Monday, May 22, 2023

Cannastock (Spring, 2023)

     Hi, yes, hello. I'm sure you're wondering a few things. Maybe along the lines of like:

  1. Where did you go?
  2. Where have you been?
  3. Are you alright?
  4. Are you Cotton Eye Joe?

    All of these are pretty fair questions (except the Cotton-Eye Joe one, that one's pretty out of left field but I'll let it slide). Trust me, I'll fill you in on what's been going on in an upcoming post. It's a doozy, so I figured I'd do something light ahead of time. Y'know, cut my teeth again on writing on this website, show you how things are changing/shift, etc. etc. I'm sure that this is also coming out of left field, me covering a cannabis event but, truth be told, my journalistic curiosity never stops and this is just one of the many things I've been tentatively feeling out to see if it's a good way to go for me. I'm not all-in on the whole cannabis thing, I'm just canna-curious, I guess is the best way to put it. Doing some marijuana mulling. I know that when I mentioned how...out of place this event coverage would be to one of my friends, they kinda laughed and said a few things. They said that nothing, and they repeat nothing, can stop my curiosity once it's piqued (true) and also that I could write this like a war correspondent. I know that sounds weird but it makes sense; I'm not in the trenches smoking marijuana all day, I'm just reporting on those that do, the culture behind it, and the burgeoning market that is New York's legal marijuana market. And, hey, you know me. If it's a legal intoxicant...I'm curious about it. So, with all of that nitty gritty out of the way, let me lay out how I arrived at this situation.
    I first heard about CannaStock on social media and I read up on it the best I could to see just what exactly it was about. It seemed to be like it was a show on the cusp of greatness. From what I could gather, it was a show where things were finally legal-legal in NY, and dispensaries were opening up. Growers were resplendent with product with nowhere for it to go (due to significant and protracted litigation by some dumb guy in Michigan). And it seemed like an event that was opening up for the first time (even though it had taken place before) with legal, easily accessible marijuana in mind. So, being the curious cat that I am, I decided to email them to see if I could get press tickets. Shout-out to Assa the marketing director for blessing me with two tickets. Yes, I said two tickets. Yes, I went with my mom. Listen, things have changed a lot and I don't wanna hear it, okay? Besides, it meant a lot to her and I kinda did it for Mother's Day so, y'know, two birds, one stone. Now, I wasn't allowed to bring a camera in and, frankly, even if I was I wouldn't want to take photos of people in this environment. I treated this like a kind of "secret's safe with me" kind of event. I didn't interview anyone high, I didn't take photos or recordings of anyone or anything, and I didn't get any booth photos. Part of this was by design of the event (they didn't want it) and part of it was my journalistic integrity (people deserve to have their shit be kept under wraps unless they don't want it). Now, let's dive in to what I saw, what piqued my interest, and what...didn't. Here we go.


    There were a LOT of growers at the event. Like...a lot. Which was weird because a lot of them were there but couldn't do anything with their product. A lot of displays of lower, cartridges, edibles, etc...but no sales due to legal limitations, which was sad. Some growers were skirting around the laws with legal loopholes (which I am all for because technically correct is the best kind of correct) so that was interesting to see. An example was that some vendors, like Flower Kingdom, would sell at hat for $50 and it came with free marijuana. I, personally, didn't partake of said sales (I'm just dippin' in toes here) but there were a lot of people that were taking full advantage of it. There were a lot of growers, as said, but I think these were my two favorites:

Harney Brothers Cannabis: Do you know the sound I made when I heard about this. I made a sound of excitement that I'm pretty sure only dogs could hear. I've been a LONG, LONG time fan of Harney. Hell, one of the first real pieces of journalism I did was the Harney and Sons Factory Tour back in January of 2010. This business was done by Mike and Paul (I've worked with Mike in the past, as well) and, so far, has products in at least a few dispensaries in NY. I am exceedingly proud of them for diversifying to the extent that they have and I really hope this venture does well for them. If I decide to get into marijuana, this might be something I'll have to try and tour (or at least smoke).

A Walk In The Pines: I was super impressed by these guys. They didn't have a whole lot of strains in stock but what they did have seemed like quality (I guess, I dunno, I'm very new to this). I talked with Mike Dulen, CEO for a bit and he was quite the affable chap to talk with. They're based in the Finger Lakes (which I am a fan of) and seemed like, while small and maybe just burgeoning, they could be up for great things. I'll be keeping an eye on them.

High Falls Canna: These guys were going absolutely bonkers and for good reason: they were giving away free stuff. And you know what stuff they were giving away. If you followed them on Instagram, you got a free something smoke-able from them of some type, judging by how many people were walking away with tubes of stuff. I signed up for their Instagram but opted not to get a free...I dunno, preroll maybe? I was trying to stay on the periphery and not actively get involved with all that jazz tobacco. I had a business to run and a media job to do so I was on my best behavior. Still though, nice folks and props to them for giving away that much marijuana.


