The Cannabis Cup has a center of gravity, and I can feel it. The crew and I are sitting down to breakfast at the Barbizon Palace across the the street from Amsterdam’s Central Station. If anything were to happen to us, this event would certainly spin into instant chaos. In fact, it already has, since we’ve just discovered the annual Sinterklaas parade is shutting down the city tomorrow exactly when we’re supposed to be launching a fleet of buses from the front of the Victoria Hotel.
“No battle plan survives first contact with friction,” I mutter as I survey the $45 breakfast served in a room with no windows and really bad feng shui. I knew it was going to be difficult surviving the recent collapse of the dollar versus the euro, but I didn’t realize the Dutch version of Santa Claus was going to sabotage us. How would we get our attendees to the expo on the outskirts of the city if the smoker-friendly buses couldn’t get through? The 20th Cup hadn’t even officially started and already we’d slammed into a major clog.
THE FUNCTION OF CEREMONIES
Everything is made from energy and energy travels in waves. Some like to define human energy through channels they dub “chakras,” but I like to define telepathy as being psychic gravity because even though people can’t see it, touch it or hear it, everyone knows it’s there because they feel it every time they walk up stairs. You can’t see, touch nor hear telepathy, but you feel its impact during ceremonies. The bigger the ceremony, the stronger the telepathy. Telepathy comes in flavors so a peace circle and a panic-stricken mob produce much different states of mind.
The science of affecting telepathy is called “magic.” Energies can harmonize, repel or remain neutral. The mind is a complex system with many facets but the integration has a center of gravity. When your psyche loses its center, confusion arises. Societies have a center of gravity and so do ceremonies.
All ceremonies run on magic. Most family ceremonies are designed to amplify empathy, and the center is revealed by the seating arrangement at the ceremonial feast. Ceremonies are the best defense against depression, but they can also be triggers for breakdowns because positive energy attracts negativity. So while ceremonies can create harmony, they can also expose dissonance and create flame-outs, burnouts and meltdowns. The counterculture learned to deal with dissonance, friction, fog and clogs in a somewhat kinder, gentler fashion, something known as “staying in the flow.” A true master of ceremonies can drain energy off an antagonist.
Clogs are the natural enemy of energy. Friction can slow things down, but clogs result when movement stops. Depression is a psychic clog. It’s perfectly okay to have unhappy feelings, but that becomes a problem if you can’t move on to more positive ground. The most important thing Stephen Gaskin taught me is that enlightenment is not like ringing a bell or climbing a mountain. “It’s not like you get somewhere and stay there forever,” explained Gaskin. “Nobody is enlightened all the time.” Ceremonies can lead people to a positive place, but nobody can stay positive forever.
Fog is like friction in that it slows down movement, but different in that it’s not based on dissonance, unexpected snafus or communication breakdowns but self-delusion, similar to being love-struck or paralyzed with fear. Fog creates bliss bunnies who can’t fix problems because they don’t see them. In moderation, cannabis enhances empathy and harmonization, but in excess, it produces fog.
I didn’t start my journalism career seeking to evolve into an expert on magic and religion, but once I created the Cannabis Cup, I couldn’t help but investigate that history. The word “cannabis” came down to us from the Scythians, who built the road linking Europe with China and India. “Ma,” “magi,” “magic” and “marijuana” all stem from the Chinese word for cannabis, and this history has mostly been eradicated, but enough traces remain to conclude Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity were all born as cannabis cults, a tradition that also runs through Pythagoras, the Oracle at Delphi, and Socrates (who was assassinated by the state for the crime of “corrupting the youth”).
