|Photo: Lori Horwedel/AnnArbor.com|
|A plethora of pot pipes: potential profits for an exhibitor at the Michigan Caregivers Cup|
Despite the forced cancellation of their medical marijuana competition and a brief mix-up over lecture admission prices, the Michigan Caregivers Cup is drawing plenty of visitors and continuing through the weekend, according to event organizers.
The contest, which would have been held Saturday, was canceled after law enforcement threatened that participants could be criminally prosecuted, reports Lee Higgins at AnnArbor.com.
But the contest was only a small part of the overall Michigan Caregivers Cup, held in Ypsilanti, said Anthony Freed, executive director of the Michigan Marijuana Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event.
“I’m not interested in putting people’s welfare in jeopardy to prove a point,” Freed said.
Freed said it was clear he had a different interpretation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act than the Washtenaw County, Michigan Prosecutor’s Office.
The competition would have provided state-licensed medical marijuana growers with a venue within which to provide herbal samples to patients with state-issued medical marijuana cards. The patients were going to judge the cannabis for quality, using vaporizers, pipes or rolling papers to consume the herb.
But prosecutors said growers were going to be providing marijuana that would be divided among more than five patients acting as judges — which violates the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, they said.
Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosector Steve Hiller and State Police Lt. Monica Yesh, who directs the LAWNET drug task force, both issued statements to the media that the event would violate state law.
That resulted in cancellation of the competition portion of the Cup, and a tentative plan to hold a competition October. Freed hopes to “clear the air” with the prosecutor in the meantime.
Freed knew he was pushing the envelope when he announced the competition, reports James Dickson at AnnArbor.com.
But the goal of the contest, Freed said, was never “to get a bunch of people smoking pot together in a tent,” it was to find which cannabis strains work best for specific ailments of the patients who were to serve as judges.
The expo faced another setback Saturday morning, as many members of the crowd were confused about the price of admission.
The event’s organizers had planned to charge attendees $25 per seminar, but that information hadn’t been mentioned on the Cup’s website, which also failed to warn prospective attendees about a $10 parking fee.
Sensing the crowd’s confusion, event co-organizer Darrell Stavros issued refunds to those who had already paid, and announced that admittance to all lectures will now be free of charge.
“That cut into our bottom line a little bit,” Freed said, “but this was never just about the money.
“This is about getting people access to the medicine they need, something the voters of this state supported strongly in 2008,” he said.
Michigan’s medical marijuana law passed with an overwhelming 63 percent of the vote in 2008.
According to Freed, the initial attendance goal was 50,000, but talks with the venue’s risk management team led him to scale down his expectations. He now says 15,000 to 20,000 visitors might attend the event over the course of the weekend.
Events on Sunday, the last day of the event, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will feature lectures on everything from the role of caregivers to stories of the Ann Arbor Hash Bash to the efforts of a group of marijuana activists to “tax and regulate” the herb.
Many marijuana advocates believe that taxation means a tacit acceptance of the pot trade and will put cannabis on the path to legalization.
A complete schedule of Sunday’s events can be found at http://www.micaregiverscup.org/.