San Francisco 'Cannabis Competition' Ruined By The Man
Kevin Reed can't catch a break. Reed, the CEO of medical cannabis delivery service The Green Cross, has for the past three years hosted an annual pot party/fundraiser called the SF Cannabis Cup (re-dubbed the "Cannabis Competition" for this year's fete due to copyright concerns), in which a select group of judges -- all medical cannabis patients -- get completely ripped as they sample roughly 60 of the best grams of cannabis, concentrates, and edibles Bay Area dispensaries have to offer.
Kevin Reed may have been better off having his pot competition in the bushes
The fourth annual iteration is this Sunday, Nov. 14 -- but after a few calls from SFPD forced a costly venue change, all of the funds that were to go to the SF chapter of Americans for Safe Access have been eaten up. And now, New York City-based cannabis culture magazine High Times is threatening Reed with legal action, promising at least $75,000 in legal fees as well as seizing all of the proceeds from the event if Reed goes forward.
How did this happen, when the prior three cannabis competitions went off without a hitch -- and one of which, the 2008 event, was attended by two High Times reporters (who reportedly had a blast)?
It all started with food trucks.
Until about 10 days ago, the Cannabis Competition was all set to go at Cafe Cocomo, a Potrero Hill salsa club and host site of the prior three events. That is it was, until Reed applied for a permit to have food trucks at the event (Cocomo does not do food -- and cannabis causes hunger, see). It was the food truck applications that brought the Cannabis Competition to the attention of the San Francisco Police Department. Bayview Station permit officer Timothy Dalton (seriously, like James Bond) informed Cocomo's ownership that: a) alcohol sales are prohibited at a site where cannabis is consumed, and; b) consuming cannabis on-site would violate the city's anti-smoking laws. Never mind that alcohol sales were verboten for the event, that all smoking would have been on Cocomo's giant outdoor patio, and that three events were held at Cocomo in years prior. Dalton called the statewide Alcoholic Beverage Control, which informed Cocomo's ownership that it could lose its liquor license if it went forward with the event.
SFPD deflected press inquiries to the ABC: "This is their enforcement area," a police spokesman told SF Weekly. In explaining exactly why Cocomo couldn't have on-site cannabis smoking while three events in the area -- two at the Cow Palace in Daly City (with beer sales) and one at Terra in Rincon Hill -- had on-site cannabis smoking in 2010, Justin Gebb, the head of ABC's SF office, quoted to SF Weekly several laws, including the state's medical marijuana regulations (which do not mention alcohol) and the city's medical cannabis dispensary laws (which do not mention tobacco, and which do not concern establishments with a Type 47 liquor license). Nevertheless, Cocomo did not want to run afoul of the ABC especially after the club hosted a nonfatal shooting.
This led Reed to scramble and find a new site with less than two weeks to go before the event. He selected Terra, which had hosted the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in June, even though the last-minute venue change meant that Reed's advertising was next to useless and that costlier rent at Terra would erase much of the fundraising.
And now High Times is in Reed's hair (and he's bald). Last year, High Times asked Reed change the name of his event, as "Cannabis Cup" is the name of the annual contest High Times throws in Amsterdam. Reed consented, told High Times he'd call it a "Competition," and heard no more from High Times -- until Sunday.
On Sunday, Reed received an e-mail from David Clifford Holland, a New York City-based attorney representing Trans-High Corporation (THC, get it!), the parent company of High Times. Holland stated that High Times was entitled to all the revenue from ticket sales and booth rentals. The big problem, other than Green Cross didn't pay THC a licensing fee? The awards given to the growers and sellers of the Bay Area's best bud receive "Crystal Cannabis Cups," Holland wrote.
"[This] is a blatant misappropriation of THC's exclusive trademark and further, a deliberate attempt by your organization to confuse the public about who is actually promoting and hosting the event," wrote Holland, who declined to comment further when SF Weekly contacted him via telephone. "Such blatant theft cannot be tolerated."
As well as party money, High Times wants $75,000 in compensation for legal fees.
Reed has copyright lawyers on retainer, so it appears he's ready to fight High Times in court. In the meantime, there's a pot party on Sunday, and everyone's invited -- including High Times, should its people buy a ticket.
"All the profits from the fundraiser are gone. ... At this point, it's just about having a party and making sure everyone has a good time," Reed told SF Weekly. "It's out of my hands and into my lawyers'."
And whatever it's called, Reed plans to host another cup/competition/pot party at Terra in 2011.