High Times Tornado Rips Through Oklahoma Leaving Unsatisfied Medical Marijuana Patients in its Wake

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Anyone who has spent any amount of time whatsoever on the 405 freeway can attest that there are nearly 19 million residents in Los Angeles County alone. The entire state of Oklahoma, by contrast, has just 4 million residents. Medical marijuana has been legal in LA for over two decades… Oklahoma just legalized MMJ last June.

Despite these facts, the medical marijuana market in Oklahoma has grown so rapidly that, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, as of June of this year the state has approved licenses for 1,548 legal cannabis dispensaries. 1,500+ licensed pot shops in less than one calendar year in Okla-fricken-homa. Compare that to LA once again, where between 2007 and 2019 just 169 dispensaries were licensed to open for business legally.

As California struggles to implement and validate its own attempt at recreational adult-use cannabis legalization, its medical marijuana market has become an afterthought and its unregulated street market continues to thrive.

Meanwhile, back in Oklahoma, over 138,000 medical marijuana patients have been registered by the state, along with 3,200+ cultivators and 859 processors just since last summer.

This sort of traction has caught the eye of more than a few investors and trend chasers but the state predicted such carpetbagging in advance and instituted a policy by which any licensed entity must have at least 75% ownership by Oklahoma residents. That stipulation applies to growers, extractors, and retailers, but it is highly likely that it does not apply to events and that is where the biggest carpetbaggers of them all enter the story.


The High Times Cannabis Cup was little more than a myth to me as a teenage stoner coming up by breaking up chunks of Mexican brick weed to slang to my friends. I graduated high school in 1996, the same year that California passed Prop 215 to establish the largest medical marijuana market ever known. It would take another decade and a half for me to really get into that scene and that is around the time that I learned about High Times Cannabis Cups right here in Southern California.

My view of the HT Cup in San Fran maybe 2014

I’ve since been to a few – SoCal, NorCal, Denver - each one more of a letdown than the last as the swap meet vibe didn’t jive with my grand vision of what a cannabis festival might be.

Pre-Prop 64, High Times was rolling through these events and towns, extracting as many entry fees as possible and leaving trashed parks and parking lots in their wake. But since weed became “legal” for all adults 21 and up in Cali, and the state now regulates every aspect of the plant including event licensing, High Times has found it more and more difficult to make money in the Golden State.

You may recall that the show nearly didn’t go on at all for 4/20 back in 2018. This was the first time that entities like High Times had to juggle state regulations with demands by whatever local jurisdiction their event was to take place in. Though the event was scheduled to be held at the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino, as it had been for years, apparently HT waited until just three days before the event to apply for the local permit. In a unanimous 6-0 vote, the San Bern City Council voted to reject the request. The event was still held, but under a major cloud of doubt and suspicion that decimated attendance numbers and left angry vendors sitting on way too much inventory.

High Times failed to rise from the dead last October, their show was CANCELLED

Six months later, High Times had the rug pulled out from under them once more in Sacramento where they were planning to hold their flagship fundraiser on October 27th and 28th of 2018. You see, as of September 12th of last year, High Times had yet to pay the city of Sacramento the taxes owed from their last event in the state capital. They had all but guaranteed that the city would see upwards of $200,000 in revenue from that event, but when High Times finally cut the check it was for just $60k. Another nail in the coffin for last October’s event was the fact that High Times had also stiffed a local community group called the Build Black Coalition who they promised a $100,000 grant to, along with an additional $40k to help provide high tech career training to underserved local youths. Both promises, up in smoke. So Sacramento cancelled the entire weekend.

Sure, High Times has pulled it all off here in Cali since those notable fiascos, but as cannabis reform sweeps the nation, it opens up new markets who might not easily recognize the charlatans and snake oil salesmen that have attached themselves to the cannabis plant. And so we get what we got this past weekend in Oklahoma for the state’s first ever High Times Cannabis Cup.

Important to remember is that Oklahoma just passed MEDICAL marijuana laws a year ago.

You’re not in San Bernardino anymore, Toto…

Reports surfaced immediately of long lines forming at the entrance of the venue for the Cup. Apparently there was one line for General Admission, and one line for “VIP”, which both funneled into one security checkpoint to actually get past the gate.

Attendees were charged an additional $20 for parking but were made to walk up to a half a mile to the entrance where they then waited anywhere from 2-5 hours to get inside. Everyone was told that outside food or drinks would not be permitted so thousands stood in line in sweltering heat without water. Once inside, it was reportedly being sold for $3-4 per bottle. Wheelchair access or other considerations for disabled or handicapped attendees were nowhere to be found.

One media member reported waiting over an hour just at the vendor and media gate to enter the event. She mentions the mud, and it was prevalent for sure – yet another obstacle for disabled folks or anyone who just didn’t want to destroy their shoes.

The "path" from the vendor area to the concert stage at the Oklahoma High Times event (photo: Samantha Vincent)

Suddenly that SoCal asphalt doesn’t seem so bad. There were also reports that when the headlining band, 311 (lol), took the stage, there were up to 1,000 people STILL WAITING IN LINE TO GET INSIDE. Pissed off was the color of their energy.

Actual pic of the line to get into the Oklahoma High Times event (photo: Samantha Vincent)

This is all terrible, but perhaps the worst dispatches we came across from this inaugural event for the state of Oklahoma were the reports of multiple medical emergencies. The high temp outside mixed with the lack of access to water are two key ingredients, add dabs to a brand new cannabis culture and it’s like dropping a Mentos mint into a liter of cola – it was a fucking mess.

One attendee commented on a @hightimesmagazine Instagram post stating that they had their own trip to the medical tent during the event and overheard four other emergency calls in that time. Exasperated, the medical staff on site finally busted into the “VIP” water to help severely dehydrated dabbers recover.

This disconnect between High Times and the actual, grassroots, cannabis community has never been more glaring. Even though California has a stoner population that is orders of magnitude higher than that of Oklahoma, it also has a much stricter regulatory framework. Not only does this hamper High Times from just doing things “their way” like they always used to, but it also limits the number of licensed entities that High Times can hit up for vendor and sponsor opportunities. After all, that is how they would pay their bills if they paid their bills, with the vendor money not the gate money. That has always been their focus, not the potheads and certainly not the patients.

High Times is a tornado, now whipping through the Midwest proudly perpetuating the worst stereotypes and misconceptions that the average cannabis consumer must overcome in society every day. Don’t look up, High Times, that house is falling fast.

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