How I Snuck Into the Cannabis Cup (and Industry)

DENVER (Main Street) –  April 2014 was a crazy month. After couchsurfing for the winter with Joon, I bought another van and headed out to Colorado to explore the cannabis industry further.

Ross said Jim Cramer was interested in marijuana two months ago, and I was ready to see what legal recreational pot looked like in the United States.

blunt grinder Brian Penny versability
Can I be blunt with you?

I had a little over an ounce of nuggets, and I heard the roads around Colorado were dangerous to drive with drugs, so I sat in the parking lot of Home Depot in Gilbert, AZ and smoked my stash down to a joint before heading northeast toward Denver.

High out of my mind and without cell service, I made it to a McDonald’s in Columbine before reaching out to a few contacts I made in the area.

I ended up staying in the wealthy area down south, after Kate, a PR rep from Dallas, invited me to stay with her. Kate was a bit worn, definitely an analog relic in a digital world. She wasn’t afraid to knock on doors though.

The problem with Kate is she wasted time and money on random scavenger hunts and rabbit trails. She got me in with a couple dispensary owners, but I got no meat for a story. I paid for product – I could have done that without that manager’s help. I certainly didn’t need Kate.

She was useful in getting me meetings with the head of places, but after seeing it once, I didn’t need her hustle. Anyone could help me get in, and now I’m known here.

After meeting with the head of the BIG Industry Show, Kate started progressively freaking out about the upcoming blood moon and her financial situation. The house we were staying in was in the process of being sold, and most of the stuff in the house was in the garage. I couldn’t trust her and had to leave.

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Cannabis Cup 2014 swag

The Day Before

Arriving at the Denver Mart convention center up north, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get in, but between my press credentials and namedropping my contacts at Snoop’s Cashmere Agency and Cramer’s The Street, I knew I had a shot.

Thankfully I look exactly like I belong here. I’m high, smiling, dressed in jeans and blue White Orchid yoga shirt with wooden mala beads on top, headphones, sunglasses, and a beanie.

It took a little negotiation, but I persuaded the front manager I wasn’t leaving until I got inside. She finally conceded to giving me a lanyard and badge, crossing out buyer to write “Press.”

High Times Denver Cannabis Cup 2014 Versability

Immediately after walking in, I ran into the editorial staff of Cannabis Now at their booth. We never met in person, so we introduced ourselves, and I headed off to check out the show and pick up swag. The BIG Show is a B2B show, and the promoter is Formula 420. High Times runs tomorrow’s Cannabis Cup.

With a CN tote and materials, BIG badge, and some swag, there’s no way I’m not getting in here tomorrow.

Today it’s all about the glass, collecting business cards, and pulling in as much free swag as I can gather.

The show doesn’t have much for actual product, but there are a few interesting accessories and vendors. The Galleria of Glass alone has $2.5 million in glass sculptures, all hand designed. It’s more of an art gallery than anything else.

The public can buy tickets today, so there are quite a few crowds. My press badge looks like a vendor badge, so people are receptive to me. The Ocean Tokes surfer dude even smoked me out. I also met the guy who makes Anonymous bags, a bag to hide your drugs that would be inconspicuous if not for the shoddy zipper and tag on the outside hanging out like a flag, reading, “Anonymous Bags.” Of course I took one for my collection.

Tonight I’m sleeping in my van in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I met a couple truckers last night and need to pick up a preroll somewhere to smoke with them. I wouldn’t be very gonzo if I didn’t share my drugs.

High Times 2014 Denver Cannabis Cup Kush Banners Versability

The models they hire for these things are dressed sluttier than I typically see at conventions outside of E3 and Comic-Con. Cannabis is a cash business, and these guys have the drugs and cash to buy whatever they want.

