The air was buzzing with excitement and anticipation as I arrived at the MJN Convention Center in Poughkeepsie to cover the highly anticipated Cannastock 2023 festival for the Hudson Valley Style Magazine. As a photographer, human rights activist, and cannabis enthusiast, I was eager to immerse myself in the vibrant community and witness firsthand the flourishing industry that has emerged since the end of the cannabis prohibition era.
Cannastock 2023: A Vibrant Celebration of Cannabis and Community in the Hudson Valley – Photo Report by Photographer Maxwell Alexander, Duncan Avenue Studios
Stepping into the convention center, I was immediately captivated by the lively atmosphere and the colorful array of exhibitor booths. Over 50 exhibitors from all corners of the cannabis industry gathered to showcase their products and services. Licensed growers, manufacturers, and retailers proudly displayed their offerings, ranging from carefully cultivated flowers to artisanal edibles and cutting-edge cannabis concentrates.
The festival was a testament to the immense growth and diversity of the cannabis industry in New York. From innovative vaping devices to CBD-infused skincare products, the exhibitors showcased the incredible versatility of this remarkable plant. It was inspiring to see the level of craftsmanship and dedication that went into each product, as well as the passion that fueled the industry's pioneers.
One of the highlights of Cannastock 2023 was the launch of the Excelsior Cup, the first-ever cannabis competition in New York State. This prestigious competition aimed to recognize and honor the best cannabis products the state had to offer. The Excelsior Cup covered various categories, including flowers, concentrates, pre-rolls, cartridges, and edibles.
The competition brought together a panel of expert judges who meticulously evaluated each product based on criteria such as taste, aroma, potency, and overall quality. The competition was fierce, with renowned cannabis brands vying for the coveted Excelsior Cup. Witnessing the level of talent and innovation on display was truly awe-inspiring.
While the competition was a major draw, Cannastock 2023 offered much more than just the Excelsior Cup. The festival featured an abundance of activities and contests to engage and entertain attendees. From free giveaways to live entertainment, there was something for everyone. DJ Max Glazer from Federation Sound kept the energy high with his electrifying music, while local visual performance artists added a touch of artistry to the event.
Beyond the festivities, Cannastock 2023 was also an opportunity for education and exploration. Seminars and workshops provided valuable insights into the benefits and responsible consumption of cannabis. Industry experts shared their knowledge, debunked myths, and fostered a deeper understanding of this incredible plant.
One exhibitor that stood out at Cannastock 2023 was the New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative. Their presence at the festival showcased their commitment to promoting social equity in the adult-use cannabis market through workforce development and legal education. This collaboration between the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute aims to support and empower individuals in the emerging cannabis industry.
The New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative recognizes the importance of diversity, equity, and quality jobs in the cannabis industry. Their efforts are driven by a state budget appropriation and focus on providing skills training, entrepreneurism services, workforce supports, and legal education for both employees and employers. By developing high-road career pathways, they are actively contributing to the establishment of a sustainable and inclusive cannabis industry in New York.
With the passing of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), New York State has taken a significant step towards a statewide market for adult-use cannabis. The MRTA legislation has far-reaching implications for workforce development programs and policies. Notably, it places a strong emphasis on rectifying the harm caused by cannabis prohibition by setting a goal to award 50% of business licenses to social equity candidates. This commitment to social equity positions New York at the forefront of restorative justice cannabis policy at the state level.
The New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative's presence at Cannastock 2023 highlighted their dedication to supporting the success of social equity candidates and promoting a diverse and inclusive cannabis industry. Their commitment to workforce development and legal education aligns perfectly with the progressive goals of the festival and the broader cannabis community in the Hudson Valley. It was inspiring to see the positive impact they are making in the lives of individuals seeking opportunities in the emerging cannabis market.
Through their collaborative efforts and dedication to social equity, the New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative is helping to shape a thriving and fair cannabis industry in New York. Their presence at Cannastock 2023 served as a reminder of the importance of providing accessible resources and pathways for individuals to participate in this rapidly growing industry.
As the day turned into night, the official Cannastock After Party at Reason & Ruckus took the celebrations to a whole new level. With DJ Magic Juan spinning his tunes and a cash bar serving up delightful concoctions, the atmosphere was one of pure joy and camaraderie. Curated stoner food added to the festivities as attendees came together to raise a toast to the success of the inaugural Excelsior Cup.
My experience at Cannastock 2023 left me in awe of the vibrant and evolving cannabis community in the Hudson Valley. The festival showcased not only the incredible diversity of cannabis products but also the passion, creativity, and dedication of the industry's pioneers. It was a testament to the progress made since the end of cannabis prohibition, and a reminder of the remarkable benefits this plant offers.
Cannastock 2023 was an unforgettable celebration of cannabis, bringing together enthusiasts, industry leaders, and curious individuals alike. It was a testament to the power of community, education, and progress. As I left the festival, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to witness and document this remarkable event—one that marked a new chapter in the Hudson Valley's relationship with cannabis.