After a few years’ absence since the High Times first brought their Medical Cannabis Cup to Detroit back in 2011, the event is back, this time at Clio’s Auto City Speedway. The two-day event combines a pot expo, seminars, a musical performance by Wyclef Jean, and of course the prestigious pot awards issued by High Times’ consummate cannabis professionals. To learn more about the event, we caught up with High Times senior cultivation editor Danny Danko (Metro Times Editor in Chief Valerie Vande Panne worked with Danko atHigh Times).
Metro Times: So why “Cannabis Cup” — is it kind of like a sports event?
Danny Danko: There’s an awards aspect to it. Different caregivers and dispensaries provide a sample of their product, and we provide a panel of experts. There are categories for best indica, best sativa, best hybrid, best concentrates, best non-solvent, best glass, best booth. It’s definitely bragging rights, it’s definitely an honor. I’m sure in most cases it would translate to more business for them as well.
It’s just like any other harvest festival or a county fair where people bring their best produce, their best pigs and horses and cows, and they compete with each other for bragging rights, basically.
MT: We imagine this isn’t like wine tasting where you take a sip and spit it out. There’s only so much pot you can smoke before it’s all good, right?
Danko: We give our judges about a week, depending on the event and how many entries there are. We also have lab testing to do to determine the level of THC and CBDs. That’s factored into the results as well. You have to take a little time between the samples that you’re testing, and you have to go back and revisit other ones later. The thing that I’ve noticed after being at more than 30 or so of these events is that the best stuff always rises to the top. The judges are usually never really far off. It’s not a perfect process, but we’ve made it more scientific.
MT: What else can one expect from a Cannabis Cup?
Danko: We have grow panels, we have a lot of activist panels about medical marijuana in Michigan with local activists. There’s a panel on edibles. We have a big party planned for Saturday night with Wyclef Jean as the performing artist. He just got back from another cup, the World Cup, where he did the official song for the World Cup in Brazil. So now he’s coming to another cup in Michigan.
MT: Is he going to make the official song for the Cannabis Cup?
Danko: [Laughs] I don’t know. He’s an interesting guy. He’s definitely a great musician and a supporter of cannabis rights.
MT: Why Clio? The other stops on the Cannabis Cup are in the major cities proper.
Danko: It was just about finding a venue that can handle the amount of people that we’re expecting, and also have an outdoor area for people to partake in medication if they have the proper paperwork.
MT: In what ways does the Cannabis Cup promote marijuana activism?
Danko: We’re giving a lifetime achievement award to Charles Ream, a longtime activist in the area. He’s not as well-known as some of the other people that we’ve given the award to, but when we reached out to people in the area to find out who was truly deserving of a lifetime achievement award in the area of activism for cannabis in Michigan, his was the name that everybody came up with.
MT: At High Times, you’re the senior cultivation editor. What’s Michigan’s cultivation scene like?
Danko: There’s been a long history of people growing in Michigan. My grow seminar is going to be somewhat of a homecoming for a guy who’s well-known in the cultivation world who’s called DJ Short, who created the Blueberry strain. He’s originally from Michigan. Usually I have a panel where I talk to five or six different growers, but this time it’s just going to be he and I focusing on his techniques that he’s learned over the years.
MT: Who can go to the Cannabis Cup? Do you need a medical marijuana card?
Danko: Michigan is a reciprocal state, so people with medical marijuana cards from any other of the 23 states can come. We want people to come from all over. People who don’t have a medical marijuana card can also attend the event; they just won’t have access to the medicating area. They can check out the booths, and they can see a lot of the activism and the expo.
MT: Let’s be real, is “medicating” just legalese?
Danko: When we’ve done the cups recently in Colorado there was a medicating area, but there was also a recreational area as well, based on the legal situation that’s there. In Michigan, they haven’t passed the recreational law yet, but certainly they have medical marijuana. You can’t buy it. There is sampling, depending on the booths that are there. Certainly there’s sharing going on.
MT: It’s not just some giant excuse to get wasted, though.
Danko: We consider it a celebration of the gains that have been made, but also a call to arms to make more changes because people are still in jail, people are still being prosecuted and persecuted over this plant. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come, but also a rallying cry to get people together so that they know there are lots of other people out there who believe the same as they do and make connections at the event that will further the cause of ending marijuana prohibition.
MT: It seems like with some of the victories here in Michigan with decriminalization on a municipal level, as well as the legalization in Washington and Colorado, that we’re inevitably heading toward an end to marijuana prohibition.
Danko: It does feel like the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to Colorado and Washington and other states set to follow, but we’re also always just one administration away from a crackdown. We don’t want to celebrate too quickly. There are states that border Michigan where you can still get serious jail time for cannabis. We’re going to keep on pushing for what we consider to be our right to consume cannabis.
The High Times Medical Cannabis Cup takes place July 26 and 27 at Auto City Speedway, 10205 N Saginaw Rd., Clio; cannabiscup.com.