By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
A controversial festival celebrating all things marijuana, went on over the weekend at the Paiute Travel Plaza, despite experiencing a number of stumbling blocks, both legal and natural.
The HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup event, which had expected to draw tens of thousands of people to celebrate Nevada’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana use, was nearly shut down in the two weeks leading up to the event.
The event drew the attention of U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden who sent a letter to the tribe on Feb. 16 clarifying the federal government’s position on the use of marijuana. Though the Nevada state ballot initiative #2 was passed in the November election, allowing for the possession and private use of up to an ounce of marijuana, the substance is still illegal under federal law, the letter stated.
“As you are aware, the Moapa Indian Reservation is “Indian Country” as defined by 18 U.S.C. 1151,” Bogden wrote in the letter. “The transport, possession, use and distribution of controlled substances, including marijuana is prohibited.”
Bogden explained that previous Obama-administration policies that may have given the impression that the festival was permissible were being misinterpreted by the tribe in allowing the festival. The letter stated that the event was proceeding under an impression “that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”
Last week, festival officials announced that the event would comply with applicable federal law. In other words, there would be no cannabis at the Cannabis Cup. Instead it would be a concert event and an informational exposition celebrating the emerging cannabis industry.
In a statement by festival organizer HIGH TIMES, officials stated that they had taken great pains to consult with state agencies and cooperate with the tribe in keeping the event “within the confines of Nevada law.”
“Now federal authorities have intervened directly with our host venue, the land of the Moapa Band of Paiutes,” the statement read. “Subsequently, we’ve been informed that our upcoming Cannabis Cup event can proceed as planned; but vendors, guests, performers and attendees are advised to comply with applicable law concerning the distribution of cannabis in any amount at the event.”
The festival proceeded on Saturday. Individual attendees, some of whom had paid as much as $420 for a VIP weekend pass, made no secret of their own private marijuana consumption. But selling the drug openly by the festival’s many vendors was not permitted.
The festival’s vendors did provide ample displays showing advancements in the industry, both in production and distribution. Exhibited was information on a wide variety of products developed to meet the diverse needs and widening demands of users.
Tribal police as well as private security officials maintained a visible presence at the festival to manage crowd control. But no federal law enforcement authorities were visible during the event. There were no incidents of disruption or crowd control issues throughout the day. The festival proceeded peacefully.
Unfortunately, the event experienced yet another setback on its second day; this time from Mother Nature. A high wind advisory from the National Weather Service, which was in force all day Sunday, forced organizers to cancel the Sunday festivities.
“After an exciting first day of celebrating cannabis in Nevada, we are deeply saddened that Day 2 cannot go on,” HIGH TIMES officials said in a statement.
Attendees who had purchased tickets were encouraged to exchange them for passes to the company’s SoCal Cannabis Cup which is to be held in San Bernardino in April.