“You wanna hit this?”

“This” was a super-sized bomber—a blunt-sized joint with a line of rosin running through it, turbo-charged with the addition of some kief.

I stared through the thick haze of smoke and thought about the question for an uncharacteristically long period. It wasn’t that I was too high, but rather that I had utterly maxed out my interest in all things cannabis—talking about it, looking at it, smelling it, and even consuming it.

On December 9, I was in Santa Rosa, California, to attend my first Emerald Cup, a two-day festival celebrating Northern California cannabis growers. I had been told it was a must-attend event, but scheduling had not allowed the opportunity in past years.

The Emerald Cup

The Cup is, as its name suggests, a competition for cannabis and cannabis products. I’m missing the gene that moves me to care about awards for cannabis, so I don’t have any insight as to who won what, but congratulations to all.

I can tell you I have never in my life seen so many entries for such a competition, displayed with museum-quality care in multiple lighted cases, showcasing row upon row of samples from the entries. I stopped taking pictures after the first three.

Both days had sold out, and I was told there were 30,000 people. I believed it—there were people everywhere. If you don’t do well with crowds while high, the Emerald Cup is not the place for you.

The Emerald Cup

It was held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, a sprawling multi-acre space with numerous airport-hangar-sized structures that were recently used to house big animals after the devastation of October’s Northern California wildfires. The area immediately surrounding the fairgrounds was spared, but you needed only drive a mile to find blackened piles of rubble where people once lived. The contrast was sobering.

The different buildings were broken down into categories of interest (nonprofits, science, grow equipment, etc.). There was a robust schedule of speakers as well, all of which led to a serious case of FOMO. This area was open to all attendees, and I could have spent both days there quite happily.

The Emerald Cup

But I did not, because I’d recently acquired my California Medical Marijuana card, which allowed me access to the much-desired “215 area,” where the booths providing actual cannabis were based.

No matter how I describe this, you’ll think I’m exaggerating because I was high. Yes, I was high, but I have pictures to back up my claim: This was the largest amount of cannabis, cannabis products, and opportunity to consume those cannabis products that I have ever seen.

The Emerald Cup

Several buildings were filled with hundreds of booths, from makeshift to baller, packed out in seemingly never-ending rows. The lights may have dimmed in downtown Santa Rosa due to the endless number of dab rigs going nonstop. Everything you could sample was available in exchange for a “suggested donation,” with donations for as low as $10 for a gram of concentrate, and $100 for an ounce of flower, and hand-drawn signs offering “deep discounts for quantity.” Seed companies had gallon-sized mason jars of the flower grown from their seeds on display—test (i.e., smoke) a bowl of a strain, and if you like it, buy the seeds. It’s the most perfect model of farm-to-tabletop-vaporizer commerce ever. Some opted to forgo jars entirely, and just had 10 to 15 pounds of various flower spread out in open turkey bags. My nose had a coating of resin by the end of each day.

The Emerald Cup

I spoke with various grower alliances—primarily of sun-grown cannabis—who all expressed the same concerns their Oregon counterparts share. They hoped to continue to be able to work with patients and consumers without fear of overreaching regulation, or “Big Canna” destroying the craft cannabis industry.

I smoked a few pre-rolls that sucked, tried strains exclusive to California, and sampled two types of Frenchy Canolli hash products. If Yoda were a French hash maker, he would be this man. It was the finest hash I’ve ever smoked.

It was reassuring to be among so many cannabis fans and producers, and underscored that no matter what Jeff Sessions and his tiny-handed dementia-riddled overlord might threaten, the cannabis industry is not retreating back into the shadows. Never again.