This past Saturday afternoon was the inaugural National Cannabis Festival, and several thousand people milled into the large field by RFK Stadium to camp out, learn and observe, roll this, pass that, and enjoy the weather. A rainy morning may have gotten the festivities off to a slow start, but the sun eventually came out and the people weren’t far behind—and neither was the pot.
But it wasn’t just an excuse to toke up outside RFK Stadium. An education pavilion by the entrance had a lot to offer, kicking the day off with a yoga session, followed by discussions and demonstrations about cannabis growing and consumption. One of the more well-attended sessions was the National Cannabis Industry Association-sponsored CannaTank competition, wherein four finalists of a cannabis entrepreneurs contest pitched a panel of judges—one of them, At-Large Councilmember David Grosso—for a chance to win $1,000 toward their company. The winner was the Ardent NOVA precision decarboxylator, a thermos-like device that ensures you get the maximum potential THC yield from your bud.
Innovations like the decarboxylator, odorless travel pouches, and infused beverages were alongside T-shirts, vaporizers and rolling papers in the packed vendors area of the festival. Dispensaries were on hand to help D.C. residents get started applying for medical marijuana cards. Even Fat Trel—who was recently arrested, twice, for possession of counterfeit currency in one incident, and for driving while intoxicated, narcotics distribution, speeding in another—made a cameo at the D.C. Hydroponics booth. Only a small fraction of the attendees brought their pot, but the police generally turned a blind eye to those wise enough to keep it discreet.
“Some people are medicating, some people are off [in] recreation mode, some people are lounging, some people are just taking it in,” Phone Homie, host of WLVS Radio’s weekly marijuana-enthusiast show The Slab Hour, observed of the event. “For everybody as a whole… it’s been a great success because it’s been going off so far without a hitch. Very peaceful, happy, information’s being passed, people are getting stimulated at the same time.” Most of the vendors’ booths had long lines of people eager to sample wares, enter raffles and make purchases.
The lines also stretched long at the food trucks, many of which were apparently not ready for a bunch of potential potheads and their munchie-cravings as they ran out of various foods as the afternoon wore on.
While crowds were light at the concert stage for the early part of the afternoon, all of the artists and bands were nonetheless aplomb, and Prince tributes—from full covers to song references—were plentiful. Reggae (unsurprisingly) got a lot of representation in the line-up with acts like Congo Sanchez and Jesse Royal, but go-go stalwarts Backyard Band might have commanded the biggest and most engaged crowd—including a Metro rail-maintenance crew that partied from the elevated tracks at the Stadium-Armory station.
The legendary De La Soul closed the night out with an interactive and theatrical performance—signature for the group—celebrating its 26-plus years in hip-hop and teasing a new song from its forthcoming studio album. Trugoy promptly closed out the group’s set with a wish: “Year one, let’s make it two, three, four, and five for the National Cannabis Festival!” And unlike San Francisco’s 4/20 smoke-in at Golden Gate Park, which left behind 11 tons of garbage, the District’s crowd made sure the majority of their trash was properly disposed of as they filed out.