The International Cannabis & Hemp Expo—and an ultra-special V.I.P. package—takes over Oakland City Hall
By David Downs
Hempcon, Kush Con, World of Cannabis—it seems like there are dozens of canna conferences in California all the time now. They seem to use the same venues, book the same booths of glass and T-shirts, and sling the same popcorn and beer. For a veteran, it’s become a bit skippable.
But the International Cannabis & Hemp Expo (INTCHE) coming to downtown Oakland Sept. 3 and 4 should be something completely different. Instead of the dank, rank, depressing Cow Palace in Daly City, INTCHE number three has moved across the Bay and into the sun and fresh air of Oakland City Hall’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. There, up to 50,000 people from across the Bay and the nation, will stream into the closed-off block, pulled in by up to 400 vendors, as well as three entertainment stages booked full of musical acts, speakers and leading activists.
After five years of work, INTCHE pioneered the “Prop 215 area” at the Cow Palace in 2010, said founder and co-organizer Kim Cue, based in the East Bay. Now, that the 215 area has moved out of the darkness and onto the front lawn of Oakland City Hall. Fully permitted by the progressive city, it’s a potent symbol of medical marijuana’s rise and might in Northern California, she said. And it’ll also smell a lot better.
“Moving the 215 section from the parking lot of the Cow Palace into a gorgeous shaded area right in front of City Hall—it just doesn’t get any better than that,” says Cue.
It’s also something of a homecoming for Cue, who grew up in the East Bay community of Brentwood. A chemical engineer by trade, Cue lost some friends to cancer and it exposed her to medical marijuana as well as the stigma and ignorance surrounding the medicinal herb.
She started the expo to provide knowledge about cannabis’ history and medical efficacy to a generation that had been deliberately deprived of that knowledge. Beginning in 2004, it took six years for the Hemp expo to get the Cow Palace, where they held two events in 2010 to national press attention.
Cue said INTCHE’s legendary V.I.P. Package returns this year. Promoters are holding a “connoisseurs cup” at INTCHE, with 40 California dispensaries competing in a royal rumble for the titles like Best Sativa, Indica, Hybrid, Hash, Wax and Oil. Those who purchase one of the 640 VIP “golden tickets” ($300) will receive instructions on picking a judge’s kit filled with 125 test samples.
“It’s really cool. Each collective markets [its] own sample and when you open up the box you just see a plethora of logos and different shaped small packages,” Cue says. “It really gives the patients the opportunity to sample everything across the board from an indica to a sativa to a hybrid to see what works best for them.”
“People are excited,” INTCHE spokesperson Linda Stokely says. “You’ve got 40 collectives that want to donate three different strains. The V.I.P. ticket is a really good deal.”
The O Place
Earlier this year, the Chronicle ranked Oakland 10th in a survey ranking the most walkable cities in the country (San Francisco came in second). But as far as many in the MMJ community are concerned, this East Bay town ranks tops for being ground zero for cannabis pioneering. Oakland serves as home base to Oaksterdam University (Thanks, Richard!), and last year it was nearly the first city in the nation to license wholesale marijuana cultivation—until the feds rained on that parade.