Published April 20th, 2023 at 4:20 PM6 minute read
Last weekend KC Cannafest filled the Crossroads Arts District with smiles, treats and clouds of smoke.
The event, put on by Artisans of Dank, was the third annual cannabis festival (previously dubbed Be 4/20). But this was the first held since Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana.
Zachary Ehart-Smith, the chief operating officer at Artisans of Dank, said this year was by far the largest Cannafest the crew had staged.
He estimated between 5,000 and 6,000 attendees with 127 vendor booths. Last year’s attendance was about 2,500 with just 30 vendors.
This year’s theme was “The Heart of the Hustler.” Ehart-Smith said Artisans of Dank sponsored some of the “mom and pop” booths towards the front of the event space who really embodied the theme.
“Those people are working regular jobs, hustling, trying to make a name for themselves,” Ehart-Smith said. “So we wanted to give them a leg up.”
Melissa Lewis of Mama Mel’s Medibles was one of these vendors. Lewis said she grew up going to hemp festivals in Kansas City and it was surreal to be at Cannafest promoting her infused baked goods.
“I never dreamed I’d be able to do something like this,” Lewis said.
Vendor booths ranged from homemade edibles, local dispensaries, cannabis seed and starter plants to glassware, food trucks and tie-dyed shirts.
Others, like Hemp 4 Victory, were there to bring awareness to the plant’s power.
The group of veterans spoke about the pain and post-traumatic stress disorder relief the plant provided them. Many signed their names on a state flag and noted the number of prescription drugs they no longer had to take because of cannabis.
Disabled veterans and folks with low-income medical cards were given free admittance to the festival.
Throughout the day, guest speakers, bands and DJs occupied the main stage, while attendees mingled, shopped and consumed throughout the event.
Promptly at 4:20 p.m., folks gathered in front of the stage for a group smoke session. A 10-foot-tall bong aerated the crowd, as did two “Canna Cannons” on Saturday.
Despite the carefree and friendly vibes at Cannafest, Ehart-Smith, who was a principal organizer of the event, said safety was a top priority.
“We wanted to keep everybody safe,” Ehart-Smith said. “Just because we’re potheads doesn’t mean we’re dumb.”
Saturday brought nasty weather, and the night before several tents were left mangled by the wind. Ehart-Smith said the vendors all came together to help one another out and make the event go off without a hitch.
“Everybody that stayed through Saturday definitely had the hearts of hustlers,” Ehart-Smith said. “I was really, really proud of our community.”
Ehart-Smith will debrief the event more next Tuesday on his weekly cannabis livestream “TopShelf.”
Cami Koons covers rural affairs for Kansas City PBS in cooperation with Report for America. The work of our Report for America corps members is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Emily Woodring is a multimedia producer at Kansas City PBS..