What We Saw at the National Cannabis Festival

Last weekend I attended the National Cannabis Festival, DC’s premier annual cannabis event, as well as the National Cannabis Championship, the first edition of DC’s most prestigious cannabis awards. While NCF is in its sixth year, this is the first time I’ve gone. Most of my experiences in the cannabis industry to date have been online or small meetups, so I took the opportunity to get down to RFK Stadium and touch grass, as the kids say. Really, the event was much more smelling grass than touching it, as you could smell the plumes of smoke from a mile away. The energy was electric, which is crucial for furthering the culture and doing what cannabis does best: bringing people together. Even though the whole team at Gentleman Toker is exhausted from all the festivities, we had a great weekend, and want to share the best parts with you!

The Exhibitors

I’ve met a lot of I-71 vendors over the last few years, but never this many and never in one place. My primary consumption method is vaporizing flower, so that’s what I mostly look for from the I-71 market, but among the many aisles of vendor booths, I also found an excellent selection of high-quality extracts like live resin diamonds and live hash rosin, masterfully infused foods and drinks, hand-rolled and infused pre-rolls, and some of the best flower I’ve seen in my life, both locally sourced and imported.

national cannabis festivalAttendees perused hundreds of booths at the National Cannabis Festival.

Festival goers could view and smell the flower at booths before making their selections, which was a nice change from the usual storefront experience. I got to inspect some of the most hype flower coming from California, namely The Ten Co’s Tropical Skilatti (speculated to be Trop Cookies x {Zkittlez x Gelatti}) and Cherry Biscotti (Cherry Gelato x Biscotti) from Darwin Farms. It was cool to see the bags in person instead of just in pictures on Instagram and Telegram, especially to see how comically large some of them are, like the Topical Skilatti and the new Backpack Boyz backpack-shaped bags.

I also appreciated being able to ask vendors questions about their products with no feeling of judgment or being rushed. Some vendors even gave out free samples and pre-rolls, while others let festival goers hit a dab or gravity bong for a couple bucks to sample before buying. Overall, the vibe was truly communal, with everyone hanging out and experiencing the herb together in a way that can only happen at in-person events.

The Education

One of the best parts of having the National Cannabis Festival right in our backyard is that RFK Stadium is a relatively easy destination to travel to — and this year, some of the greatest minds in cannabis gave everybody in the crowd free game. The festival hosted Grow School, a half-day agenda of panels and demos that showed attendees how to run high-quality legal craft home grows from seed to smoke. There was also no shortage of presentations about elevating cannabis business, which served as a huge level-up for cannabis entrepreneurs and their networks.

national cannabis eventGrow School offered educational seminars and networking opportunities.

In between presentations, attendees could find information from testing labs, political advocates, visual artists, glass blowers, agricultural experts, fashion moguls and musicians at their booths around the grounds. All in all, exhibitors shared a wealth of information that will truly help the next generation of cultivators and entrepreneurs make waves with upcoming projects. We’re planning to keep our eyes open for the next big things from them until NCF next year.

The Spectacle

The thing I was by far the most excited to see at NCF was the wrestling put on by C3 Ultimate Wrestling. C3W is a small independent league, but the performances from the athletes and commentators were incredible. The wrestlers took blows expertly, and threw each other around for maximum impact with no special effects. If you want to see what I mean, check out this video of Action Andretti backflipping off the Gogo’s bus. This was my first time seeing live wrestling entertainment, and it was the perfect spectacle for the vibe.

wrestling event at national cannabis festivalNo holds barred in the ring at NCF!

Exhibitors hosted other competitions at other booths and side stages, like Bouquet’s Rolling Contest at Cypher Stage, a pizza-eating contest at the Culinary Pavilion, NKA’s carnival with an assortment of fun games, and many other raffles and lotteries. The Culture Pavilion also held CannaTank, an event reminiscent of Shark Tank that awarded the winner $1000 in direct project funding. While the competitions weren’t the flagship event of the festival, the competitive energy brought out a fun tension that kept us on the edge of our seats.

