Several friends have asked me how I would compare the Toker’s Bowl (on the July 4th weekend) with the Cannabis Cup (always on American Thanksgiving week). That is a hard question to answer.

First, it is very difficult to compare the natural beauty of Vancouver with the historic beauty of Amsterdam, but Vancouver in July is much more pleasant than Amsterdam in November. Nonetheless, Amsterdam is a magnificent city with great museums. Everyone should go at some point, whether or not they use cannabis, and cannabis aficionados should definitely consider doing the Cup at least once.

Second, although Amsterdam has almost 300 coffee shops, and there are 400 more around The Netherlands, the last thing that people attending the Toker’s Bowl need is more cannabis. Judging 20 varieties is challenge enough.

Third, Vancouver is much cheaper than Amsterdam, especially with the Euro selling at a 25% premium to the American dollar and the Canadian dollar selling at a 20% discount. (By the way, today’s headline in the Vancouver Sun says, “Vancouver to press Ottawa to legalize and tax marijuana.” Obviously, you will be hearing a lot more about that!)

Fourth, although everyone should have a passport, just in case, one is not required for Americans entering Canada. Most people in Amsterdam speak English, but most Americans in Vancouver will hardly notice that they are in a “foreign” country.

Fifth, the Cup is not the best way to see Amsterdam, but the Bowl is definitely the best way to see Vancouver. Come early and/or stay late and travel around the area.

Finally, the Cannabis Cup is also a victim of its own success, in that roughly 1,500 people crowd the events there. Having that many people changes the experience. In fact, what I enjoyed most about the Bowl was the opportunity to talk with the guests, which becomes progressively more difficult as a group grows.

The parties are great fun, but this year there will also be a special performance of Russell Bennett’s (no kin to Chris) one man play, The Reefer Man, which I have already seen three times. It is an amazing performance, poignant but very funny. In a way, that sums up the whole experience.

We like to talk about the “cannabis community,” but a real sense of community is very difficult while the war on us makes a purely social event like the Bowl impossible in DEAland. Americans really enjoy the feeling of freedom…. freedom from fear that exists in Vancouver.

Witnessing that is the real high for me. (Okay, the 20 varieties of cannabis don’t hurt either.)

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