National Cannabis Festival features 2 Chainz, policy, food and culture

National Cannabis Festival features 2 Chainz, policy, food and culture

The National Cannabis Festival, which returns to the RFK Stadium grounds for the seventh time this weekend, is known for its mix of activism and hip-hop, with past musical headliners including De La Soul, Ghostface Killah and Ludacris. This year, 2 Chainz, Juicy J and Free Nationals are topping the bill for a day-long show expected to attract thousands on Saturday, but festival founder Caroline Phillips is trying to create something much bigger than a concert.

“We hope that the National Cannabis Festival can become sort of like a South by Southwest for cannabis lovers,” she says, “where people are coming here for a full week of policy programing, cultural events and opportunities to network, all capstoned by the festival that takes place over the weekend.”

Organizers planned a whole slate of events in D.C., including policy forums, restaurant specials, DJ nights and a 4/20 fun run. The festival itself is introducing an LGBTQ lounge and will also hold pavilions focused on entrepreneurship, wellness and culture. (And, to answer the big question, no, smoking pot is not legal at the festival, but we’re betting the scent will still be in the air.)

Here’s what you need to know about the festival’s expanding activities.

You can have the munchies for a whole week

Food has always played a role at the festival — the Munchies Zone includes a mix of food trucks and chefs serving special dishes. This year, though, the deals have been extended outside of the gates, with nine days of wink-wink food and drink specials at local restaurants, running through Sunday. Among the highlights: Dolcezza’s “Munchies” adds peanut butter cups and chocolate-covered pretzels and potato chips to milk chocolate gelato. All Purpose Shaw’s Italian 420 cocktail spikes gin, prosecco, cassis and lemon with a CBD-infused rose syrup. Jerk at Nite offers the choice of its Jamaican-style Yardie platter with a patty or jerk chicken and mac. The full menu is on the festival website.

Bring your running shoes — or your dancing shoes

420 Week, with three days of events leading up to the festival, brings a mix of activities, including a mushroom cultivation workshop and a networking social sponsored by the National Association of Black Cannabis Lawyers. Among the highlights: A 4.2-mile 4/20 run, starting at Meridian Hill Park on Thursday morning; a 4/20 Kickback social event at Songbyrd on Thursday night, with music and video; and a free Friday night party at Wild Days, the Eaton hotel’s rooftop bar.

The music goes beyond the headliners

2 Chainz and Juicy J are “so revered in the cannabis community,” Phillips says, but there’s local representation at the concert, thanks to Backyard Band — “our house go-go band” — and a first-time performance by D.C.’s Cumbia Heights. “As the festival has grown, we have had to expand the music offerings to make sure that we are bringing a music experience together that appeals to our very diverse audience,” she says. “This year, we’re really excited to be bringing Cumbia Heights to the festival to make sure that we have some music that represents the Latin American community in D.C.”

Grow your own? Learn from the best.

While D.C., Maryland and Virginia all have different rules about purchasing or accessing marijuana, each jurisdiction does (or will) allow residents to possess their own plants. New this year at the festival itself is a Grower’s World, where festivalgoers can meet participants and judges from the National Cannabis Championship — a celebration of homegrown cannabis flowers. “Folks can talk to them about the methods they’ve used to grow such great plants,” Phillips says, or ask, “This is my setup at home — what should I be doing differently?” There will also be vendors selling equipment for those inspired to upgrade.

Wondering about the future of weed? You might find it at CannaTank.

Since the beginning of the festival, it has hosted a “Shark Tank”-style competition that allows budding entrepreneurs to pitch a cannabis-related business venture to win cash and face time with PR teams, among other prizes. This year’s participants are Upling, a dispensary delivery app billed as “DoorDash for weed”; Natural Elevation Snacks, a line of organic oat and honey snacks; Herban Holistic Healthcare, which offers wellness and cannabis coaching; and “The Phytos,” a “pot edutainment comic about a team of terpenes and cannabinoids.” The finalists offer their final pitches at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Even Official Washington participates in 420 Week

While marijuana legalization and reform movements evolve across the country, “there are still many challenges ahead,” Phillips says. The National Cannabis Policy Summit, first held in 2018, brings together lawmakers, business leaders, lobbyists and advocates at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday to discuss the current landscape. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will deliver the keynote speech; the event is free for the public to attend. Even Phillips is sometimes stunned by how far public sentiment about cannabis has come in recent years: “I think if you’d asked me eight years ago if our event would be invited into the United States Capitol, let alone having the Senate majority leader deliver the keynote address, I would have told you, ‘I don’t know if that’s going to happen.’”

National Cannabis Festival

Festival Grounds at RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol St. SE.

Date: Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.

Admission: $85; $306 for a group of four. VIP tickets $425.