The High Times Cannabis Cup
Eyewitness Report by Red Bud

As contributing editor of “Hippyland”, I jumped at the chance to cover the 10th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup in my favorite city, Amsterdam. Never mind that the weather is foggy and cold in Holland, it’s foggy everywhere in Amsterdam for the Cannabis Cup! In fact, I was so excited that I arrived a little early – 5 weeks in advance – just to get myself properly oriented and in the right mood; but that’s another story.

Monday we showed up at the Pax Party House, a haven for us hippies that also served as Cup headquarters, banquet hall and exhibit hall. Chaos and confusion ruled the morning as the variously stoned representatives of High Times struggled to get out of the fog, and into some sort of control over the masses of hippies, wannabes and others trying to register for the judging ceremonies.  The schedules all seemed wrong, but everyone stayed cheerfully stoned, and there was remarkably little grumbling. We were scheduled originally to register with the rest of the press at 11:00 a.m. – this was changed to 4:00 p.m.  So we decided to explore the exhibits, but the exhibitors were struggling with the same fog factor, so we decided to go out for bagels and coffee. Bagels are hard to find in Amsterdam, so that took a while.

After our bagel fix, we got ourselves to the Melkweg (the Cup’s other venue over near the Leidseplein), Amsterdam’s premier music venue, with two concert halls, café, etc. The Hemp Hall is located there, where the Cannabis Cup Council holds it’s daily 4:20 p.m. meetings. Hemp Hall is also a cool place to hang, roll a joint and relax. The music is going constantly, the fog grows thicker every minute, and oh that smell! The Cannabis Cathedral is the larger hall, where the music, fashion show and awards happen.

Around 4:00 p.m. we returned to the Pax Party House for registration and free drinks for the press! Finally met with some of the cooler exhibitors at the Pax Party House and had fun discussing the wares they were showing off. Lots of hemp clothing and jewelry, hemp oils and cosmetics, hemp hats, hemp bong bags, you name it, they make it in hemp. However, the best exhibit, attracting the most interest, was the display case of entries in the ground floor exhibit hall. Crowds gathered all day long to admire the buds and chunks of hash displayed behind the glass. The largest, most spectacular bud being a beauty from Switzerland of all places. The chunks of hash had an incredible range of colors, the buds as well!

Upstairs at the Pax Party House we were treated to a Press and Exhibitors Dinner with vegetarian hemp creations for the first course. At our table for dinner were Ed Rosenthal, two guys from Scotland who are producing a documentary film on the Cannabis Cup and a couple of other stoned people. The crowd was all very happy and stoned with numerous joints, bongs, pipes, etc. circulating clouds of thick, tasty smoke. The conversations were most amusing indeed. The Pax Party House did a great job, feeding us another whole course of non-hemp food, free drinks, and a decadent dessert. The speakers were mercifully brief. The theme of this year’s cup was announced, Rastafarian; and Rita Marley’s arrival was announced for later that evening. The theme ties into the induction of Bob Marley into the Cannabis Cup Hall of Fame. Ras Menilik  was introduced as this years’ host of the event, a Rasta who was with Marley way back then.

After dinner they bussed us to the Melkweg where we had a blast of a concert in the Cannabis Cathedral with the High Times house band jammin’ some serious Reggae in a Bob Marley Tribute. A blast of a party to kick off the 10th Cannabis Cup.

Here are some happy Kiwis (New Zealanders) and Austrians enjoying the high life at the new Greenhouse Centrum.  We shared some smoke and good vibes with these fellow hash lovers (see photo).

Tuesday I got rolling a bit later, to say the least. Monday’s consumption was still affecting me strangely. I made it to the Medical Rights Seminar at 3 PM in the Melkweg’s Hemp Hall. A panel of five was there to seriously discuss and inform us about the struggle for medical marijuana as a right for all humans everywhere. The audience seemed less serious but attentive despite the cloud of smoke hazing the air.

A representative from Maripharm, a provider of medical marijuana for government and private research spoke about his experiences with the Dutch law and medical establishment. He described the way a Huisart (Dutch doctor) will write you a prescription for medical marijuana, but no pharmacy will fill it for you here in Holland. He mentioned that Dutch government policy is to send cancer patients and other sufferers to the coffeeshops for their pot. He went on to describe the clinically pure marijuana his company produces from one single, unadulterated strain of marijuana.

Mishka, an activist from France described the ordeal she went through in the French courts. She was tried for libel regarding her public pro-marijuana statements. Mishka also informed us that in France, merely smoking pot is subject to up to five years in jail. Her tales of injustices in the French legal system were quite sobering.

JP Morgan opened with statements about the inconsistencies of drug policies while everyone in the audience toked up in relief after Mishka!  The haze grew thicker, especially up here in the balcony with the press.  JP elaborated on the Dutch government’s willingness to send glaucoma and aids patients to the coffeeshops, while also shutting down some shops and limiting their growth. Therefore, pharmacies won’t fill prescriptions here in Holland for medical marijuana. He described the Dutch political parties, and their stances on the issues.  None of the parties are in favor of distributing medical marijuana through the coffeeshops, being pressured by the pharmacologists to distribute pills (marinol) from Eli Lily or perhaps the new natural THC tablets from another source. Either way it would mean enormous profits for one group or the other.

