This past Saturday marked the second annual HighFi event, held in downtown Los Angeles. On the surface, it seemed like so many other cannabis-related events: vendors, music, and of course, copious amounts of marijuana and dabs. However, the ultimate vision behind HighFi goes a bit beyond that of bringing like-minded people together for a good time and, unlike last year when I went in unaware and simply looking to have fun, this time I was more focused on the event and how it worked toward a more significant goal.
I arrived about thirty minutes before the doors were scheduled to open at 2 pm and all was as I expected: total chaos. Vendors were still just arriving and setting up, which was complicated by the fact that there was no set floor plan. Deciding to try and get my bearings before it became packed, I made my way through the space and it became abundantly clear that the organizers had become more ambitious. The venue that we were in was both indoor and outdoor with two stories. Last year, only a fraction of the space was utilized. This time, however, there were vendors crowding every available area; they surrounded the stage inside, both upstairs and down and were packed into every available area.
While I give the organizers credit for trying to put together a comprehensive and comfortable experience for their attendees, there were some issues that arose. The booths that were set up away from the main stage didn’t get very much foot traffic and, with such a large space and so much to see, there was never really a full crowd for the musical acts.
Speaking of performers, I can say I was definitely pleased with what I saw and heard. Aside from the main stage, there were two additional areas (including the Weedmaps VIP room) which had DJs in constant rotation, including Salam Wreck, Lenny Ducano, Showtime, Javie Lopez, JTurner, DJ Nelz and Klass One. But it was the main stage hosted by Adam Ill that drew the most attention. Throughout the evening there were performances by P-Nuckle, King Tee, Rappin’ 4-Tay and, one of my favorite bands from high school, Pepper. We were also treated to two other B-Real TV personalities, E-Zone and Sheiky, making their debut performance and countless giveaways from the many vendors, including none other than the “People’s Champions”, Paris and Vader Extracts.
A performance from Pepper
Now, I enjoy free shit just as much as the next person but one of the complaints I have about almost every cannabis event is that the audience shows more enthusiasm for giveaways than they do for performers. I’m aware that the musical acts are being paid but, even if you’re not the biggest fan of a performer on stage, I think it shows an inherent lack of respect to scream wildly for free things while refusing to even clap at the end of a song. Unfortunately the sprawling layout only exacerbated the situation and I could only clap and cheer all the louder to try and make up for the lack of audience and enthusiasm.
By the time 5:00 rolled around, I was completely famished and set out to look for something non-medicated. Thankfully I had already spotted Blanca from Blanca’s beverages and had a mason jar full of her delicious juice to prevent my cotton mouth from literally gluing my mouth shut; now it was time to find some munchies… or not. I hate to sound like I’m complaining about everything but really: where was the damn food? After much searching, I discovered that the ONLY place to eat at the event was a tiny area hidden in the VIP room (and if you weren’t VIP, you were shit out of luck). By the time I got there though, their menu had been reduced to two choices: pasta salad or nachos and cheese. Being desperate, I politely ordered nachos from the harassed guy working the food stand, mistakenly thinking that they would be ready immediately.
Apparently no good deed goes unpunished. Obviously happy to be serving someone marginally kind amidst the starving and disgruntled masses, the guy offered up a wink and a promise to make me a “fresh plate.” I uneasily wondered what that could mean and, fifteen minutes later, found out that “fresh nachos” translated into popping open a new can of cheese to heat up before dumping some onto a plate of tortilla chips. Well… the gesture was appreciated, I guess and, more to the point, I was just too hungry to care anymore. Lucky for me, shortly before I left I hit the jackpot. Tucked away into a secluded corner I located none other than the Cupcake Cartel. You may have seen them out and about at events before and mistaken them for just another group of models. Think again because Cupcake Cartel isn’t just a few gorgeous girls doing the promotional circuit and you would be well advised to look for them at the next ganja gathering you attend. They actually do bake and at this event, literally saved my life with a couple of delicious chocolate cupcakes.
I will say that HighFi definitely got the “high” part right. There were so many vendors that while walking around, I literally felt like a kid in a candy store. Before the doors had even opened, I had received countless offers to hit delicious smelling joints and potent dabs and, although I tried to politely decline for a little while (I was “working,” after all), I eventually gave in. After sampling wares from a few different vendors, I finally settled on an old favorite, a joint filled with a little something from the guys at Paris. Looking back, I realize that this came about a half hour before the nachos, so I’m guessing this may have precipitated my raging case of the munchies. There were also several edible companies in attendance and I found myself drawn pretty often to the area where Mama Ganja Edibles had set up shop, mesmerized by the gorgeous little pastries they had on display. However, after having heard from a friend that the lemon cakes were so good that he had eaten about eight of them – “They’re so small, I hope I can still perform later,” he told me – I decided to restrain myself, knowing that it wouldn’t be wise to eat my bodyweight in medicated pastries or to end up sleeping throughout the rest of the event (I had already eaten those cupcakes and have notoriously bad self-control when it comes to food; it was best to not even go there).
I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, “Could this girl complain anymore?” The truth is, even though there were some organizational snafus, I would have tolerated far more of them with a smile because I truly admire what HighFi is trying to do. Outwardly, the event appears to be just another weed event, but their real goal is to raise awareness for certain causes that are related to cannabis. Last year the event focused on cancer and this year they set out to raise money to promote awareness of PTSD (and its relationship to marijuana). There were a few speakers at the event, including Kevin from the Weed 4 Warriors Project, an organization for military veterans who bring awareness to the benefits of cannabis therapy. Despite the presence of these speakers, I found it slightly odd that no matter whom I spoke to, they couldn’t give me the specific name of a charity that the money was earmarked for.
However, one conversation with a company who helped fund HighFi both years (and a very trusted company at that) completely put my mind at ease. I wasn’t astonished to learn that the previous year hadn’t met their fundraising goal, but I was (very pleasantly) shocked to learn that their company alone had made up that difference by personally donating $10,000 toward the cause. Trust me, that conversation really put a little disorganization and my hangry disposition into perspective.
I had been doing a little research into PTSD recently for another project and was really pleased to find out that it was the focus of HighFi this year. Although its gaining more attention, as of 2014 there were relatively few case studies of the relationship between cannabis and PTSD, despite the overwhelming statistics of veterans who choose to self-medicate with marijuana. However, if you choose to look, the research is out there. In March of last year, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (volume 46, issue 1) published information from a study that showed “Greater than 75% reduction in… symptom scores were reported when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.” Other studies have already established a correlation between the endocannabinoid system and memory, a key factor in treating PTSD.
As more people become aware of the potential benefits of using cannabis to treat PTSD, the more research can be done to prove it so and make it available to those who are suffering. In my understanding, if there is something out there that will help people living with this level of hardship, its not just the humane thing to do to provide them with it, its the only thing to do. So maybe HighFi was a little disorderly in their organization. Maybe I was a little cranky because I needed to eat. But in the grand scheme of things, it was a small price to pay when you consider what others have to live with every day and that the bigger picture is trying to help them. HighFi has already shown a marked improvement from its first year and I’m confident that it will continue to do so as the organizers learn from their past experiences. Regardless, as long as they continue to focus on using their event as a way to initiate change within the policies used to govern cannabis and its availability to those in need, I will continue to support the event (I’ll just remember to eat before I arrive).