One of the best ways to see your own cultural surroundings clearly is to drive down the road a ways and get something to which you can compare it. So I leapt at the chance to attend the ninth annual Emerald Cup in marijuana mecca Humboldt County, California. One of the coolest and most unique things about this medical cannabis competition - and fittingly so, given the Emerald Triangle's deep hippie roots -- is that only outdoor, organic, sun- and soil-grown marijuana is allowed.
This display case held the Emerald Cup's 200 flower entries and a couple-dozen concentrate entries (click to enlarge)
Arriving around 4 p.m. at an event which had been going strong since high noon, I saw the entire area near the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California, covered cannabis bumper sticker-festooned vehicles and happy hippies unhurriedly making their way to the center. I ended up parking about half a mile down the road and hoofing it back to the center; it was easy to find my way - I just followed the steady stream of hippies and the sound of music.
Two hundred(!) strains of marijuana were entered, compared to last year's 108 entries, as well as a couple dozen concentrates. Simply placing in the Top 20 among such elevated competition is quite an accomplishment, of course, and the growers of ChemDawg Special Reserve, the #1 strain of the event - Leonard Bell and Elenah Elston, who together run the company Cannabis Aficionado -- won an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica for seven days and nights.
I just followed the steady stream of hippies and the sound of music
The winning ChemDawg entry, according to lab results posted on Facebook by The Emerald Cup, contains 18.4 percent THC and 0.9 percent CBD.
Emerald Cup entrants are judged by entry numbers only. It's a completely blind judging process, i.e., the judges are given no information about who grew it, what strain it is, or anything else about it. Entrants are judged on the high, appearance, smell, taste and potency, with the high counting twice as much as the other components (rightly so).
A white-robed Swami (that's what everyone calls him, "the Swami") served as co-emcee for the awards presentations along with his girlfriend, Nikki, and he said some pretty entertaining things including this interesting clash in stoner culture:
"A want to talk a moment about trimming your flowers for Emerald Cup entries. Now, 'grower trims' are fine at home, but we don't want your Colorado cut; we don't need your Oregon trim or your medical trim. We want the California club cut, trimmed tight," the Swami said. "If it's not trimmed like that, the clubs won't buy it."
I was slightly discomfited to learn that commercial considerations -- such as whatever trim is currently the fad in California shops - are a factor in the "appearance" part of the judging process, but then again, without grower and dispensary money, this event almost certainly couldn't happen.
In any event, I was gratified to note that almost every one of the Top 10 entrants who spoke on stage appeared to be humble, centered, and focused on growing good cannabis, not on ego-feeding like a rock star. I prefer to like the people who grow my medicine!
Steve Elliott edits Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media's blog of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.