by Andrés Felix Roméro
As the sun was setting on the Eureka Waterfront, a few people in their boat called out to the festival-goers on the shore. Through shouts across the water, they requested some weed to enjoy on their aquatic cruise. One kind gentleman was more than happy to oblige and passed along a joint to one of the boatmen who swam to shore on his boogie board. This was just one of many instances of communal actions and feelings present at the 2023 Cannifest, which ran from Sept. 9th-10th.
For the first time since the pandemic, a cannabis-centric festival returned to Humboldt county with the three-day celebration of the plant and the culture surrounding it through Cannifest. Primarily run and organized by Joe Moran and Steve Gieder, the festival was a hit to those who love to spark, smoke, eat and other methods of enjoying weed. There was no lack of colorful and engaging sights with plenty of music, food, art, activities and of course, cannabis.
For some, the Cannifest celebrations began not in Humboldt, but on Friday, Sept. 9th in San Francisco. The Roast and Toast bus tour aspect of Cannifest was helmed by the founder of Humboldt Cannabis Tours, Matt Kurth. He acted as the group’s tour guide, spouting fun facts about the surroundings, as the bus reenacted the pilgrimage many people took following the San Francisco Summer of Love in 1967.
“There’s always a group of people where mainstream society doesn’t work for them,” said Kurth. “Because Summer of Love only lasted three months and fell apart, some of the people still wanted to find a new way of living because they needed it. So, they started the Back to the Land Movement, leaving the city and going to try to find new ways of living out in the country. The first cheap land was northern Mendo and southern Humboldt, that’s why [the people] stopped there”
The bus made stops at Santa Rosa dispensary OrganiCann and the Hopland restaurant Rock Seas. At these stops, the passengers happily shared their buds with each other. The passengers ate lunch and took dabs with fruit pairings to enhance the turpentines. Self-described gonzo journalist Cameron Hussain described the desire for community that many of the passengers and cannabis lovers carry, and the importance of accurate representation of the cannabis community.
“We are contributing to the narrative of the culture just by being here,” said Hussain. “[The community has] been so long underground, we are hungry to connect and enjoy this plant we all love.”
The bus made its final stop for the day at the Red Lion hotel in Eureka so that the passengers could get ready for the first true party of the weekend, the Cannifest Gala at the historic Eureka Theater. At the Gala, there was cannabis history trivia, the winners of the Cannifest competitions were announced, and the night ended with performances by local artists such as Flow J. Simpson, Eli Fowler, and Object Heavy.
Day 2 and 3
The Cannifest Festival properly kicked off Saturday, Sept. 9th. Even for any seasoned festival goers, it would be difficult to experience everything the venue and 50-plus booths had to offer. The backdrop of the Eureka Waterfront was soothing to those wanting to enjoy delicious, diverse food from taco trucks and soul food booths with a calm breeze. A favorite by many was a locally owned Native women business, Frybread Love, which offered fry bread topped with lettuce, sour cream, ground beef and chili beans.
Besides people sitting and laughing while eating, many community aspects of the event were present thanks to the constant sharing of cannabis between everyone. Everywhere you looked, there were smiling people passing smoking blunts and joints. Plenty of booths offered free dabs to anyone who came by. One gentle soul only known by Big L was rolling free blunts for any passerby to enjoy.
The ability to enjoy the event was diverse. Those with a Sativa high could enjoy the music and dancing, and those with an Indica low had plenty of comfortable seats to enjoy. Katie Dalmasso attended Cannifest after just returning from Burning Man, and remarked how the festival was great to reset following the hectic desert festival.
“What a beautiful way to decompress, coming to a cannabis festival right after [Burning Man],” said Dalmasso. “It’s kind of the same feeling [as Burning Man] but more relaxed, everyone getting together as a community and having fun and supporting each other.”
In many aspects of cannabis culture, feelings and desires for healing are present, which was case-and-point with the arts at the event. Many who were dancing at one of the two stages looked carefree and happy in their outfits that were peak Humboldt. Festival-goers were treated to music by Hip-Hop legendary duo Dead Prez, and Grammy-award winning Reggae rapper Kabaka Pyramid.
Healing and Community Aspects
Besides music, plenty of other art forms were present. There was a series of amazing murals painted with a variety of different techniques as part of an art competition centered on social justice. Other amazing mediums included dancing, paintings on large canvases, and a glassblower doing his work live. There were plenty of activities to participate in, such as massage chairs, yoga and even a mobile barber.
Not suprining to Humboldt and Cannabis culture, the event was welcoming not just to bipeds, but to our four-legged canine friends. As diverse as the arts were in Cannifest, dogs of all breeds and sizes accompanied their owners. One individual brought his best friend Roscoe, and also found healing and solace through cannabis culture following a tumultuous childhood, was Jake “Big Jake” Lawrence, a judge for Cannifest and the founder of the non-profit MedVets.
“My parents used to sell methamphetamine to the cops, I grew up in hell-on-earth, [what] I’ve been through makes most grown men cry,” said Big Jake. “This entire community is part of my larger family. It’s really about the community and supporting the community as a whole that helped [Cannifest] actually exist.”
These feelings of hegemony, community, and love was the endgame of Cannifest founder and executive director, Steve Gieder.
“I think it’s important [we have events like Cannifest] because of so many reasons,” Said Geider, “but one of them is bringing people together socially. The way that we do things like dancing, eating and partaking [in this community]. When people dance together and get loose it takes us back to being primal. It brings us back to who we really are as people and can be and can be an opportunity for people to get comfortable expressing themselves in all these different ways, and that helps us learn and grow together.”