    There we a lot of shops at the show, mostly focused on a lot of the minute details of growing, or straight up dispensaries themselves. I think the most two prominent dispensaries were both Etain and Curaleaf. Etain is a fully women owned dispensary not that far from me that's been doing gangbusters since it opened in 2015 with a lot of financial backing from a variety of groups (investment or not I'm not sure). They're pretty big and pretty widely spread across the state. It was nice to see them there, offering some serious deals for medical marijuana customers and also helping people link up with doctors that could help them start their journey to getting a medical marijuana card. I really liked that, even if the card isn't for me, and I think it was a good service done for the community. Curaleaf was there in full force, whether you liked that or not (there is some pushback for large marijuana "conglomerates" in the medical/recreational space) so whether you like them or are against them, they're here to stay. As someone that was looking into getting a medical marijuana card for a long time but decided against it, it's been interesting to see the burgeoning of the breadth of products available to medical marijuana patients. For a long time, you got tinctures and maybe vapes and that was it, you just had to deal with it. But now, it's really expanded into flower, edibles, tinctures, vapes, concentrates, what-have-you. The passing of recreational has been good for the medical marijuana field as well, which has been heartwarming to see. A rising tide rises all ships, so to speak, and it's made a large difference in things for a lot of people. Yay, compassion!


    As with any large gathering of those of the weed inclined, there's gonna be vendors. There were quite a few vendors there, ranging from glass and stickers, to law offices specializing in conforming to state law and other sticky (heh, marijuana pun) legal situations that could arise to places that specialized in seeds and plants, and even places that help you market your marijuana (or any marijuana adjacent) brand. There was a gamut of stuff for pretty much everyone there, regardless of what you needed, including me, the guy that's barely ever smoked weed in his life. My stellar find of the day was Hudson Valley Exotics, a store located near me that deals HEAVILY in...wait for it...

...exotic soda.

    Yeah, I know, I know. Leave it to the beverage guy to find the one booth in a marijuana centered event with the rare soda. IT'S A PROBLEM, OKAY. But seriously, the guys (Alex et. al.) were really cool and were doing some GANGBUSTERS sales while I was there. If you didn't see it, I managed to pick up a bottle of Blueberry Cola and went absolutely ham on it on Instagram. Here, I'll link it here:


Anyway, the dudes were really nice and, like me, couldn't drink anymore but still wanted to savor some good tasting stuff so they decided to open this business. It's located in a nearby mall (the Poughkeepsie Galleria) and I think we've got some plans in the works for doing some collaborative efforts over on Instagram. So, yes, I did manage to find a beverage booth at a marijuana festival. And I'm DAMN PROUD, OKAY.

Also, I did manage to run into Tuxedo Rolling Papers. They were a Czech company who was, naturally, giving out/selling rolling papers and wraps of all kinds. I was fairly intrigued by them because, honestly, not a whole lot of well known papers are made in the Czech Republic (and who can resist a paper made in the birthplace of pils beer, my favorite) so it was interesting to see them and what their product was about. Most papers are made in either Spain or France (or China) so it was cool to see an "alternative" paper from a rarer country. They ALSO managed to capture a video of an elusive Bacchus leaving the booth. I regret leaving the booth so soon because I didn't get the papers I wanted (they gave me king size slims instead of 1 1/4s that I like for my cigarettes) but if you want a video of yours truly lookin' like a real thicc snack in suspenders and golf pants, here you go:

Yes, I know the chub and tuck is a far more flattering look for us juicy boys but I refuse to do it, dammit. I REFUSE!

In Closing 

    Overall, I had a lot of fun at the event. If you're into the cannabis space, it really had quite a bit for just about anybody out there, even me. I consider myself cannabis-naive to the umpteeth degree so this was a whole lot of culture shock for me but I still had a grand old time. Sure, I didn't imbibe and instead watched the chaos unfold while drinking water and fanning myself next to one of the air conditioning vents for awhile but it was fun. These old bones could only hang out for about 3 hours (press was allowed in with VIP members at 12, with general admission entering at 1pm) so I was there from 12 - 3 pm. Let me tell you, it felt like I was in there a half hour. It really was a great time and I didn't get to see a third of the booths OR the food trucks outside (I MISSED YOU,EMPANADA MAMA). The retail price to get in for general admission was about $35 and the VIP (with goodie bag) was about $70 which I think were fair prices. You really got a lot of bang for your buck at the event and a good time to be had by all. There was some confusion at the very beginning as to how to enter the damn building but I was able to get in moderately quickly and get to a-reviewin'. It seems like it's a festival (festival I guess is the best way of putting it because it's not a trade show) that's starting to stretch it's legs and fully grow into the legalization of marijuana in NY but is having some growing pains. There wasn't a clear delineation between VIP getting in and Press getting in, things inside got very hectic at about 3pm when it became close to standing room only, and it was a labyrinthine effort to get out at the end because things weren't clearly marked. Those were the real downsides. But the upsides truly outweighed them. It was fun, it was funky, and everyone was there to have a good time. A far cry from the booze events I've been to which have often ended up with people throwing up in the bushes outside the venue after three hours on the sauce. Can't say I miss that aspect. Would I go again? Absolutely I'd go again and I'd recommend that, if you have the druthers and the cash, that you go too. I believe they do them every six months (spring and fall) so if you're ever in the Poughkeepsie area, I'd highly recommend attending if you can. It's fun, there's no boot and rally like booze events, and everyone is very, very chill. Dunno why everyone is so very chill but it's nice! Haha, I'm just kidding, I know exactly why, I'm not that much of an idiot. Usually. Okay, most days.