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martedì 23 giugno 2015

Cannabis business gets higher and higher at Cow Palace

Longtime cannabis activist Russ Belville couldn’t be more definitive in delivering his “Marijuana Legalization State of the Union” Saturday.

“The state of the union is stronger than it’s ever been,” Belville said after giving his address at the Cannabis Cup, the marijuana trade show that is expected to draw 16,000 people to the Cow Palace in Daly City through Sunday. Unlike the president’s address delivered annually in Washington, Belville began his by welcoming “the tokers, tokettes and non-toking lovers of liberty.”

There is much to bring a smile to a cannabis supporter these days. With marijuana legal for adult recreational use in four states, and headed to the ballot in the next two years in potentially 10 others, including California, the industry is worth almost $3 billion in the United States.

‘I can barely keep up’

Nowhere is that more evident than at the Cannabis Cup, which isn’t just a trade show but a competition that rewards the best buds, the best edible products and a whole host of other bests that the winners tout as green bragging rights. Steve DeAngelo, a longtime activist and the founder of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, will receive a lifetime achievement award Sunday.

The first show in the United States was held in San Francisco five years ago, and the event has blossomed to where there will be seven in various states this year.

“I can barely keep up,” said Dan Skye, editor in chief of the 41-year-old High Times Magazine, the monthly that chronicled the high life long before the mainstream embraced it and now sponsors the event.

There’s no trade show in the world like this. Go to a trade show at Moscone Center, and you may get a free T-shirt and a key-chain fob. Here, you get a buzz.

The centerpiece of the event is a fenced-in area where participants holding a medical marijuana card can imbibe, sampling the wares of 416 vendors. Don’t have a card? For a $40, medical professionals will provide an immediate exam to determine whether you need cannabis treatment and provide prospective patients with permission to get inside on the spot, since marijuana is legal in California only for medicinal purposes.

Inside is a marijuana mall of products, from cannabis-infused hot sauce to dog treats to “sugarfree, vegan, non-GMO” edibles to Dank Darts — billed as “the world’s first ever marijuana dart game.” Doesn’t that sound like something you think up when you’re baked?

“Pretty much,” said Dank Darts owner Jenn Delmoral. “But that’s why we did it. The drinkers have beer pong. We should have something, too.”

Vendors showcasing products involved in “dabbing” — a process where users ingest a concentrated form of cannabis in a wax or oil — were prominent. Popular with younger adults who don’t want to smoke a lot of flower to get a strong buzz, the product has boomed over the past few years. Particularly because you only use half a pea-size amount of the wax — a dab — to get high.

“I've been in the industry 20 years, and nothing has affected it like the dabs,” Tony Van Pelt said as he worked at a tent for a company called I Love Dabs, which sells equipment used in the process. It isn’t cheap — $300 for a complete setup — but the buzz is powerful.

“It’s like the difference between drinking a shot and drinking a beer,” Nate Andreas said after enjoying a dab.

Freedom from stigma

Andreas, who lives in Visalia (Tulare County), enjoys coming to the cannabis shows because “unlike being in a small town, where everything is all hush-hush, here you can openly go up and talk to people about how they do things, how they make things.”


Belville, who has attended almost every Cannabis Cup across the country, sees that. “Maybe not in San Francisco, but in a lot of parts of the country, there’s a stigma about marijuana still.”

As the cannabis industry has boomed, the Cup events have mirrored those changes, Belville said.

“It used to be about the activism,” he said. “Now it is about the business.”


Joe Garofoli is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @joegarofoli

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