It was one heady creative high this year at the National Cannabis Festival (NCF) in Washington, D.C. Headlined by Wiz Khalifa, the East Coast’s largest cannabis music festival returned for its 2022 season featuring not only a solid artist lineup, but also jam-packed with more experiences than ever before. Honeysuckle was on the scene to capture everything from the mosh pit near the stage to the whimsically wonderful offerings of NCF’s many pavilions. (As well as producing the 2022 festival printed program – so if you don’t know, now you know!) Read on for some of our favorite highlights from this iconic event.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

What Is The National Cannabis Festival?

Founded by Caroline Phillips in 2016, the National Cannabis Festival brings cannabis education to the masses in a fun and impactful package. The festival typically includes a full-day concert and outdoor expo that allows the community to interact directly with industry leaders and advocates, putting a spotlight on social justice. For 2022, NCF expanded into a weeklong affair lasting April 16-24, with numerous parties and sponsored events in addition to the main attraction, which also added a second concert day.

The National Cannabis Festival Hosts The National Cannabis Policy Summit

On April 22, NCF hosted the National Cannabis Policy Summit, a conference for politicians and thought leaders to discuss action-oriented solutions to the cannabis industry’s most pressing issues. Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Summit’s lineup included an extraordinary array of speakers and panelists: Congressional Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chair of the House Cannabis Caucus; Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC), sponsor of the States Reform Act for bipartisan cannabis law reform; Gary Chambers, U.S. Senate candidate (D-LA) and civil rights activist known for his viral campaign videos; Dasheeda Dawson, Cannabis Program Manager for the City of Portland; Toi Hutchinson, CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, and many more.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

What Were The Highlights of National Cannabis Festival 2022?

An eager crowd of over 20,000 people streamed into Robert F. Kennedy Stadium the following day, April 23, for NCF itself. Attendees had their fair share of entertainment to choose from.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

The Culinary Pavilion

The Culinary Pavilion provided edible wonders, slotting together an ice cream-eating competition sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s, a pizza-eating competition by DC Slices, and educational demos on using cannabinoids in food and beverages. We can’t in good faith say one demonstration was the most popular of all – but we sure did see a lot of people gathering for the mixology/Apothecary Drinks instructions by the team from D.C.-based vegan bar Disco Mary.

The Wellness Pavilion and National Cannabis Festival Grow School

Meanwhile, the Wellness Pavilion stimulated body and mind, bookending the day with grounding yoga sessions. Throughout the afternoon, experts introduced the canna-curious to the healing power of the plant. Nearby, entrepreneurs could literally jumpstart their budding careers at the National Cannabis Festival Grow School. Various panels and workshops on cultivation, regenerative agriculture, and cannabis genetics ensured that aspiring growers would leave NCF with the knowledge to curate and respect Mama Ganja.

The Policy Pavilion

The Policy Pavilion continued political conversations over from the previous day’s Policy Summit. Discussions focused on the future of federal legalization, the progress that Washington, D.C. had made in its seven years of an adult-use market, the status of social equity programs nationwide, and how to bring the Southeast’s lagging cannabis policies up to speed with the rest of the country. When you have cases like Georgia, where the state Supreme Court has threatened to sanction attorneys who take on cannabis clients, and Tennessee, where the hemp industry is strong but legislation for adult-use cannabis historically falls flat, you might have to wait awhile.

The Culture Pavilion: Gary Chambers, M-1 Of Dead Prez, and Sara Jay

Gary Chambers was on hand once again at NCF’s Culture Pavilion, in conversation with Doug Gansler, former Attorney General of Maryland who is now campaigning for the state’s Governorship. They reminded onlookers that the personal is political, and that legalization of cannabis is intrinsically connected to our culture. Other cultural topics examined the crypto-cannabis connection, cannabis tourism, and how music might influence the midterm elections. (If you’re watching the moves of the National Cannabis Party, co-founded by Redman and Sephida Artis-Mills, be guaranteed it will.) Special appearances by M-1 from Dead Prez and adult film star Sara Jay drew particularly positive audience responses. Emerging businesses also competed in the CannaTank Contest finals for the prize of a starting grant.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

National Cannabis Festival Cypher Stage

And just to prove that not all the stars were on the concert stage, the National Cannabis Festival’s Cypher Stage hearkened back to the early days of hip-hop, when spoken word and open mic performers ran their rhythms as organically as possible. The High-larious Comedy Showcase put the funniest cannabis comics on display in the same space. Surrounding these artists, the premium hemp rolling paper company Bouqé hosted the High Rollers Competition, testing the mettle of those who considered themselves top-notch joint rollers. Digital creator Melanated Smoke won the coveted High Roller Award after three fierce rounds of gameplay.

Ghostface Killah (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Ghostface Killah, Lettuce, Sheek Louch Perform At National Cannabis Festival 2022

Finally, folks settled in for some of the hottest musical acts in town. Noted DJ Farrah Flosscett kicked things off, and diverse local and nationally-known performers took the stage to deliver serious soul. Hometown favorite Backyard Band, according to those who’d grown up with their sound, added “street cred” to the festival, while the famous funk band Lettuce brought the metaphorical house down. Rap legend Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan treated the crowd to a surprise when he brought out his guest, Sheek Louch from The LOX.

Wiz Khalifa Headlines National Cannabis Festival 2022

Then, fittingly for a king, Wiz Khalifa ended the night in a swirl of smoke and flashing lights. As Wiz threw himself into the performance, it was clearer than it had ever been that cannabis is for him – as for so many in the audience – a way of life. The plant is his pathway to creativity, his source of intuitive wisdom, his key to unlock the secrets of the universe. Where is the love, one might ask? Why, it’s right here.

Slick Rick and The National Cannabis Championship

On April 24, NCF closed out with another concert day headlined by Def Jam icon Slick Rick and Washington, D.C. sensation DJ Footwerk. There, festivalgoers also celebrated the inaugural National Cannabis Championship, an award show honoring the East Coast's best cultivators.

Slick Rick (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Sponsored by The Gentleman Toker, the Championship debuted to great success. Champions were announced in the following categories:

Best Hemp Topicals: Brian Rubin of Potomac Indica

Best Hemp Edibles: Alan Manstaff and Andrea Calem of One Lane Bridge

Best Hemp Flower: Brian Rubin of Potomac Indica

Best THC Flower: Tyler Edmonson of The Kushery

In the great tradition of the National Cannabis Festival, that’s how it will always stay. People and plant, joined together to create better qualities of life for all. Ain’t no better beat than that.

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Featured image: Wiz Khalifa performs at National Cannabis Festival (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.