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The Los Angeles Cannabis Cup: Industry Leaders, Trending Products, and a Tangible Buzz

February 11, 2014

Last September we attended the Seattle Cannabis Cup. At that event, with the promise of recreational sales titillating attendees as much as the uncharacteristic sunshine, excitement was tangible, fueled by our imagination of what was to come. Five months later, after Colorado successfully launched and executed recreational sales and painted a picture of the legal cannabis landscape in the United States, we found ourselves at the Los Angeles Cannabis Cup. If the cannabis community was buzzing back in September 2013, it’s best described now as electrified.

Maybe it was the congregation of celebrated industry leaders; from growers to extractors to glass blowers, LA is home to some of the greatest artists in cannabis. Maybe it was the accessibility to an impressive and diverse spread of cannabis products, further sparking our imaginations of what this industry can be. Fruit-infused pre-rolled joints that taste like strawberry? They’re a thing.

The truth is, it goes beyond that. When pairing grassroots origins with our prime cultural position and responsive policy, we have a situation seemingly unparalleled in which a subculture is becoming mainstream. Skilled artisans are not only receiving the notoriety they deserve, but are set to shape an entire industry with their creative vision as the framework. It’s an artist’s dream.

As Addison Demoura of Steep Hill Labs commented, “Innovation in this industry is easier for us because we’re from it.” When we move beyond our fixation on cannabis as a drug, we see that the influence of this counterculture includes deep appreciation for creativity, beauty, and self-awareness. Could these be timelier?

It all began after the growers’ panel as I walked in step with one of the industry’s all-time greats, the legendary grower DJ Short. Up until then, he miraculously managed to remain nearly anonymous with only a single photo of himself online. Yet, he agreed to let me take his photo with the DJ Short Blueberry strain tile. I even got to trouble him for a favorable backdrop. During this quiet moment with this honorable man, I was reminded how lucky I am to play a part in this evolution. I felt the buzz.

You would also think most underground ops would resist regulation and outside intrusion, yet this community welcomes it. Largely attributable to the plant, the culture was born out of acceptance and tolerance. Plus, with a history of illegality, these people are accustomed to thinking for themselves and operating independently, breeding resilience and adeptness which is often sorely underestimated.

“The proudest part is that quality control came from the growers," said Demoura. "A lot of people may not know it, but we wanted to regulate ourselves. Growers are extremely competitive so they want to compare to each other [with product testing and certification].” Capitalism at its finest. Buzzzz.

By unearthing the cannabis culture, we’ve opened the realm of opportunities and spurred further innovation. This is well-represented by Kyle Kushman’s progressive line of animal-free plant nutrients, Veganics. Kushman stated, “I hadn’t written anything for High Times in 5 years because I was burnt out. When I discovered [Veganics], I was motivated, and I wrote the longest story for High Times ever printed.” Like many dietary vegans, Kushman arrived at Veganics with a unique perspective as a veteran grower with a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

“I didn’t create the line because I was a [dietary] vegan, I created the line because it’s a safer alternative to slaughter house products," Kushman explained. "Right now all agriculture is tied to the production of animals. If you have animal pee and poo, and you don’t use it, you have to dispose of it and it becomes hazardous waste. That was okay back in the 19th century, but now the poo isn’t as clean as it used to be. These fertilizers that used to be clean now contain high levels of heavy metals, antibiotics, so the poo isn’t even clean. The animals are living on dirtier land, they’re being fed dirtier feed, they are getting pumped full of things, and then we’re using their excrement for fertilizer. That’s why there’s a better alternative.”

These are the kind of talks I’m having amidst a throng of dab bars, dense crowds, and competing sound systems. The conversation is rising with the culture. I tried to discern whether my sense of security was naiveté or warranted, but these aren’t drunk fighters with raging testosterone, these are dabby friends that are happy to be alive. The cannabis culture isn’t for everybody, but it is for the best of them.

Demoura put it succinctly: “Weed people are great people.” And if one thing was made clear this past weekend, they’re invigorated and ready for what’s ahead. You’ve brought us this far, guys, time to take us home.