Many revelations regarding magic were revealed to me through my organizing ceremonies around cannabis for decades, starting in 1967 and continuing to the present. My sensitivity to telepathic energy became enhanced as a result, and this was especially so through the Cannabis Cup.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CUP
I had no idea what I was getting into when I created the Cannabis Cup. I thought I might help bring attention to the importance of breeding quality cannabis seeds. When the event started in 1987, there were only a handful of cannabis-seed merchants around the world. Now there are thousands. The first Cup was attended by me, a photographer and a former grower, Dr. Indoors. Three seed companies entered: two Dutch, one American. The entire event was a two-day affair; there wasn’t even an awards show. It was so under-funded that I refused to attend the next four Cups, also run on shoestring budgets. When I heard the publisher was trying to kill the event, saying I was using company funds so me and my friends could get a junket, a different member of my staff was sent. During this time, the Dutch laws regarding seed companies kept shifting, and we were never sure which were actually willing to enter until days before the event. One year all the seed companies dropped out and it turned into a coffeeshop crawl. All the entries were low-grade, the sort of commercial fare offered at tourist traps.
So I decided to return for the 6th Cup, and also opened the event to tourists. Fifty Americans bought tickets. The first 420 ceremony took place and the silver cups handcrafted by Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig appeared.
The next Cup included the world’s first Hemp Expo, which quickly inspired similar events all over Europe as hemp became closely tied with the green movement.
The 8th Cup was the first to fully engage the issue of spiritual rights for cannabis users. Alex Grey, the world’s most celebrated psychedelic artist, created the official art, and Stephen Gaskin, who had petitioned the Supreme Court for cannabis spiritual rights, delivered the first 420 address at the expo.
Gray and Gaskin were two of the most enlightened people I knew, and along with Garrick Beck from the Rainbow Family, they created an interpretation of the Rig Veda’s Soma ritual for the opening ceremony. Garrick brought over the Rainbow Gypsy Theater to stage an Alice in Wonderland production for the awards show that included dancers, singers, drummers, along with stage and costume designers, all happening on a scale I couldn’t have imagined five years earlier. The production budget had ballooned to the point there was a concerted effort to kill the Cup immediately afterward because it cost so much, but I was able to save the event by licensing it to the tour operator. Mike Esterson and I had developed a good working relationship and Esterson sensed untapped value. He agreed to allow me to continue directing the ceremonies and even covered the expenses for my volunteer video crew so I could also keep documenting the evolution of the event. I believed the ceremonies were historically important.
For the 10th Cup, I created the Counterculture Hall of Fame, and Bob Marley became the first inductee. Rita Marley flew in from Jamaica to help celebrate. At the end of the awards show, Rita invited the winners up onstage. She grabbed a red display box containing the Sensi Seeds entries, and threw samples into the crowd. A giant freestyle jam spontaneously broke out, one that included dueling raps from rival coffeeshop managers. All the winners ended up dancing together on stage. I had an epiphany as Rita convinced me of the importance of improvisation. From that year forth, we ended the awards with the winners dancing on stage as the performers improvised.
The 16th Cup was dubbed the Conspiracy Cup and there was a lot of that going on inside the company, most fomented to remove me from the magazine and events I’d created. It was certainly obvious to the staff the lawyer Michael Kennedy despised me and he kept hiring new publishers in the hope one might fire me. Most of publishers he hired, however, felt my leadership had been driving the profits, and Kennedy’s obsession with having me removed made little sense from a business perspective. But eventually Kennedy found his stooge in Mike Edison, a bottom-feeder known for cranking out dozens of fetish porn novels while playing drums for G.G. Allin, whose trademark was defecating on stage.
The problem was always that sales would sink immediately after my demotion, and pressure from the other majority share owners would force Kennedy to put me back in the saddle so the golden eggs might return. Kennedy ran the company like an intelligence operation and much later I would discover why.
Staffers sympathetic to my vision were purged, while Kennedy stuffed the ranks with offspring selected from his connections in New York society, the rungs of which he’d been steadily climbing for decades through the determined efforts of his wife, who’d gained access through a carefully cultivated friendship with Ivana Trump. The Trumps spent a summer renting the Kennedy guest house inside the Yale enclave in the Hamptons. It was the summer Ivanka was born. Later, although inexperienced in divorce, Kennedy would convince Ivana to dispute Roy Cohn’s iron-clad prenup, for which he was undoubtedly paid a small fortune.
(more to come)