Tales From The Cannabis Cup: Day 1

New contributor Roger Norville shares his Cannabis Cup experience with us…

The red-eye to Amsterdam had me arriving at my hotel before 9AM on Sunday morning, I dropped off my bags and headed out for an early-morning walkabout.

The sun was shining as the city began to wake. Pockets of last night’s leftovers stumbled along the bricked alleys as the occasional bicycle whizzed by, locals flitted about their daily business and most of the windows in the Red Light District were still dark.

[Both Cartoons by William Jessup]

The trans-Atlantic flight had been crowded and over-quota on crying babies; I was in bad need of a coffee so I found a shop just opening for the day. It was just me and the proprietor. As quiet lounge beats lulled out of the speakers he drifted about wiping tables and cleaning ashtrays, I parked in the window booth and watched the world walk by.

Before long the door swung open and a couple sat down, then another and another. Soon there was a lineup at the counter as early customers pored over the hash and marijuana menu. These places get busy, and they get busy fast. Of course coffee is a mere afterthought in Amsterdam coffee shops, the clerk spent considerably more time weighing grams than he did filling cups.

Taking my leave I wandered back towards my hotel and was surprised to find the main street lined with families. I joined the throng and soon marching bands and floats emerged, it was the annual parade marking the arrival of Sinter Claus! Curiously, the major attraction is the Black Peters, and they are everywhere. Dressed in colorless jester costumes with every inch of skin painted black, these dark minstrels threw candy and toys to the children, many of whom carried inverted umbrellas to help them catch all the booty. From a North American stance it’s a jarring sight; children screaming for the attention of smiling fools in blackface, but the context made it clear that I was witness to a cultural divide and not a racial one.

As the red-robed star of the show arrived on horseback I ducked into my hotel, checked in and headed out. Time was moving on and I wanted to make it to the Cannabis Cup expo in time for the opening ceremony at 4:20.

The expo has changed locations this year and I got a blistering tour of the city trying to find it. Eventually picking up the trail of heads carrying swag bags I found my way to Amsterdam Roest, arriving at the bar/restaurant in a semi-industrial area that serves as the hub for Cannabis Cup festivities. As I turned the last corner I heard loud whooping in the near distance; I had just missed 4:20. I found the rest of my way by sense of smell.

Alongside the Roest bar is the expo itself, housed in a rugged roofed alley. This is the 25th running of the Cup and these guys have learned to run a tight ship. The check-in process was a breeze, and equipped with my judges pass lanyard I started the swag-collection at the High Times booth for my official t-shirt, program and schedule of events. My sore feet lamented the detailed map and shuttle bus info to get to the expo, but that’s info that will come in handy going forward.

The hazy hall was packed with proprietors and enthusiasts paying homage to the mighty herb. Booths fell into a few basic categories: seed sellers, clothing companies, glassware and new smoking products. Judges meandered about sucking on vapor bags and gathering gear and info. Stickers, papers, filters, lighters, one can walk out of here with a year’s supply of smoking aids.

I spent an hour cruising the booths and chatting. I always find the new products the most interesting, last year’s rubber ashtray (The Smashtray) for tamping out bowls was a favorite. A couple of interesting items at this year’s expo are the Medtainer, an innovative grinder/storage container, and the Puk, a clever six-barreled round pipe that retails for 20 euros.

Now armed with the very informative program I found the bus that shuttled patrons to and from the expo in no time. Most seats had a table fitted with drink holders and ashtrays and with the stereo blaring the party got rolling before the wheels did.

Arriving back at central station the rest of the evening was spent visiting numerous competing coffee shops where patrons kept busy sampling marijuana strains that were vying for this year’s Cannabis Cup. 420 Haze, Resinator, Casey Jones, White Fire OG, potent smokeables that ranged in flavor and potency, soon the real test was to find something that would cut through the numbness and make one high again.

Refueling with some life-saving middle-eastern fast food in the form of durum, a sharwarma-like lamb pita with crispy fries accompanied by nameless ethnic condiments, a few drinks were in order.

Years ago coffee shop were barred from selling liquor so many places split into paired entities; you can buy weed in one place and smoke it while enjoying a beer next door. These places became the focus of the night until fatigue finally overcame will. Staggering turned to lurching and at midnight I made my way back to the hotel for a minibar nightcap, having been up and at it for thirty-two hours.

First days in Amsterdam tend to be long and a bit vague. With a full week of Cannabis Cup ahead I expect much more of the same.

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