It had the makings of a duel in the desert, the first clash between the legion of marijuana lovers emboldened by a surge of legalization and a new federal administration that has pledged to restore “law and order.” In the days leading up to the Cannabis Cup—which is the pot world’s version of harvest festival, lecture series and outdoor concert rolled into one—it looked like a corner of an Indian reservation an hour north of Las Vegas was going to become a historic battlefield. Nevada had voted last November by a solid 9-point margin to legalize recreational weed, but the state’s top lawman felt it necessary to remind the Cannabis Cup organizers that federal law was not on their side. So the thousands of weed devotees who rode the free shuttle from the Las Vegas Strip to the reservation had good reason to be paranoid about the possibility they would be met with drug-sniffing DEA hounds when the bus doors wheezed open. Instead, nothing greeted them except a pretty Native American woman who directed the new arrivals with a smile to the line of thousands of other Cup-goers patiently waiting to get through the front gate when it opened at noon. Inside the event, some attendees sounded almost disappointed that there wasn’t a fight.
A marijuana giveaway meant to help one person grew into something much more.