Finding The Happy Spot At High Times Medical Cannabis Cup


All photos by Jack Rikess

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
​This is going to be very hard for some people to understand.
I sometimes smoke cannabis recreationally.
Even though I am allowed to be a card-carrying Cali medical marijuana patient due to a thrown-out disc from my care-giving days — and scary migraines that, at their worst, feel like I’m a walking Munch painting —  there are days when I just like to get stoned.
Here’s another little tidbit. Sometimes, when I do smoke recreationally, it takes me away from a physical place to what shrinks like to call the “Happy Spot.” 
And then I open my eyes and I’m back from wherever.

​That happened a lot this past weekend while I was in Los Angeles attending High Times Medical Cannabis Cup. According to most of my NorCal buddies we’re supposed to despise “Los Ganjales.” But I had a job to do, regardless of how I was supposed to feel. 
After attending some 10 to 15 cups and hemp/cannabis related conventions in the past half decade in Northern California and Vegas, this was my first Southern Cali cannabis sponsored event.  Interestingly, it was not Los Angeles on display but rather the evolving nature of cannabis-based functions that caught my attention.
I remember way back in 2010 at these trade shows there would be smiling insurance agents, printer and graphic companies ready to print up some cards or brochures for your new cannabis related idea. Even banks and money guys were lining up with booth space to cash in on the so-called “Green Rush.”

​Now it is back to the basics, rows of booths displaying glass pipes, papers and other medicating devices for your smoking convenience. One enterprising gentleman had an array of backpacks made exclusively for carrying fragile glass pipes. There were dispensaries advertising their wares and deals, letting the folks know that their doors were still open.
Also among the new items were humidors for medicine that came in many different sizes to accommodate the varying volumes of cannabis needing to be kept fresh. Next to that booth were similarly focused products that resembled “do not eat” silicon packets that in the mainstream are used to keep dry goods from spoiling. Those little packets claim to keep your stuff fresh at a slightly cheaper price than their neighbor with the cool silver humidors.
The packet guy may have had a few too many edibles and on another day could have made his point a little clearer. Maybe that’s why I like the humidor guy better — he could speak.
SC Labs was in attendance as were a few new lab upstarts. It’s not surprising that labs are getting to be big business, not when you have several attendees walking around in t-shirts displaying the phrase “No Mites.” For the novice that statement might not mean much but today’s laboratories, in addition to testing for THC, CBD, and CBN’s, test for purity including the absence of mold, mildew and mites in the beautiful buds.

​You’d be surprised at what is ingested with indoor and even sun-grown medicine if not cultivated by responsible farmers. A spore or mold could actually kill a patient. That’s why most dispensaries are testing all products, and even some pot-shops today have small in-house labs.  
The other thing I dig about going to these Medical Cups is spotting trends. Again, in the beginning of the boom, when legalization seemed a breath away, all sorts of venture capitalist were jumping on the Green Train. Now it is for the hearty and unafraid. 
I spoke to Mark Scruggs of WeedMaps, a major supporter of the movement and a company that is really standing up in these tense times of federal shakedowns, and asked about issues of hassles behind the scenes.  

​”No, not at all,” Mark replied while taking registration forms from attendees who were vying for the WeedMap giveaways including iPads, other cool swagalicious gifts and the top prize of a BC Northern Lights growing system.   
“People are really laid back,” Mark told me. “There haven’t been any problems at all. The City of Los Angles is supporting this. High Times is doing a great job. These expos are getting more and more frequent. There’s KushCon and the Deep Green Festival, and the general public is getting more accepting. And we’re professional. Plus for us at WeedMaps, we’re glad that High Times brought the Cup to our home base, Southern California. Look around, people are having a great time.”
No doubt.
I spoke to one of the supervising officers in charge and asked him how it was going.

There was a chance to speak to an actual Ron Paul supporter who repeated, “Ron Paul is your friend”

​​”I think we’re getting something like 3,000 people each day and there hasn’t been anything to report,” he told me.  

