For the past 15 Novembers now, I’ve spent Thanksgiving not at home eating turkey with my family, like most people, but 3,600 miles away in a foreign country inhaling insane amounts of THC. But after all those years, I’ve come to learn that the Cannabis Cup is about so much more than just weed and hash: It’s about the adventure of exploring a vibrant, romantic city with a rich history and thriving nightlife. It’s about the feeling of freedom and empowerment that you get from proudly ordering your herb from a menu at a counter instead of via some clandestine, coded conversation and brief, terse rendezvous. And most of all, it’s about the relationships we forge with friends, fans and fellow stoners who either live and work in Amsterdam, or join us time and time again in our annual pilgrimage to the world’s biggest and best pot party.
Stoners like Carl and Vicki Shaw, who after getting engaged on the floor of the Expo at 4:20 last year, returned again this November on their honeymoon. Of course, they weren’t the only cannabis couple who became affianced last year; I also popped the question to my girl Vegas at the 22nd Cannabis Cup. This year, CS Travelers Joey and Karen got engaged at Amsterdam’s famous Skinny Bridge, and our West Coast editor, Dave Bienenstock, proposed to fellow HT’er Elise McDonough next to the fountain in front of the American Hotel — the same place they’d shared their first kiss back in 2005.
There are also fans like Anthony “Mojo Man” Van Den Berg, who loves the Cannabis Cup so much that he had his entire arm tattooed with images of weed, High Times logos and his favorite coffeeshops — even a picture of yours truly smoking a joint! This year, Mojo Man graciously volunteered to chaperone a medical-marijuana patient (and first-time Cupgoer) named Matthew whom he’d never met, and who was nervous about coming on his own — a perfect demonstration of true stonerhood.
And then there are people like Sutton, a woman who came to the Cup for the first time this November for a very special reason. It seems that attending the Cup was a longtime dream of her college-age son, Keegan. He and his brother had already bought their judges’ passes, but a few months later, Keegan suddenly and inexplicably died in his sleep. Heartbroken, Sutton decided that the best way to honor her son’s memory would be to come in his place. This woman was no hippie or pothead — in fact, she’d never smoked marijuana before in her life — but she felt she owed it to Keegan to see why he’d wanted to come so badly. So, accompanied by her other son and his girlfriend, and with Keegan’s ashes in her bag, Sutton had traveled to Amsterdam.
The HT staff was very moved by her story — so much so that we gave them all free backstage passes and gift bags, and I offered to say a few words about Keegan onstage at the Expo. So on Wednesday afternoon, after my “So You Wanna be in High Times?” seminar and Miss High Times interviews, I ended my time onstage by bringing Sutton up to tell her story.
“Being here, seeing how things are at this event and meeting all of you, I understand now why he wanted to come here,” she said. “Thank you all for being so kind and welcoming!”
Then, right there onstage at the Expo, Sutton smoked her very first joint with me. Afterward, she hugged and thanked me, and her son welled up with emotion as I shook his hand. And another gentleman sitting in the back of the room reacted so emotionally to their story that he felt compelled to come over and tell me about himself and his own daughter, who were attending the Cup together for the very first time.
Regardless of what bands perform, what strains we smoke, or what coffeeshops and seed companies take home a trophy, the Cannabis Cup is always an amazing experience—a unique chance to interact with the cannabis community, to make new friends and reminisce with old ones. So I think it only appropriate that I take this opportunity to give thanks to the extended High Times family — all of the people who, year in and year out, give it their all to make the Cup one of the coolest events on the planet. Without you, there’d be no Cannabis Cup.
See you next November.