This year was the second year of the world’s largest legal cannabis celebration; both the first and second annual World Cannabis Week (WCW) celebrations were held in Denver, Colorado, the first state-sponsored home to recreational and medical legalization in the United States. Denver is still one of the main hubs of cannabis industry businesses and organizations from MassRoots’ cannabis social media headquarters to Denver Relief, the city’s oldest medical dispensary. World Cannabis Week is a week-long celebration of cannabis, legalization, and the medical strides that cannabis has made since legalization in 2013 (World Cannabis Week). This sample research paper from Ultius discusses the history, events, and future of World Cannabis Week.
The history of World Cannabis Week
According to the World Cannabis Week website, the event was created in order to organize necessary information about the many range of 420 events in and around Denver, Colorado, during that week in April for both newcomers to the city and the celebration, as well as veterans and locals (WCW). There are many, many cannabis business-based organizations in and around the Mile High City, including Women Grow, MassRoots, and the more than 2,500 other marijuana business-licensed companies (Colorado Pot Guide). This number includes 900 plus dispensaries and legal grows, and is demonstrative of the nearly nationwide “green rush” happening in the United States as legalization and medical marijuana sweeps most of the 50 states (Colorado Pot Guide). Although this is only the second year of WCW, the organization looks forward to many more years to come.
The history of cannabis
Marijuana, or cannabis, as most of the new industry prefers to call it, has been around since the dawn of time (at least 12,000 years), and has been used medicinally by many different cultures, including:
- South American
- American Indian
- European indigenous and other populations of the world (Blaszczak-Boxe)
Cannabis was also used for spiritual purposes, and is still considered sacred and a part of religious sacraments and ceremonies by many indigenous peoples, as well as Rastafarians and the people of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church (Blaszczak-Boxe; BBC; Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church).
Failed attempts to legalize marijuana
Despite the medicinal and positive effects of cannabis, legalization has been curtailed and the plant has been demonized throughout recent history, particularly in the United States, according to Barney Warf, the author of a recent article on the origins of cannabis use. Cannabis has been legal in many countries at different points in its history, Warf noted, including the United States. In order to understand the reason that hemp was outlawed and demonized in the United States, it is necessary to understand what was happening in the country at the time, and what cannabis and hemp really are.
What is the difference between cannabis and hemp?
There are two different kinds of cannabis plants – one is the hemp plant and the other is cannabis sativa which contains less than .3% THC – the psychoactive compound that gets you high (Price). Cannabis sativa can be bred for high-THC concentrations, however, which is why you will see descriptors in medical and recreational dispensaries which say “sativa-dominant” (Price). Hemp has been used in the past to make textiles, oils, topical ointments, and even construction materials; it is different than cannabis whose purpose is to relieve pain or create the euphoric feeling so many partakers enjoy (Price). Medical Jane, a website about cannabis, notes that the male and female theory about hemp and cannabis is untrue, as well as the theory that one plant will get you high and the other cannot (Price). Canada and the United States also have different definitions of what constitutes hemp; in the U.S. hemp is:
“all parts of any Cannabis Sativa plant containing no psychoactive properties, except for defined exceptions” (as cited in Price).
Industrial hemp’s seed, oil, and fiber are used for various purposes all over the planet, including:
- Animal feed
- Non-dairy milk
- Baking additives
- Salad dressings
- Dietary supplements
- Body care products
- Automobile parts
- Recycling additives
- Animal bedding
- Mulch (Price)
With so many varied and potential uses, it seems ludicrous that efforts to legalize marijuana have met such opposition.
The anti-hemp & cannabis conspiracy
In what many consider to be a conspiracy against hemp use for paper in the early 1900s, hemp paper production was pushed out by chemical companies like DuPont which created chemical for the cotton industry, and didn’t want to be edged out by the hemp industry, even though hemp produces far more paper of greater strength than cotton did (and uses far less chemicals and water). William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Mellon (U.S. Secretary of the Treasury then) are suspected of helping to demonize hemp and cannabis through the creation of the Bureau of Narcotics in order to back their familial and financial investments in the timber and cotton industries. Mexicans were also demonized unfairly during this campaign because marijuana was widely used for spiritual and medicinal reasons in their culture (Wolford).
Events at World Cannabis Week 2016
Known as the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival of cannabis, WCW includes:
- Major sponsorship engagements in the “world capital of cannabis” – Denver, Colorado (WCW).
