Justice Department Threatens to Shut Down 2017 Cannabis Cup

A not-so-high-times festival on tribal lands.

High Times is hosting the 2017 U.S. Cannabis Cup in Las Vegas on March 4 and 5. Or planning on hosting. The weed festival, formerly held in Amsterdam, has been held since 2013 in pot-legal and weed-friendly jurisdictions within the United States. The festival is one of the largest of its kind and hosts an array of weedy competitions and musical acts. But this year's Cannabis Cup, held on tribal land outside of Las Vegas, is facing government backlash and possible shut down as the Trump administration officials are cracking down on federal anti-marijuana laws.

From Reno Gazette-Journal:

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, based in Las Vegas, sent a Feb. 16 letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe reminding the tribe that the transport, possession, use and distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law. The marijuana trade show and festival, planned for March 4 and 5, would be in violation of that law, according to the letter obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called 'Cole Memorandum' and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department's position on this issue."

While many weed-legal states, including Nevada, often follow statewide policies on pot whenever possible, this pushback from the federal government looms as a threat to 420-friendly festivals and people. If federal law enforcement intends to shut down this festival, that action could indicate that the federal government plans to step in and use its power to take out statewide legal marijuana policies wherever they are in place.

The tribe is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to resolve the conflict. Organizers believe that if the marijuana is not visible, they might just be fine. The tribe says that the festival is really about food, music, and vendors’ crafts, not selling weed. Plus, the event is 21 and over, totally fenced in, and will have a heap of hired security.

And while federal agencies might be anti-pot and trying to enforce the law to wipe out weed completely, maybe there’s still some light in the tunnel. First, if Nevada (and the rest of us) are lucky, the dispute is a simple matter of interpreting the law and can be resolved. After all, 54 percent of voters wanted recreational weed in Nevada, including Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who is working on a recreational weed bill for tribal lands in the state.

"This is the kind of event that we’d like to see in Nevada. This could be a huge boost for the tourism industry,” Segerblom told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Perhaps if legal states can establish momentum for producing safe marijuana policies while making a ton of cash in taxes and through major festivals like the Cannabis Cup, the federal government will back off. Maybe.