The Performers

Some of the biggest names on stoner playlists across the country wowed the crowd from the main stage. We were fortunate to be joined on our sunny 4/20 weekend by legendary rapper Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan, ska jam band Lettuce, go-go big band Backyard Band, the bad-ass nine-piece DuPont Brass and more! The night was closed out by Wiz Khalifa’s set of certified bangers and stoner anthems, with a perfect energy for evening tokes.

We also got sets from DJ Footwerk and Slick Rick that had all the folks in Echostage moving their feet. Plus there were slam poets, comedians and politicians performing stump speeches throughout the grounds. Overall, for attendees who came to the fest for the entertainment, there was more than enough to enjoy throughout the entire day. The performances also gave attendees a glimpse into DC’s artistic culture beyond the federal office buildings, monuments, museums, and memorials most folks associate with DC.

The Championship

Out of the way, Cyrus, I got this one! Hey folks, GT here, fresh off of judging my first weed competition. The inaugural entrants of the National Cannabis Championship THC Flower competition brought the heat and there were several that I thought could win it all, depending on what the rest of our esteemed panel of celebrity judges thought, which included cannabis luminaries such as:

- Taylor Blake of the Emerald Cup

- Guy Rocourt, CEO of Papa & Barkley

- Jesse Dodd of Biovortex

- Alan Amsterdam of Capitol Hemp

- The one and only DC Scroger

As noted previously, all the samples went through three levels of testing: olfactory/visual on intake, and then cannabinoid, terpene, and safety testing were performed by Sativa Testing Labs of Virginia before any of the judges could get their hands on them! Of course, this was a blind test, so judges only received samples in numbered jars. The judges had no idea (and at least I still don’t) who entered which!

national cannabis championshipAnnouncing the winner of the National Cannabis Championship!

The first part of the competition focused on our subjective experience of each plant, with a maximum of 10 points each for Aesthetic, Flavor, & Aroma, and a maximum of 20 for Overall Experience. I kept my Aesthetic grades to the trichomes, structure, manicure, and hues, and factored freshness, density, potency, & effects into Experience.

The second phase introduced another blind round to the judges — here, we were given the Certificates of Analysis from Sativa Testing Labs with a different set of numbers assigned, and were instructed to grade them as though we were consumers using them to guide their purchase at the dispensary. Twenty points could be granted for Unique Cannabinoid Profile, another 20 for Unique Terpene Profile, and 10 for Unique Genetics. Cannabinoids were generally confined to THC and CBD, but there was a wide range of terpene combinations. My own genetic scores were based on the combination of cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

So Who Won the National Cannabis Championship?

We all did! DC is officially on the map after hosting the biggest weed competition the East Coast has ever seen. But you want to know who won the competition, so let’s get to it! 

Congratulations to One Lane Bridge, winner of the Best Hemp Edible Category!

Potomac Indica brought home two championship belts: one each for Hemp Flower and Hemp Topicals!

And allow me to present your Champion of the 2022 NCC THC Flower Category: Kushery, for their King’s Sundae Pie (King Tut x {Cherry Pie x Sundae Driver}) flower!

national cannabis festival best thc flowerKushery accepting the trophy for Best THC Flower

Every finalist should feel extremely proud of their accomplishments today. It was an honor to announce the winner live at Echostage in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Even though we couldn’t smoke on premises because ABRA threatened to issue fines, there was a great vibe throughout the event. While Virginia only placed one finalist in THC flower, I thought there were several great entries from the Commonwealth’s home growers. They made it a tough competition and we’re looking forward to seeing everybody back next year — when my expectations will be even higher. I can’t wait! Back to you, Cyrus. - GT

The Last Nug

For my first cannabis festival and awards show, this was a crazy exciting experience for me. I got to meet so many cool folks, both from the community and from all over the country that I’ve met online. After two years of being cooped up in the house, it was the perfect escape. Good flower, good friends, great entertainment and overall something special that everyone in the DC community can enjoy. Like I mentioned, these connections felt like a huge level up for my network and inspired me to continue with the projects I’ve been working hard on. NCC is the perfect way for all the hardest workers in the local cannabis scene to meet and play even harder.