for a rough five hours in the sun. It was like they had no clue how many people were going to be there.”
If you attended the Cannabis Cup on the first day, and didn’t get there in the first hour or so, chances are, you had a less-than-great day, for any one of the vast number of reasons. From general admission and exhibitor to VIP, the general consensus grew from frustration and irritation to outrage and disappointment, with many expressing regret online about purchasing VIP tickets to an event they weren’t even able to enjoy. The second day, thanks to reduced crowds, cooler weather, and an improvement to the water situation, was more enjoyable, but for so many, it was soured, and even ruined, by the disaster of the first day. In fact, at the surface, you’d be hard pressed to find anything positive about that first day.
As big of a mess as it was, it wasn’t long before the other side of things began to come out. Once everyone had vented their anger and disappointment about the state of the venue and the other issues, I noticed something interesting; for every story about something that had gone wrong, there was a story about someone who had simply stepped up, and quietly helped out.
Patients who passed out from heat exhaustion or dehydration in line were assisted by other patients, some nurses and former medics, others not, who sat with them and helped them cool off, or waited until EMS arrived.
Those who were forced to park far away and walk were picked up by good Samaritans and dropped off closer to the venue. Some of these drivers were patients, others were simply people driving through the area, going about their business.
While the thieves and hustlers in line were a massive problem for some, the word spread quickly through the line, and patients were made aware as soon as they arrived, so fewer were caught off guard.
Patients in wheelchairs were pulled, pushed, and even lifted through the mud and uneven terrain, while other patients left the event, only to return with water to pass out. On the second day, many booths were passing out free water as well, a valiant effort by the businesses to make up for the shortcomings of the venue and keep patients safer.
In some ways, this is how it’s always been. Even before cannabis was a legal choice, the community has been fairly tight knit, and inclined to look after their own when others fall short. As heartening as that is, it’s unfortunate that, even after legalization for medical use, so little thought was put into the details that could make or break such an event for patients, to the point that many were put in serious risk. In spite of this, there is something to be said for the cannabis community here, for trying to make sure their fellow patients were safe where the event planners failed to. By the end of the first day, people who had been strangers until the person behind them or beside them needed help had become friends, and while there was plenty of frustration going around, there was a great deal of effort put into keeping a positive mindset amongst those stuck in line or trying to make their way out, if only for each other. Beyond the thieves and hustlers (some of which were dealt with by local police departments), and those who were becoming ill due to the heat and dehydration, there were few angry words between those in line, and even as the wait stretched to four hours at its peak, the frustration that was there was directed moreso towards the event, and not other patients.
The goal of the Cannabis Cup was to put forward the very best of Oklahoma’s cannabis industry, to show the rest of the country what we can do with our thriving medical industry. Some incredible flower, edibles, and other products were put forward for the competition, and despite the shortcomings and problems, I believe we did have some of the best of our industry on display, both in terms of product, and people; Oklahoma is producing some truly spectacular cannabis, but it’s the people within our industry who are making a difference, the people who quietly step in to help where they can see a need, rather than focus on the fun, or the profit, even at the Cannabis Cup.
Despite the multitude of issues with this event, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the achievements of the winners, listed at the end, and all those who submitted product to be judged. August 25th was the anniversary of the day the OMMA first began accepting applications for licenses, and it was fitting for the winners to be awarded on that date. No matter what your experience at the Cup was, every grower, processor, or business that submitted something worked hard to get to that point, many of them giving up hours and income to pursue what has become their passion in life, and even in the heat and the mud, seeing their efforts pay off was a beautiful thing.
All in all, the first High Times Cannabis Cup here in the Sooner State was a mixed experience that leans heavily towards a less-than-enjoyable one for most, saved only by the stories and acts of kindness and compassion of patients towards other patients. As unpleasant and rough as it was for many, it was also a series of very important lessons that should be remembered by others who plan to host their own cannabis competition, and for High Times as well. Often, children learn to ride a bike only after they’ve scraped their knees a few times, and we’re still in that early stage of our industry; this was a big scrape on our knee. All we can do is take note of what worked, what didn’t, and do it differently next time. We’re still growing, still learning, and the only way to go from here is onward, and upward.
