[The one and only Henry Rollins writes a weekly column for our sister paper, LA Weekly. You can find it every Thursday on their music blog, West Coast Sound. This week, he wrote about his trip to Denver for 4/20.]
4-19-14 Denver: 2250 hrs. In Denver to cover tomorrow's Cannabis Cup event. I got in from Houston a few hours ago.
I was in Texas almost two weeks and it was great, but I welcome the change in scenery. Before we went to the airport, we ate in a restaurant along the way. Christian rock -- that strange, neither-fish-nor-flesh music genre -- filled the establishment. The servings were enormous. Diners labored through their meals with grim determination. Entire families overweight, shrinking the diameters of their arteries with every rapidly congealing mouthful. On my way out, I saw a man about to eat a chicken-fried steak, covered in gravy, almost the size of the plate. One of the bumper stickers on a car outside had a gun with the caption "I don't call 911!" I bet you don't. You roll into the ER uninsured and stick me with the bill for your heart attack.
In Denver, I walked around for quite a while, looking for signs of a city disintegrating from the legalization of cannabis. I could not find any. I did see a lot of young people out on dates; none of them seemed to be stoned. The restaurants were filled with sleek, good-looking people who didn't seem to be at all perturbed that, in several locations in their very snazzy city, one can purchase cannabis products. In fact, I could not detect any signs of chaos or unrest anywhere. The end didn't seem to be nigh.
Tomorrow, I am heading to the Cannabis Cup to see what's happening. The site says CC events are scheduled in cities all over the country. If America can handle a few hundred assholes with guns strapped to them gathered at tea party rallies, I think the several thousand expected to show up tomorrow -- armed with, I don't know, clothes, cell phones and car keys -- shouldn't be a problem. I'll find out.
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04-20-14 Denver: 2130 hrs. Damn, that was a great day. We arrived at "The Cup" a little before the 1100 hrs. opening. The line stretched around the parking lot. Thanks to a media pass, I was one of the first ones in. I stood facing the doors, watching people stream past me. Mostly young, white and very excited. Lots of happy noise. People yelled "Happy 4-20, Henry!" at me as they poured into the massive Denver Mart for day two of this epic event. I read on CNN.com that "tens of thousands of visitors -- by some estimates 80,000 -- [have] come to Denver to mark 4-20 (April 20), a date that's emerged as a holiday among those steeped in cannabis culture."
That's a lot of people, but that's missing the point. I don't think there is a "cannabis culture," any more than there is a "tobacco culture." Cannabis consumption is not a fringe-element interest. Some might like to think it is, but that's just prejudicial bullshit, intended to prolong the myth that only deviants and other undesirables seek out the weed.
Taking laps around the place, checking out the myriad booths, I wasn't surprised at how accessorized the consumption of cannabis has become. Every possible aspect of utilization seemed to have multiple companies competing for your dollar. What I enjoyed was the omnipresent humor. I saw a T-shirt with the Democrat donkey facing off with the Republican elephant, the donkey taking a bong hit off the elephant's trunk. A T-shirt with L.A. Lakers colors and lettering, redone as "Los Angeles Bakers" with a cannabis leaf behind it, was selling fast. Not the first time I have seen this bit of wit, but definitely my favorite version.
My job today was to interview people and ask a few of 10 cannabis-/hemp-related questions. One of our locations had us in the smoking area for some time. I could not help but notice a "Thank you for pot smoking" sticker. Funny!
It was here that things got interesting and somewhat comedic. I started to notice that I was unable to remember more than one question at a time and had to keep running back to check the list. I didn't understand why I was unable to hold more than a few sentences in my head at once. This was around the time the list of questions seemed all but impossible to read. I was flying without radar, doing the best I could to keep it together. I was saved by the bell as we broke for lunch.
We evacuated to a room off the main part of the complex. Lunch arrived and, several hours into the day, we all laid into our sandwiches. Almost at once, we all started commenting on how damn good they tasted. It was as if our entire lives had been leading up to this meal.
Thankfully, after lunch, we set up elsewhere where the weather conditions were far less cloudy and got our work done.
We were there for about eight hours, and never once did I notice any "reefer madness" behavior. I thought of what the scene would have been like if this had been a vodka convention.
Why was this huge building wall-to-wall with people? Why was it such an explosion of color and youthful energy? Is it because that's how cannabis users necessarily are? I don't think so. I think it is the hypocrisy and ignorance of decades of cannabis being classified as a Schedule I controlled substance (along with heroin) coming to a boil and blowing the lid off the proverbial pot.
You never know, there may come a day when High Times magazine will have a Cannabis Cup event and hardly anyone will show up, because there won't be a need for people to gather in a big-ass building so they can be free for a few hours. Considering what we have already inflicted upon ourselves, I think America will survive the legalization of cannabis.
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