Stephen Gold and Andy Yashar, masterminds behind Oregon's third party deals directory The Daily Leaf—or the "Groupon of Cannabis," as some have described it—organized the nation's first marijuana bowling tournament, Canna Bowl, at Grand Central Bowl on February 7th, alongside Fore Twenty Sports' founder, Matt Enos.
The event came about after a well-attended golfing retreat known as the Fore Twenty Golf Tournament spread excitement throughout the industry for incorporating cannabis into a fun, competitive sporting event that strengthened bonds between neighboring businesses and allowed for connections to be made organically through the act of a physical sport rather than through the academia of a conference-style setting.
"We probably doubled our turnout," says Yashar, recounting how their expected guest list doubled in size on the day of the tournament. At full capacity, the deals-duo were forced to deny entry, which they both wholeheartedly confessed was difficult to do given the positive reception.
Bottom level at Grand Central Bowl where teams took to the floor for the evening's $1,000 cash prize.
Coincidentally, Canna Bowl is a great networking alternative to events whose main, and sometimes sole objective, is getting high. "As our audience matures…as marijuana becomes more normalized," explains Gold, "the focus becomes less about cannabis consumption on-site and more about wanting people to come out and network in spite of it." Sure, this is, in part, dictated by laws that currently restrict on-site consumption, but the objective should remain the same with or without cannabis: make memorable connections, build allies, and have fun doing it.
There are a number of stereotypes at work in our culture that depict cannabis users as sluggish, unmotivated individuals who live in a certain unreality, but the truth is many professional athletes use cannabis to their advantage. They don't perceive it as a danger to health or deterrent to productivity, but instead as a natural motivator to kickstart the day, heal post-workout aches, or keep the mind at ease during lengthy workouts. It affords athletes and people alike the opportunity to taper off prescription drugs and lead higher qualities of life. It's an ongoing assumption that Gold and Yashar are working tirelessly to debunk.
Raising awareness through the scope of an event is the most effective tool there is in combating misinformation in the industry right now. Gold and Yashar had the right idea in mind when they planned Canna Bowl. Common physical activities like sports encourage community building—and by extension—generate a kind of positive energy; which is not only invaluable to the overall strength of the market, it's downright ingenious because it strips the stigmas surrounding cannabis of their power and initiates the first real steps to understanding what cannabis is really about. Because when you really think about it, cannabis wants the same thing for you that sports does: to stay healthy and steer clear of disease.
So what can we presume of cannabis sporting events in the near-future? Gold says they want to "expand into different areas of sports." Bowling is just one in a list of sporting events, such as disc golf and softball tournaments (regulations permitting), being imagined by The Daily Leaf as a branding and partnership effort with the Fore Twenty Golf Tournament. Can we say competitive canna-sports league? It's a very real possibility.
Portland, as a whole, is a city of thinkers and innovators, and the industry is no less a place of progression, daring, and sheer boundary-pushing. So when you live in a city like that, it's easy to create with the expectation that others like you are out there doing the same. But what can we expect of the public? The cannabis community didn't know what to expect at first, but like all things that've never been done before, there's room to set the precedent. The success of Canna Bowl's first run proved The Daily Leaf did just that. When a team creates something from the ground up that benefits all facets of the market, everybody wins. Employees feel appreciated, networking is less cumbersome, locals go home with the positive experience of a fun, action packed day, and visitors from out-of-town take their experiences back to their home states where, unbeknownst to them, they play a tiny hand in spreading the word.