VIENNA TWP, MI — It’s like the Super Bowl for marijuana.
It’s the High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup, considered one of the premier marijuana events in the world. And it’s coming to Genesee County.
The Cannabis Cup is scheduled for July 26 and 27 at the Michigan Auto City Speedway in Vienna Township. High Times is hosting four installments of the Cannabis Cup this year. The other cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Amsterdam.
The magazine’s signature event — a combination of a trade expo, conference, marijuana competition and cultural celebration — started in Amsterdam in 1988 and is still an annual event there. In recent years, with marijuana and medical marijuana regulations relaxing around the United States, the New York City-based High Times has hosted U.S. events in states such as California and Denver.
The event aims to showcase and provide information for the Michigan cannabis industry, as well as its top businesses and advocates, said Dan Skye, editorial director of High Times.
“Basically, it’s a cannabis trade expo, when you get down to it,” Skye said.
Event organizers are expecting attendance of around 5,000 people.
With Michigan voters passing a law decriminalizing medical marijuana in 2008, the magazine has looked at the state as another battleground in the effort to end pot prohibition. A Cannabis Cup was held in 2011 in Detroit, but organizers weren’t happy with the response from local police.
Since then, organizers have wanted to come back to Michigan.
“We love Michigan,” Skye said. “They have a booming medical marijuana industry going on.”
Matt Johnson — who in 2012 started Lush Lighting in Niles, Mich. — has been in constant contact with a High Times editor since the Detroit event.
“I’ve been bugging him for two years to get him to come back to Michigan,” said Johnson, who’s company produces LED light bulbs for agriculture. The company is a sponsor of the July event.
Organizers say they’ve contacted local law enforcement, officials and attorneys and the event is completely legal. Nobody who does not possess a valid medical marijuana card will be permitted to use marijuana at the event.
“Seriously,” Skye said. “When we had one in L.A., we dealt with LAPD directly. Everybody knows what we’re up to. There is no secret.”
Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said he’s aware of the event and doesn’t see a problem with it, as long as laws are respected.
‘We’re going to protect their constitutional right to meet,” Pickell said. “But in the process, if any laws are violated, we’re going to enforce the law.”
Otherwise, Pickell said, he’s planning to treat it like any other event.
“At this point, we’re not going to do anything differently,” he said. “If we get a sense that there’s going to be a problem or it creates traffic issues, we’ll have a stepped-up presence.”
Joe DeWitte, owner of Michigan Auto City Speedway, said he understands the event might be controversial to some local people. DeWitte said the magazine approached his business about renting the facility. To him, it’s simply another business deal and not a statement of support for or against medical marijuana.
“Our decision didn’t come lightly on this one,” DeWitte said. “We did a lot of work, a lot of leg work. Talked to attorneys, talked to Bob Pickell.”
DeWitte said the event organizers are providing most of the staff and security for the event. Some of his employees will be on hand for services such as parking and concessions.
“The unique thing about it is, very honestly, it’s going to bring a lot of business to the area.”
Blake Thorne is a reporter for MLive-The Flint Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-347-8194. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
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