The cannabis community is pushing into mainstream culture more and more with festivals, expos and conferences giving marijuana businesses and enthusiasts exposure and a spotlight. At these U.S. events that celebrate cannabis, it’s more than just blunts and bongs — it’s a whole world of marijuana cultivators, exhibitors and creative minds.
Courtesy of National Cannabis Festival
The National Cannabis Festival in Washington D.C. is held on the lawn at the RFK Festival Grounds, right along the Anacostia River. While you can’t smoke in public — which includes festival grounds — there’s still a lot people can do. The festival’s main attraction is the exhibitor fair with a wide variety of demos, art, fashion, wellness products and even what the gear growers wear when cultivating marijuana. There are over 100 participating exhibitors. The fifth annual festival will be on April 18, 2020 and more than 25,000 people are expected to attend.
Seattle’s Hempfest is considered the “largest cannabis convocation in the world” advocating for the legalization of marijuana. The free festival is rooted in political and social issues but there are plenty of vendors that come out as well. Festival-goers can try anything from corn dogs to Mediterranean food and buy handmade jewelry and topical products like “emu oil.” Visitors will not be able to smoke on festival grounds as it is illegal to do so in public per state law. The 28th Hempfest will be held in August 2020.
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In March 1967, cultural activist John Sinclair was arrested for marijuana possession and sentenced to 10 years in jail. But rallies and protests by his fellow activists drew attention to his cause — even John Lennon appeared at one of the rallies and wrote a song about it. Sinclair’s case was later taken to the Michigan Supreme Court, where the court decided that his sentence was cruel and marijuana should not be classified as a "hard narcotic.” So a new marijuana law was passed, but it would not go into effect for about 22 days, leaving the state without any marijuana laws and leading to the first Hash Bash festival in 1972. Of course, now visitors cannot smoke in public but the event is still centered around reforming federal, state, and local marijuana laws with some music and speeches, too.
Cameron Neilson/Outside Lands
In 2018, the popular Outside Lands festival transformed a portion of the grounds into Grass Lands, which made it the first curated cannabis experience at a major American music festival. And the Grass Lands festival isn’t just about marijuana — it also showcases the flavors of Northern California with dishes from over 80 local restaurants and food trucks. It’s a place for foodies and cannabis enthusiasts alike. San Francisco is well-known for its cannabis culture and this festival is a lot less limiting than others. Smoking or vaping cannabis is only allowed in the designated consumption areas in Grass Lands, but edibles or beverages can be consumed anywhere within the Grass Lands grounds.
Another California spot where consumption is allowed on-site is the Northern Nights Music Festival. Visitors can choose from a number of camping experiences on Cook’s Valley Campgrounds — glamping, RVs, tents under redwoods or car camping — near the festival site. Festival organizers call it a weekend of total immersion, live music, wellness and cannabis. More than 20 dispensaries are able to sell their products and talk to consumers in one of the festival lounges.
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The 2020 rally will be the 30th annual Boston Freedom Rally, and as usual, there will be some interesting activities offered. The Commonwealth Cannabis Competition showcases homegrown marijuana and awards prizes in flower, topicals and edibles categories. This event is a huge celebration of the state’s legalization of marijuana, with tens of thousands of people coming for speakers, music and vendors. Smoking in city parks is illegal in Boston, and visitors cannot buy or sell marijuana at this event either — it’s more geared toward cannabis education and promotion. The date for the 2020 rally has yet to be announced.
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The festival is presented by Euflora Dispensaries, which is known for its interactive approach to selling marijuana. Because Colorado was one of the first states to legalize cannabis, it has a unique history with the movement and culture, which is why the Mile High 420 Festival draws advocates from around the world. Food trucks, food tents and vendors selling handcrafted items like jewelry and clothes are some of the main attractions, as well as cannabis-related companies. Visitors cannot publicly consume cannabis at the free event because it is prohibited under Colorado State law.
This festival at Golden Gate Park celebrates the marijuana plant and is said to date back to the 1970s. Tens of thousands of people have attended the free event in the past. Marijuana is not sold at the festival but visitors can bring their own cannabis into the event, as long as it’s not in glass or bongs. One of the sponsors hands out free rolling paper, too. The festival is held on 4/20 every year.
The Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa started in 2003 as a local competition among Northern California’s top cannabis growers. And it still focuses on advancing sustainable cultivation and farming of cannabis. At this December event, cannabis enthusiasts can mingle with and learn from industry experts on what environment-friendly cannabis farming looks like. For $500, you can get a weekend pass that grants you access to the Emerald Lounge, pop-up sessions with the experts and educators, complimentary snacks and more. Smoking at the Emerald Cup is allowed in designated consumption areas, but there are purchasing limits to be aware of. The 2019 event’s music lineup boasted Snoop Dog.
The Kush Stock in Southern California is a bi-annual free festival that features licensed cannabis retailers, live music, food vendors and live glass-blowing demonstrations. The event takes place in Adelanto and has welcomed over 55,000 visitors from all over the country and from different parts of the world since 2016. Cannabis companies can enter their marijuana in the Kush Stock competition that’s split into categories like best product, CBD, flower, edibles and more.
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Unlike the two- or three-day festival in Amsterdam, Oregon’s Cannabis Cup will mostly focus on the competition between cannabis brands and farms in the state. The event organizers say this is more up-close and personal compared to the traditional Cannabis Cup festivals. The October event wraps up with a one-day awards show. Attendees cannot consume, sell or display marijuana, but because this event happens at multiple locations, smoking laws at the events can vary.
The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival is the longest-running cannabis legalization rally in the country. The Festival began as a smoke-in at the Wisconsin state Capitol to protest the arrests of cannabis legalization activists in the 1970s. The event grew from there and is now a festival full of exhibitors, speakers and music.
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The Indo Expo is a trade show showcasing cannabis and hemp with a focus on building business relationships by providing a professional platform. The expo’s 400-plus exhibitors range from boutique cannabis to large-scale hemp manufacturers and draw over 10,000 people from the industry. The event is open to the general public on the second day only, which is Jan 26, 2020. The first day is for B2B folks exclusively.
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The NoCo Hemp Expo is geared toward education and advocacy surrounding hemp and its products. This covers issues like climate, environment and health and wellness and how hemp is related to all of them. The expo showcases over 400 exhibitors and averages 20,000 attendees. The March 2020 event is open to the general public on the second day, as the first day is for B2B professionals only.
CannaGrow Expo Staff Photographer/CannaGrow Expo
This Chicago expo is open to everyone 18 or older, but cultivators, extractors or dispensary owners will likely benefit the most. The event is designed to help newcomers in the industry build on the experience of others. If you want to attend just to shop from the more than 115 vendors but you’re not too interested in the business side of things, you can buy a two-day expo-only pass for $69.
The CBD Expo Tour has multiple locations and takes place many times a year. The expo has over 90 exhibitors, giving visitors the chance to check out all the trending and upcoming innovations in the CBD industry. It’s a mix of business-to-business and business-to-consumer. The event also features interactive workshops and presentations.
Marijuana Business Daily/MJBizCon
The MJBizCon in Las Vegas is the largest gathering of marijuana professionals in the world. Cannabis business executives, cultivators and extractors can get a peek at what’s new in the ever-changing marijuana industry. It is open to the general public interested in learning about next-generation innovations and technology. The immersive showroom space is designed as a “mixer,” for attendees to easily hop around the booths and meet professionals. The conference boasts big names — 2019’s featured speaker is the founding CEO of Netflix.
The three-day event held at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas covers the opportunities and challenges within the marijuana industry. For entrepreneurs or hopefuls, the Cannabis Conference is intended to offer insight on what makes companies successful. The presenters and speakers represent a diverse cross-section of professionals, including top management from organizations throughout the world. It is open for registration to anyone, but it is not cheap. An all-access pass if you register early is $700 and registering on-site will cost $1,200. If attendees only want to go to the expo, it will cost between $200 and $500.
The CannaCon is a three-day expo featuring a marketplace of products and services that can be purchased directly from manufacturers and distributors as well as a list of educational seminars, many of which are CE accredited. Nearly 800 exhibitors and 25,000 attendees are showcased at multiple locations of this conference, including Chicago, Detroit and Tacoma. Though the event is not free, those who are interested can pre-register for a discounted price.
The main audience for the United States Cannabis Conference and Expo is the patient population, but it is open to the general public. This expo is all about the medical benefits of cannabis and exhibitors include wellness companies, scientific labs, greenhouse growers, medical dispensary executives and more. There are also seminars and sessions, with topics about investing in cannabis globally, the world of edibles, cannabis lifestyle, therapy and others. This expo happens during August in Miami.
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