2019 Oklahoma Cannabis Cup Winners
1st Place: The Pound – Orange Cheddar 2nd Place: Emerald Wholesale – Orange Apricot 3rd Place: Stability Grows – Forbidden Fruit
1st Place: Full Moon Pharm – GG4 2nd Place: New Leaf Medicinals – Tropicana Cookies 3rd Place: Exotic Genetix – Truffle Butter
1st Place: Emerald Wholesale – Chem D x I-95 2nd Place: Green Rush Gardens – Gelato Cake 3rd Place: Korova / Sublime Brands Products / Connoisseur Cannabis – G.A.S.
1st Place: Helix Extract – Snowland 2nd Place: Green N’ Pink – Starmalade
1st Place: Craft Cannabis – HGDP CBD 2nd Place: Sticky Tree Farms – Bronx Goo 3rd Place: Cloudi Mornings – CBDutch Treat
1st Place: Gorilla Gardens – Kief Infused Funk Indica Pre-Roll 2nd Place: Tb4u Farms & Rt. 66 Xtracts – Holy Roller 3rd Place: Fire Leaf – Jeffrey Infused Pre-Roll
1st Place: OK Nice Cream – Strawberry Fruit Bar 2nd Place: Fire Leaf x Outlaw Edibles – Maple Bacon Krispi Barz 3rd Place: Mr. Mack’s – Caramel Pot Pops
1st Place: Too Sticky – Honey Almond Protein Bar 2nd Place: Simple Cure – Helpful Mango Sativa Tincture 3rd Place: EdiPure – Raspberry Lemonade Gummies
Vape Pen and Cartridge
1st Place: Korova / Sublime Brands Products / Connoisseur Cannabis – Grandaddy Purp Cart 2nd Place: Electraleaf – Wedding Cake Cart 3rd Place: Fire Leaf x Oklahoma Dab Lab – White Pineapple
1st Place: White Mousse Oklahoma x Red River Pharms – Grape Ape Full Spectrum 2nd Place: Tb4u Farms & Rt. 66 Xtracts – Wright White Live Sugar 3rd Place: Head of Honey x Diamond Labs – Member Berry Live Diamonds
1st Place: Fire Leaf x Oklahoma Dab Lab – Lemon Cheese Quake 2nd Place: White Mousse x Rock Top Wellness – Oklahoma Mimosa Full Spectrum 3rd Place: Terpenetics – Blue Cookies Live Resin Sugar
1st Place: Fire Leaf x Oklahoma Dab Lab – Fruity Pebbles OG 2nd Place: SoloS Extracts – Canuck Cookies Diamonds 3rd Place: White Mousse x Rock Top Wellness – Kief Chief Full Spectrum
1st Place: Helix Extract – Purple Punch Live Rosin 2nd Place: Kiamichi Skies – KS Blend Live Rosin 3rd Place: Stability Grows X Country Hash – Forbidden Fruit Live Rosin
1st Place: Lotus Gold Dispensaries – Colorado Cures Pain Cream 2nd Place: Redbud Elixirs – R. L. Remedy Healing Lotion 3rd Place: Mr. Mack’s – THC Infused Lotion
Hemp-Derived CBD Product
1st Place: White Mousse Oklahoma x CBD Plus USA – CBD BHO Badder 2nd Place: Terpenetics – Holos Botanica Eye Cream
1st Place: New Leaf Medicinals – Moon Rock 2nd Place: Releaf Labs /ALTRD – ALTRD Moon Rock 3rd Place: Xen Xtracts – Infused Grape Moonrock
1st Place: Ethos Genetics 2nd Place: Exotic Genetix 3rd Place: Too Sticky
1st Place: Ethos – Mandarin Cookies 2nd Place: Mystic Magic Seeds 3rd Place: Helix Extracts x High Times Cannabis Cup Shirt
1st Place: Hammerhead w/ Reef Shark Bowl 2nd Place: Indigo Attic 3rd Place: Desert Scene – Windstar x Steve H Collab