One thing immediately clear is the industry is full of marketing companies. From the asshole running Magic Butter to the vape pens and everything in between – it’s all the same products imported and branded by different companies. This is the reality of offshoring’s effect on the global economy. Americans don’t have anything tangible anymore,

The Morning of…

I woke up on the floor of my van realizing I need more than a body pillow for a mattress.  With no power inverter, I have no way of making a hot breakfast, so I meandered into Wal-Mart to take my morning shit and pick up a couple cheap breakfast-looking sandwiches and chemical coffee

Plugging my laptop into the only available outlet in it’s McDonald’s, I plugged my phones, charger, and GoPro into my laptop, I enjoyed my 8-cream-6-sugar craptacular cup of shame while reviewing area maps and leeching as much data as I could from the public Wi-Fi.

Brian Penny Cannabis Cup Cred

I need to get out there by 9 AM to avoid crowds with the gates opening at noon. I have a parking pass, enough blunt wraps and rolling papers from the Dutch guys, and a bowl of kief. I’m going to make it in. I just need to smoke a cigarette with the truckers before I head out.

And piss out this coffee…

Saturday, April 19, 2014, 9:08 AM –

The crowd here is bigger than I anticipated. Not ten feet out of my van, I was intercepted by a Guido from Jersey with a few ounces of nugs, looking to sneak into the show. He saw my press credentials looked realer than anyone else’s, so he smoked me out and followed me.

I couldn’t get into the main outdoor area where smoking in public will be legal. I’m instead pointed to the vendor entrance where I picked up my press pass yesterday. High Times isn’t as easy to get through as Formula 420. Thankfully I came prepared.

Lacking business cards, I handed the woman a copy of Cannabis Now along with a business card-sized Anonymous sticker I wrote my business info on. With a crowd gathering and her attempts to delay me diverted, she had no choice but to give in and provide a pass to as small a group as possible.

Grabbing a handful of vendor wristbands, the woman invited us to come tour the facility. I handed her my card, and picked up my wristband, which I later saw again at Seattle’s cup.

Walking in today was a whole new experience. Where the galleria once was, hippies gathered in circles on the ground, unloading their pot stashes to show off to bypassers as industry speakers prepared for the day’s talks on edibles, marketing, laws, medicine, tinctures, and so much more.

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Weed goggles are much better than beer goggles…

Heading outside, I was faced with a fenced off area the size of a carnival, except all the rides in this festival will take place in our minds.

Walking inside, I was greeted by everything you want the Cannabis Cup to be – the Oktoberfest of marijuana we all want to see since the ending of Beerfest.

Packed with so many booths and people, Denver is definitely the place to be right now. Liquid Gold caught my immediate attention with an amazing chocolate. Coming inside, I also tried their nugget and concentrates entered in the cup. Taking my first ever dab at a crowded festival isn’t going to be fun. I hate crowds, but I’m all smiles today. I need to stick to sativas and energy.

Everywhere you look is something weird – three men dressed like Wonka and Oompa Loompas, thugs and gangsters with facemasks, women dressed like professional wrestlers and video vixens offering samples of pot in every form. Gonzo art everywhere.

Hunter s Thompson Art Infusion Versability Cannabis Cup
Infusion Project is a great bunch of talented artists…

The world began spinning as the rain and wind moved in from the mountains. Tents that weren’t tied down well flapped in the wind current, as vendors rushed to protect their inventory.High Times 2014 Denver Cannabis Cup Program Guide Versability

As the sky clears, a man from DabStar climbed up on a ladder with a megaphone and started throwing out free drugs, wraps, and more.

“Who wants free drugs?” He yelled. “I love my job, ladies.”

A lot of the cannabis industry in Denver appears to be run by Russians. I can’t help but wonder the connection.

Twelve hours in, I headed back to my van, three bags full of swag I got handing out business cards and stoned out my mind.

There’s still an entire day left, and a Snoop concert to boot. This is turning out to be the best 420 ever.

*Updated 4/12/15- Added additional images from More Pics from 2014 Denver Cannabis Cup

Anonymous mask Versability gonzo whistleblowerBrian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and writer. He’s a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Main Street, Hardcore Games, Cannabis Now, and more.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

4 thoughts on “How I Snuck Into the Cannabis Cup (and Industry)

  • April 1 at 5:40 am

    “Kate started progressively freaking out about the upcoming blood moon and her financial situation. … I couldn’t trust her and had to leave.” – Did he knock her up and bolt?


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