Festival of green thumbs

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com.

Hey, so how was the Emerald Cup?

—Mai T. Clowdes

Dude. I got to shake hands with Willie Nelson! The cup was hella cool, yet again. The attendance numbers may have a been lower than last year, but the experience was top-notch. (The rainy weather was probably a huge factor, even though the producers did a great job keeping everyone dry, with heated tents and most everything located in a rain-resistant space.)

One of the things I really like about the Emerald Cup is that it truly celebrates cannabis. Sure, there was tons of weed for sale, but there were also lots of people who brought their homegrown. And it was really good. You know, like when your neighbor has a green thumb, and they let you try one of their exquisite heirloom tomatoes? Or one of your homies is an amateur beer-maker, but a really good one? It was like that. There were so many different homegrown, hybrid strains. People were trading seeds and talking about nematodes, organic fertilizers and Korean natural farming techniques. It was educational and wonderful. In this age of capitalists trying to figure out ways to trademark common cannabis strains such as OG Kush and Trainwreck, and billion-dollar corporations trying to muscle their way into the cannabis market, it did my heart glad to see folks respecting the open-source culture that has long been the hallmark of the cannabis industry. May the hippie spirit and the social justice culture of cannabis never be defeated.

The cup was also a little bittersweet. Yes, there were hundreds of booths selling everything from pre-rolls to feminized seeds. Yes, the entertainment was off the hook. Hell, Les Claypool sat in with Gogol Bordello! Jay and Silent Bob recorded a podcast! Sound Tribe Sector 9 did their psychedelic EDM-jam band thing, and it was epic. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is always funky, and Rising Appalachia played an incredible set of hillbilly-hippie music that was perfect for a rainy Sunday. The vibes were great, the food trucks were expensive yet delicious, and the weed, dabs, edibles, topicals and vapes were cheap and plentiful.

But I couldn’t help but notice that more than a few vendors that had been with the cup since back in the Laytonville days were nowhere to be found. Too many old-school growers and mom-and-pop cultivators have been priced out of this new legalization, either unable to pay the thousands of dollars in permit fees required to go legit, or living in a county that refuses to allow cannabis-based businesses.

It reminds me that we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Oh yeah. There was also a competition. Sacramento-based Newell’s Botanicals won “Best Topical” for the third year in a row. Congratulations!