The National Cannabis Festival makes its anticipated return to the Nation’s Capital this weekend and will bring some of music’s favorite acts to the masses, with headliners Redman and Method Man closing out the show. Joining the brothers in bud onstage will be Antibalas, local legends Backyard Band, and Young M.A., and more alongside a bevy of speakers.
This year’s National Cannabis Festival is essentially a holdover from a scheduled event in April of 2020, which was shut down due to the pandemic. The lineup remains intact and it appears that the weather in Washington, D.C. will be favorable for the chieftains and chillers in the place.
Hip-Hop Wired was in attendance at the 2019 NCF and it was an impressive display of good vibes along with several educational opportunities for folks to learn about the myriad of benefits cannabis has. Yes, there was also an emphasis on getting lifted but it wasn’t at all the primary goal of the event. The NCF is also bolstered by its corresponding event, the National Cannabis Policy Summit, which addresses the legalities and business aspects of the cannabis industry.
We had the pleasure of speaking briefly with National Cannabis Festival founder and producer Caroline Phillips. Our exchange can be viewed below and has been edited for clarity and length.
Hip-Hop Wired: Given that the nation is slowly embracing the benefits of cannabis, how does the National Cannabis Festival support those educational efforts in regards to informing the public on applicable uses and the like?
Caroline Phillips: I like to think that we’re helping to bring cannabis out of the shadows and into the mainstream market where it belongs. For too long folks who use cannabis as medicine have been shamed, and for many Black and Brown people, criminalized. We host a series of education programs onsite at NCF to help people understand the medicinal applications of cannabis. There will also be a focus on cannabis and mental health, sessions focused on pregnancy, veteran access, and alleviating chronic pain. We also have experts within the spaces of industry, advocacy, business, and medicine ready to share their knowledge.
HHW: This year’s National Cannabis Festival is almost a holdover from the announced lineup from 2020. How challenging was it to keep things close to the previously scheduled event?
CP: We are fortunate to work with great artists and a great team to help keep our program together and to bring back the full line-up our ticket holders have been anticipating. A few weeks after the first big pandemic shut the NCF down, it became clear to people across the live events and music industries that we are in this together. From the artists and agents to the stagehands and promoters — we needed each other to survive and come out of this difficult situation thriving. It was nice to be able to reach out to other professionals in the industry and have conversations, not about contracts and deposits, but about doing whatever needs to be done so that we can all come out of this together and get back to doing what we love — creating live event experience for our communities.
HHW: In 2019, we attended the event and were impressed by politicians endorsing fairer laws and policies related to cannabis. What are some of the measures and/or laws that have the focus of the NCF currently?
CP: Right now the member organizations on our advocacy committee are focused on progress on cannabis legalization at the federal and state level. At the federal level, there’s a lot of conversation in the drug policy community about the draft bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released to legalize cannabis. It was really encouraging to see the focus put on restorative justice and public health.
At the state level, advocates are focused on ensuring the cannabis industry doesn’t just become another industry, but that it becomes a better industry. We know that anything less than serious considerations for social equity and repairing the damage done to Black and Brown people by the war on drugs is not acceptable and I’m grateful that we have so many folks dedicating their careers to fighting for what’s right.
HHW: The pandemic has made outdoor gathering a necessity, although concerns remain. What has the NCF done to ensure the safety of patrons?
CP: We recently announced updated health and safety guidelines requiring that all festival staff and guests provide proof of a negative COVID test (within 72 hours of the event) or proof of vaccination in order to gain entry. We realize that this year, the privilege to be granted permission to put on this festival means that it’s our responsibility to do all that we can to make the experience safer for our guests. We’re also offering on-site rapid testing to make the requirement more convenient for folks.
HHW: When addressing opponents of cannabis, can events like the NCF provide a possible bridge of understanding between themselves and the proponents?
CP: Absolutely. That’s why we started the festival. When you attend NCF, you can witness the incredible and diverse cross-section of people that love cannabis. Veterans, patients, aspiring entrepreneurs, and more. I think when people understand that cannabis is about so much more than outdated stereotypes, it can really be eye-opening.
HHW: Lastly, what actions will the NCF team take beyond the festival itself throughout 2021 and beyond? Is there a way others can contribute to that effort?
It’s been a bit hard to think beyond 2021 for the past 18 months, but we’re finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. We’re excited to bring back our full festival program in 2022, complete with our 4/20 schedule of events and our sister event, The National Cannabis Policy Summit.
To learn more about the 2021 National Cannabis Festival, including ticket purchase, click here.