I could see why High Times is expanding to hold cups in more cities including Detroit and Denver. They’re working.  
A little complaint: I was hanging with the nonprofits that had booths staged a little higher up the stairs away from the main area. It was basically the NORML gang in booths where voters could receive info on initiatives and there was a chance to speak to an actua
l Ron Paul supporter who repeated, “Ron Paul is your friend,” even though I don’t think the kid knew the difference between Zig-Zags and Raws.
My quibble is that this area didn’t get the foot traffic of those below in the thick of the main action. I would have squeezed the politicos a little closer to the other vendors. 
With that being said, my compatriots of cannabis did pretty well. One of the high moments of the day, and there were a lot of those, was when NORML Women’s Alliance member Kyndra Miller received the news she was appointed to the national board of NORML.

MJ Bannon, author of “California Seeds,” with a couple of fans at the Cup

​The two lovely authoresses, Cheri Sicard and MJ Bannon did very well and made some good connections despite being off the main drag, so take my criticism with a grain of weed. 
One of the more major trends was the proliferation of concentrated oils. At the Emerald Cup last year, I experienced a substance created by the local inventor and mad scientist, Dr. Zappa. He called it Mendo Milk. It was exquisite.
In the 215 area where you were allowed to medicate, roving bands of young men with entourages and large glass pipes, held court in corners and on curbs. I asked, as a writer, “What’s up?”
They showed me. These kids today…

​Evan of San Diego took his hand-crafted pipe and demonstrated.  A titanium nail, teeing off where the bowl usually sits, was heated with a torch. Once that sucker was very hot, a smear of the oil, that looks like ear wax, was dabbed on the head of the nail, and the stuff melts away as you gently hit it. 
I asked Evan for the reason he came to the High Times Cup that day.
He said, “To smoke this!” like I was the oldest guy in the world.
His buddy, who went by the name Shaman, also had some concentrated oil but it was butane-made as opposed to Evan’s water based oil. Even though it looked outrageously good, I shied away from the gassy thing. I asked Shaman if butane was safe.
“It depends who’s making it.” 

​What I found really interesting, besides for the name of Evan’s product, Lemon Goat (really, was that the best his marketing department could come up with?) was the packaging of the oils. They were all prepackaged in little round containers the size of a chewing tobacco canister.  
“Do you sell this in dispensaries?”
“Nope,” Evan said with a smile.
I kind of wonder who, besides for these guys, has a pipe set up to smoke this shit. Obviously, here’s another world where I know nothing.
When it was all said and done, except for a little demographic shake-up, Northern and Southern California are pretty much the same when it comes to medical marijuana events.

​What has changed slightly are the vendors and other sponsors of these events. There are those who still feel they have a chance in this new market and those who have already given up like those insurance companies that offered growers crop coverage. Now those booths are occupied by edible companies like Ganja Juice or Bhang. The market finds its own level.
While kicking back in the 215 area with some cool new friends, really nice people who shared what they had, I noticed it was like anywhere else where good vibes rise. I closed my eyes, grooving to the beats coming from the DJ spinning in the corner. In the merry-go-around of my mind, I heard laughter and people being and getting stoned. Guys argued with each other about who had the most killer strain. Then more laughter met with the standard encompassing phrase, “It’s all good, brah.”
More squeals of giggles mingling with some serious conversations concerning whether Luke really knew that on some level Leia was his sister, or if vaping is always better than joints. Very intense topics. The smell of good food intertwined with people joking and having a good time.
Then I opened my eyes. I’m in L.A.
See, it doesn’t matter where you are. Cannabis heals most everything. 
Thanks High Times
Winners of the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup
Best Hybrid: Master Yoda
Best Sativa: Sonoma Coma
Best Indica: Doc’s Cut
Best Booth: Incredibowl
Best Product: Mama P’s Wholesome Grinding Company
Best Medible: Bhang
Best Concentrate: F’in Ridiculous

Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.