WCW is a curated experience, which means that the organizers pick events and happening specifically for attendees, including cannabis-friendly accommodations and transportation services such as those provided by My 420 Tours. There are multiple packages available in case you decide to attend (WCW). Events occur every day and range from cannabis tasting to dispensary tours, the Official 420 Week Launch Party, all events serviced by free shuttles. The 420 rally this year was scheduled for Saturday, April 16th in Denver’s Civic Center Park from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. with free performances by Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa – but had to be rescheduled for Saturday, May 21st from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. due to a significant late spring snowstorm. Other events for 2016’s WCW included:
- The 420 Bazaar
- A four-hour VIP dispensary and grow tour
- A cannabis cooking class
- 420 Eve on the Rocks (at Denver’s venerable outdoor music venue, Red Rocks)
- The 420 Festival at the Exdo Center in downtown Denver
Denver’s 420 Rally
The first official Denver 4/20 Rally was started by Ken Gorman – that was over 20 years ago in 1993 (McSwane). Ken Gorman was one of Colorado’s most venerable medicinal marijuana supporters and even ran for governor long before it was legal (McSwane). Gorman began a Colorado tradition that has come to be the biggest 420 celebration in the fifty United States. Despite a lot of difficulties last year, from permits to marijuana violations, the 2015 4/20 Rally went exceedingly well, and was a great success for the marijuana industry and everyone who attended (Gauldin). The fears of law enforcement agencies were high, but rally-goers proved that a cannabis-fueled event is mellower than an alcohol-fueled event, and reassured local law that the rally would go on for the foreseeable future (Gauldin).
Colorado and marijuana
Colorado’s belief in cannabis’ healing and relaxing properties goes back decades, and Coloradans love their cannabis. Prior to the November 2000 general election which allowed medical marijuana to be prescribed for “qualifying medical patients,” 4/20 was celebrated annually both in Civic Center Park and on campus at the University of Colorado at Boulder for years. As medical marijuana registry cards and regulations went into effect, Colorado’s reputation for helping spearhead the cannabis revolution and the end of prohibition became known far and wide. In 2004, Colorado’s Department of Health set the caregiver patient number to 5 in a secret meeting; this ruling was eventually overturned – Judge Naves called their actions “an abuse of discretion in violation of Colorado law” (Colorado Medical Marijuana Guide). During this time, Colorado’s 4/20 rally in Denver was gaining steam, as was the cannabis legalization movement – rallies were growing and becoming one of the most inclusive places in Colorado – people from all walks of life began to openly support cannabis, leveling their aim at the regulations and possibilities surrounding the industry with high hopes (Breathes).
Ken Gorman’s unsolved death
Unfortunately, founding Denver 4/20 Rally promoter Ken Gorman died in 2007, at sixty years old. Still an unsolved mystery, two men broke into his home in a southwest Denver neighborhood (McSwane). Due to the high-grade marijuana he supplied to his patients, Gorman had been robbed repeatedly over the years, and was unable to defend himself before he was fatally shot through the heart (McSwane). Gorman’s activism around cannabis legalization “enraged a lot of people” according to local paper Westword; all kinds of theories have been posited as possible reasons for his death. They include rival cannabis growers, or possibly someone who wanted to keep him and his opinions quiet (McSwane). Gorman’s main cause was the right of medical marijuana patients to medicate for their illnesses – a dream that has come true for many patients here in Colorado and across the nation.
The turning point
Due to Judge Naves’ ruling in 2007, the Colorado Department of Health held another meeting with the public in order to make decisions on how to regulate the future of cannabis in Colorado – their decisions during that meeting laid the solid bedrock for what is a booming business today (Elliott). In attendance were:
- Law enforcement
Caregivers were allowed to have as many patients as they could handle; they were only required to provide medicinal cannabis to their patients; and all applications and change forms had to be notarized (Elliott). The simplicity of Colorado’s initial medical marijuana laws has allowed the state’s industry to become the biggest and the best over the past decade – the incredible outgrowth of ideas, concepts, and new applications for cannabis in medicine and entertainment would not have been possible under tighter restrictions. Following Gorman’s untimely death and the revelation of Judge Naves and the public concerning medical cannabis, the 4/20 Rally took on a whole new meaning for Coloradans and everyone across the nation who celebrated the legalization of marijuana and its properties.
Gorman’s method of dispensing medical marijuana was out of the ordinary twenty years ago, and it still would be if it wasn’t for his early treatments. He used a bullhorn and a pocketful of joints to advertise his beliefs, which the current medical marijuana industry in Denver is now built upon (McSwane). World Cannabis Week hopes to spread the cannabis industry and celebration across the planet, and welcome people from all over the world to the heart of the recreational and medical marijuana movement in Denver, Colorado.
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