Next was personal testimony from Jim of Arizona. This guy is legally blind from Glaucoma, yet still drives because of the medication he uses – marijuana. He’s tried everything in the way of pharmaceutical drugs, but refuses to have laser surgery. He controls the excess pressure in his eye, which would blind him within three days, by consuming one gram of pot every hour. He does it anyway he can, eating it, smoking it, vaporizing it. His favorite way is obviously cookies. Jim holds down a job, and gets around on his own, he’s just a little happier than most – because he can see. He’s so happy he spends a lot of time counseling  cancer and glaucoma patients, teaching them how to roll their first joint, and sharing cookie recipes. So out of this big heart of his also flows his own cable TV show in Arizona, which he claims saves lives every day. He tells how to come to Holland and get a Dutch Huisarts to give you a prescription for medical marijuana, you can then go live in California or Arizona and legally buy marijuana. Or just live in Holland anyway you can.

There were other speakers, but Jim’s personal testimony really moved the audience and got the most enthusiastic applause of the seminar.

At 4:20 the Council met in Hemp Hall, Stephen Gaskin presiding, rambling on about this and that with tales of Dead Tours in Europe and how he now writes for a Nashville newspaper. Some memorable quotes: “The Dutch don’t necessarily like marijuana, they like freedom.” “Hippies are happy” and “A hippy can be anybody.” But he really got everyone excited when he announced he would be running for president, on the Hippy Party.  After this the Rainbow Gypsies performed with flute, candles and chanting nymphs and belly dancers on stage.  They performed in honor of Gaia, and hemp for our healing, our heads and our clothes!  Arjan from the Greenhouse distributed some outrageous samples to the eager crowd.  Radar from the Serious Seed Company spoke and promised bud for tomorrow!  Stephen Gaskin returned for more talk, and the haze got really thick.  The council broke up so the next event could begin.

Roger Steffens presented his film clips and history of Bob Marley.  The footage was remarkable, the music incredible and the Hemp Hall was transformed into an altar of Bob Marley worshippers praying with ganja.  Needless to say the audience was transfixed.

By this point I was motivated to escape for fresh air and refreshments. The Leidseplein provided the solution merely footsteps away from the Melkweg. Great Italian food, a bottle of chianti, and a walk in the brisk air restored me somewhat. Enough to take the coffeeshop tour bus to the Bluebird.

Departing from in front of the Melkweg at regular intervals during the Cup, this free ride was a hash filled careen around Amsterdam at night! What a trip! By the time we got to the Bluebird we were stoned, disoriented and crazy enough to actually go into the Bluebird Coffeehop. Not a bad place, the hot chocolate was good, the counter upstairs wasn’t too smoky even though the place was jammed with hash tourists – and they did offer a 10% discount for us Cannabis Cuppers. After this foolishness I was really wasted, enough so that it was back home, to my bed for the night.

By Wednesday, the haze was affecting me pretty strongly, blinking my eyes just smeared more THC over my eyeballs and didn’t help at all. The long shower did, however. The cup of coffee started coursing through my veins and I got to town to begin my serious coffeeshop tour. Everyone else was here to judge, so why not me? I figured I was the stoutest of samplers and could last thru the evening, I barely made it five hours. Amsterdam has great pot, but Amsterdam during the Cannabis Cup is when all the growers bring out their special buds, the “neder” hash made for the Cup, or specially imported hash shows up, and shops make up samples for the judges.

Tops on my list, for spacial design and quality of pot is the new Greenhouse Centrum. Wow, crystals everywhere, lit from within glowing like jewels scattered around the sea floor. Sit in a tiled and mirrored grotto and gaze at all the insanity going on around you. There’s Arjan, owner and entrepreneur hosting Rita Marley at the bar, He waves me over and introduces Rita, who’s waving around the remains of a bud she was given last night, says she’s having a hard time smoking any more, and this certainly beats living in L.A.! I chat for a bit about a time I saw her in the islands. Arjan then offers some samples, a kit with a special Greenhouse bag containing postcards, lighter, papers, filter tips, and four samples: “Super Silver Haze” (possibly the best haze I’ve ever had), a bio entry called “White Shark”; and two hashes, the imported “King Hassan Supreme” and the Nederhash Entry “White House”. Needless to say, all are EXCELLENT!

The Sensi Seed Company’s Coffeeshop is nearby, so I stumbled over there after awhile. Their place was jammin’ and had some samples at discount prices, so I had a coffee, sampled their NL Haze and talked with some French people about the internet. All the talk was about how the French are at fault themselves for not putting up content in French for the French. I guess they were the only people in town NOT attending the Cannabis Cup.

From there I took a walk over to the Dam Square and passed by my old favorite coffeeshop, the Abraxas. Just had to say hello, it was pretty quiet in there, everyone jealous I was doing the Cup, etc., but discussed what they are planning for Christmas decorations as a diversion. The music, as always, something great that you’ve never heard before, and the pinging of the pinball machine upstairs as you relax in a nice warm place for a while.

That was on the way to another place, the Dampkring, which was insane. The funky ambience was jammed with backpackers, stoned out of their minds in the densest cloud of smoke I have every seen! The tunes cranked to the max with the Wailers and Marley and a line 6 bodies deep at the hash bar. Just your normal every day at the Dampkring. It was easier to get a drink than it was to see the menu. I was sampling haze today, and theirs was uninspired, or maybe I was tired or too hazy already

I also stopped off at the Kuil right near Central Station, and sampled their Jungle Bud, Silver Skunk and Orange Bud. The Orange Bud has larger, looser clusters of buds with tons of thick red hairs. The Silver Skunk is really hazy with that hash smell when you exhale. The Jungle Bud is a tight cluster of joy with a silvery color, some red hairs and potent, heavy smoke. Good thing, cause they were playing Deep Purple and Frank Zappa on the stereo. The shop is really nice, resulting from recent renovations after the building next door burned to the ground last year. Which means a really nice, new pooltable downstairs. Nice people too.