Correction: This story originally contained the incorrect last name of PJ James. It has been corrected.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Thousands of medical cannabis cardholders descended on the Lost Lakes Entertainment Complex for the High Times Cannabis Cup Saturday, leaving more than a mile of cars parked along either side of Northeast 10th Street.
But by the time the rock band 311 took the stage to perform in the evening, at least a thousand others were still in line awaiting their wristbands that would let them pass through the event gates.
“We waited in line for a good minute. They opened up the general admission doors a little early, so that was nice of them,” said Megan Carter, a patient from Lawton who managed to snag a patch of grass near the stage with her friends, Connor MacDonald and Craig Cunningham. “We expected it to be busy.”
Carter’s group got in line at around 11:15 a.m. ahead of the general admission doors’ scheduled opening at 1 p.m. But Jessica Morrison of Tulsa, who arrived at the grounds at about 4:30 p.m. in time to watch 311 play, called an Uber by 5 p.m. once she realized the line wouldn’t shorten in time for her to see the show or the vendor booths.
“The line is over a mile long. We got to the back of it and we saw a lot of happy people. Everyone’s medicated and having a great time, at least,” Morrison said. “But I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed if they can’t actually get inside to the event that they probably rented hotel rooms and traveled for.”
Text messages and emails to High Times officials and APCO Med, which partnered with High Times to present the Oklahoma Cannabis Cup, for comment about the first day were not returned as of Saturday evening.
For those who got in line early or purchased VIP tickets, though, the event — despite the heat and limited water rations — was a sign Oklahoma’s new medical cannabis industry is one to watch.
“It means we’ve put ourselves on the map, I think. You go out there and you see a ton of growers and dispensaries that have been working really hard,” Cunningham said.
MacDonald said he was pleased with the turnout and the variety of vendors who set up booths or tents in the Cannabis Village, which is only accessible to Oklahoma medical cannabis licensees, and said “exotic” strains of cannabis flower were of particular interest.
High Times has said it had “hundreds” of vendors signed up but said on its website that it does not publicize an exact number of how many are in attendance.
“I’m from Washington. That’s where I was born. So they started with medical pretty early,” MacDonald said. “And then once it went recreational, medical kind of went AWOL there.” He said he plans to open a dispensary in Lawton this fall.
PJ James, who owns 22 CBD+ stores across Oklahoma, was among the vendors present on Saturday. He said he opened his first store in February 2018 with CBD products only, but “converted” to selling products with THC once State Question 788 passed.
“It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s new to Oklahoma,” James said. “I wanted to be a pioneer if I could be and just help bring people some good quality medication to the people of Oklahoma. I didn’t think (the event) was gonna be this big, but this just kinda blew me away today.”
Further into the Cannabis Village, which is separate from the concert area, Danny Forsythe and Topher Gomez manned a booth for Sublime Brand Oklahoma and Korova Brand Oklahoma. Products from both brands can already be found in states such as Arizona and California, but in Oklahoma, they come from Forsythe’s Broken Arrow-based facility.
Forsythe said he considered cannabis use after being prescribed an “exorbitant” amount of prescription painkillers following “multiple” surgeries and then decided to enter the business.
“Oklahoma is embracing this enough now that High Times felt it necessary to come here and set their stake in the ground,” he said. “And I think it’s a good sign for the industry in Oklahoma and I hope people continue to move forward and educate themselves and just find out the truth about this product and where it’s going and what it can do for people.”
Morrison, though, said she hopes future events are better planned to mitigate long lines and accommodate the medical needs of licensed patients, many of whom have difficulty waiting for long periods in the heat.
Medics were on site and had multiple booths set up for attendees who fell out of the entrance lines, largely due to their struggles with heat exhaustion.
“I expected it to be more like a music festival where you can get inside, where everyone’s inside,” Morrison said. “I didn’t realize how regulated and how cut off it would be to get into the event.”
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jennifer Murphy talks about the Tulsa Police new reading program and school supply handout at the Darlington Apartments.