SAN FRANCISCO -- Crackdown? What crackdown?
Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts flocked to High Times magazine's third-annual Cannabis Cup in Richmond, Calif., last weekend in the face of the federal government's increased scrutiny of the drug. And the gathering was a big hit, to say the least.
"It was the most successful event we've had yet," High Times editor Dan Skye told The Huffington Post. "It was a terrific crowd."
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Richmond's Craneway Pavillion transformed into a veritable cannabis cornucopia, with vendors showcasing everything from grow gear to innovative paraphernalia. Outside, a "medication area" allowed medical marijuana patients to sample some of the industry's finest strains.
The Cup, which draws attendees from across the country, provides a rare chance for cannabis activists to connect with one another, according to Skye. He said that despite recent federal crackdowns on medical marijuana businesses throughout the Bay Area, the community "continues to flourish."
"I know it's been pretty hard on dispensaries, but the fact is that the public favors the legalization of marijuana," Skye said.
In light of recent setbacks, High Times chose to honor Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee with a Lifetime Achievement Award. A pot advocate for more than 20 years, Lee faced a huge loss when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided his medical marijuana training school and dispensary earlier this year.
"I've known Richard since the early 1990s when he was involved in the hemp industry," Skye said. "He had the foresight to see that a university would be successful." Although Lee has distanced himself from his project since the raid, Oaksterdam still offers classes.
Lee wasn’t the only one recognized during the Cup. Buds grown all over California were entered into the official "cannabis competition." Larry's OG Kush grown from the Cali Connection Seed Company nabbed the top prize. (See all of the winners below.)
California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then, the cannabis industry has flourished, generating upwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
In the face of such success, federal prosecutors began targeting California's medical marijuana operations last October, sending threatening letters to dispensaries' landlords and shuttering businesses for being located too close to schools and parks. More than 100 cannabis clubs have been forced to close since the crackdown began, leaving thousands without work.
But advocates claim the Justice Departments' actions help strengthen the ties of their community. "It's only emboldening us and bringing us together," Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, told HuffPost in April.
Nowhere was that bond more apparent than in Richmond last weekend.
"Thousands of people came out to have a good time," Skye said. "We keep seeing more and more people from throughout the country."
High Times' next event will take place in Seattle in September. Take a look at images from the big event below, then scroll down to see all of the winners:
Buds on display
Mila, the "hash queen of Amsterdam," congratulates Richard Lee on his Lifetime Achievement Award.
No Green. No Scene.
Miss High Times 2012, Emily Aryn.
On-site artist paints during the Expo.
Subcool, owner of TGA Seeds
Glass paraphernalia vendor
Vendors with merchandise
Steve D'Angelo of Harborside
The crowd in the "medication area"
A vendors walks the midway with merchandise.
Attendee samples concentrates at Harborside booth.
Edibles on display from Bud Barrel
Kenny Estes, with Med Can Cup
Buds on display
1st Place - Larry OG Kush, The Cali Connection Seed Company
2nd Place - Ken's Phantom, Granddaddy Purple Collective
3rd Place - OG Sky, Buddy's Cannabis
1st Place - MCU ATF Bubble, Hill Farms presents Master Control Unit
2nd Place - Lemon Remedy, Harborside Health Center of SJ
3rd Place - Harlequin, Buds and Roses Collective
1st Place - Hardcore OG Budder, Superior Extracts for West Coast Cures
2nd Place - OG Super Sexy Budder, LA Confidential Caregivers
3rd Place - Unfuckwitable OG Wax, Venice Medical Wax Centers
BEST NON-SOLVENT HASH AWARD
1st Place - Solvent-less BAMF Mix Hash, BAMF Extractions for Buds and Roses Collective
Check out the winners below:
1st Place - Eleve Gourmet Veganic Medicated Truffles, Hills Farmacy
2nd Place - CannaChocolate 44/8mg THC/CBD, Tea House Collective
3rd Place - Spice Orange Drops, Greenway Compassionate Relief Inc.
1st Place - Mamma P’s
2nd Place - Elemental Wellness
3rd Place - Cali Connection
1st Place - Mama P’s Grinder
2nd Place - KO Nail from KO Domeless Nail
3rd Place - The Grinder Card from V-Syndicate
1st Place - Hitman Glass
2nd Place - Pulse Glass
3rd Place - Dopeass Glass