People rolled into the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City Friday for a lifestyle event that touted itself as the first of its kind in New Jersey: a celebration of cannabis.
Boardwalk Budz, a three-day event that runs through Sunday, includes a mix of comedy, music, pro wrestling, a food truck festival, and promoting business and products related to the cannabis lifestyle. (You still can’t buy recreational marijuana in New Jersey. Though the law allowing for it was passed in February, bureaucratic work to set the rules remains ongoing.)
“Back when the governor started talking about legalization of marijuana the wheels started rolling,” said event organizer Chad Minnes, who said he got the idea from seeing other states put on similar events.
Minnes, who is from Pleasantville, said he isn’t a weed smoker, but loves Atlantic City and thought that an event like this would be something people would enjoy.
More than 100 vendors were spread out over the first floor of the hotel selling glassware, CBD products, t-shirts, and other cannabis lifestyle items.
Ed DeLemarre, a partner with Best Damn Buds, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, stood at his table encouraging people to spin a wheel for either a high five or a free doobie. He said he was there to promote his business, sell t-shirts and “gift” small amounts of weed (possession of up to six ounces of marijuana has been decriminalized).
Mark DeRosia, from upstate New York, took a turn at the wheel, happily settling for a high five from DeLemarre. This was DeRosia’s first trip to Atlantic City. He travelled from Rochester just to attend the event.
A few tables down from Best Damn Buds, Robbie Long of Philadelphia, was busy hand rolling cigars. Long, who is with Cannaifestival.USA, said the first night of the event has been a success for him and that people are here for one reason: “For the love of the plant.”
Washington Township resident Denzel Ellison had a hard time deciding which bong to purchase, “so I can do what I can do,” as his eyes scanned a table full of the cannabis glassware from The Poughkeepsie Gypsy.
After making his purchase, he said there should be more events like this because it shows that marijuana can bring people together, unlike alcohol, where sometimes things can get unruly.
“We don’t get high to fight.”
Fighting was a way of life for former Canadian professional wrestler Val Venis, who found the benefits of cannabis in the latter part of his 24 years of wrestling.
Venis was there to talk to fans about his time in wrestling and his love of weed. He is now a bud-tender at a dispensary in Arizona called Health for Life.
He said that he saw pharmaceuticals used and abused all throughout pro wrestling and the tragic results that sometimes followed.
“I was seeing the guys that were relying on cannabis that were constantly performing at the highest levels. They were never getting addicted, there were never any issues of them not waking up one morning.”
He realized the medicinal benefits of cannabis after an injury that required six screws to be put into his shoulder in 2008, he said. He was given opiates but after three months went to cannabis and never looked back.
“I’m in favor of the government not having any control, rules or regulations regarding cannabis. I think people should be allowed to grow right next to their lettuce and carrots.”
CBD, or cannabidiol, which comes from marijuana and hemp, was a popular item for many vendors. Jeff Felber, founder of The CBD Department, said the chemical compound is good for pain, anxiety and offers many other benefits.
Felber, of Sussex County, said his mind was blown by the people that have been coming by to receive free samples and purchase their products, which include roll-ons, skin care and CBD for pets.
Minnes said that he expects approximately 3,500 people over the three-day event and is happy with Friday’s turnout.
“We call it Boardwalk Budz. We’re all buds here, and we all like to share with each other and we’re all family,” said Minnes.
Tickets are still available at the door for Saturday and Sunday starting at $20 per day. VIP tickets, which include all events, are $175.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.