Legal At Last, Colorado's Pot Contest Gets Competitively Mellow

Denver is playing host to the annual Cannabis Cup this weekend. Editor Ricardo Baca of The Denver Post's The Cannabist blog gives NPR's Rachel Martin the high scores.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today, some 30,000 people will converge in Denver, Colo. for the 5th annual Cannabis Cup, a marijuana festival and tradeshow. It's the first time the event is being held after legal marijuana sales went into effect January 1 of this year. To learn more about the event, we're joined by Ricardo Baca. He's the editor of "The Cannabist" blog at the Denver Post. Thanks so much for being with us, Ricardo.

RICARDO BACA: Hey. Thank you.

MARTIN: So first off, this is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but the event is happening on April 20, which is 420. Can you explain the significance, and I use that term loosely, of that particular date?

BACA: Four-twenty goes back many years when groups of young people would gather, especially in the depths of prohibition, to smoke weed together at 4:20 p.m. in the afternoon. They applied that to the calendar at one point, and said, hey we have a holiday. And of course, it's very intentional that the Cannabis Cup is taking over Denver on that weekend.

MARTIN: So what happens? What kind of activities go down at this festival?

BACA: They call it a trade show. And it's all things marijuana, you know. So there is on-site consumption, which is unusual for many of these events. But there's also panels, there's classes, there's even a yoga panel or a yoga class. You know, one of our columnists - our pot and parenting columnist is going to be on the first panel of the entire cup. And it's titled "Won't Somebody Think about the Children?"

MARTIN: (Laughter) I understand there might be a competitive element in the festival as well.

BACA: Yes, of course. The Cannabis Cup is one of the most prestigious awards in this weed world. They award 1st through 3rd places in many, many categories - you know, the raw green, the flower, also edibles, concentrates, waxes, shatters. And of course, the cup doesn't only happen in Denver. It happens in other cities as well - Seattle, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, San Francisco. But Denver is the biggest cup so, in a way, if you win a 1st-place Cannabis Cup in Denver, that's pretty much as high as you can go.

MARTIN: So is the festival, I wonder, generally embraced by the larger community or is this still kind of a fringe event?

BACA: I think all of marijuana culture is still on the fringe, even in Colorado where we've had legal medical marijuana since 2000. And because there will be open consumption, open smoking, you know, it's a contentious issue. But yeah, you're right. It is still mostly on the fringe because it's happening on 420 weekend. And if you ask most of America what is 420, they're not going to know.

MARTIN: Ricardo Baca is the editor of the Denver Post's "The Cannabist" blog. Thanks so much for talking with us.

BACA: Thank you.

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