Cannabis Campaign: Home-grown talent has a high time in Amsterdam

Marijuana's recreational and medicinal benefits were celebrated at an international conference held in Amsterdam last week. By Ros Wynne- Jones reports
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Clutching his trophy before a crowd of hundreds at the Melkweg, one of Amsterdam's most famous nightclubs, the winner seemed to be suffering from a form of short-term memory loss. "Uh, hi," he blinked in the stage lights, to rapturous applause from the faithful gathered below. "Like, what category was this again?"

The category was Best Imported Hashish, the occasion the 10th anniversary of the High Times Cannabis Cup, a celebration of the cannabis sativa plant and its many uses. Beating off strong opposition from the United States in the Cannaboid International Flower Show, home-grown talents swept the board last week, to prove that the Netherlands is still the hashish capital of the world.

The judges, meanwhile, after three days of arduous testing of 13 new varieties, had gone for a lie down.

As connoisseurs with names like Little Mountain and Willow debated the merits of Nepalese Cream and Yellow Cab in a vaulted hall cloudy with cannabis fug, a white Rastafarian somewhere between Jamiroquai and Vanilla Ice sang tributes to Bob Marley. The late reggae guru's former wife, Rita, looked on from the edge of the stage while inhaling from an implausibly large joint.

Categories from the Hydrocup, for the best Hydroponic cultivation of cannabis, to the Biocup, for the best natural marijuana, followed, with appropriate pauses for the presenters to remember where they were and winners to roll up from their award- winning supplies.

The compere remembered the spirit of the Grateful Dead, "when they played the Pyramids, '76" and recalled sharing a "Neutron Bong" with LSD guru Timothy Leary. Former judge Hunter S Thompson was invoked in the naming of a new variety, White Shark, and overall winners of the dope world's Grammy Awards, Dampkring, pledged their next seed strain to the hallowed memory of Uncle Bob.

A high fashion show on the makeshift catwalk, ("Dan wears 100 per cent cannabis sativa hemped suit from Crucial Creations, Ivana wears a hemp, viscose and silk mini dress from the Ohio Hempery") showed the versatility of Narco fabrics.

It was a celebration of the sativa plant in all its many forms, the culmination of a week of events dedicated to examining the many uses of marijuana from the medical to the recreational, as well as quoting a forum for identifying and promoting excellence in strains of cannabis.

Hosted by High Times magazine - the New York-based weed lovers' bible - the International Conference, which also heard moving testimonies of the drug's efficacy from multiple sclerosis sufferers, celebrated the first anniversary of California's Proposition 215, which allows doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients, as well as a decade of Cannabis Cup winners.

The US lawyer and Ohio hempery owner, Don Wirtshaster, had stripped to his floral boxer shorts to illustrate the cannabis world's favourite parable, The Emperor's New Clothes. Rita Marley had allegedly set fire to her Amsterdam hotel room after apparently falling asleep indulging in her late husband's greatest passion. By Friday, activists overpowered by a week of living off an embarrassment of cannaboid riches in the land of the free were ready to return to their less enlightened homelands across Europe and the United States, but already making plans for the 11th High Times Cannabis Cup festivities.

"What's your address?" One weed worshipper asked a dreamy, dreadlocked San Franciscan. He swayed briefly. "Damned if I can remember," he said. "See you next year."