There are many new awards these days in the form of cannabis cups and not-so-secret sessions of varying regard, all the way from the shores of New England to California’s Bay Area people are on an eternal quest to figure out who grows the best pot. While some events will claim to embrace an ethos of years past, in reality, none hold a candle to Northern California’s Emerald Cup.
The greatest harvest cup of them all, for 13 years the Emerald Cup and its elite pack of judges have sifted through the full bounty of the outdoor crop from the Emerald Triangle and beyond to pick an undisputed winner. This December’s cup will mark the first time the event has been held under laws that allow for the personal possession of up to an ounce legal for anyone over 21.
A new addition to the already daunting process, this year’s planning involves making sure everything is tested before it makes its way to the judges. Last year, the samples made it into in the hands of judges while they were simultaneously being screened at SC Labs. While the change is welcome by all, it has forced the timelines around the cup to be sped up to allow for the lab time, this year’s sample deadline is nearly a week earlier than last year.
“It’s going to be a crunch for us this year we’ll only have from Nov. 19 to Dec. 8, the day we have to pick the winner,” said Nikki Lastreto who serves as co-head judge with her partner Swami.
Emerald Cup Founder Tim Blake noted that the deadlines come during an action packed time of year for the competitors. Between cutting, drying, and curing people have always had little time to get things together for the cup, this year’s deadline only exacerbates those stresses, but all for the sake of clean medicine. Last year’s new format, and the volume of entries coming in, made it impossible to test everything before it was sent to be judged.
“As far as I know, everything we’ve tested this year has come back clean but pesticides aren’t in yet,” Blake said. “I think last year a lot of people just weren’t aware of how much stuff was staying in their clones they were getting from somewhere else. This year folks are clearly a lot more worried about this issue and don’t want to fail their tests. People are being a lot more careful, and I’m sure things will be less of an issue this year.”
In general The Emerald Cup has done well compared to the wholesale market according to Alec Dixon, co-founder and client relations director at SC Labs.
“For pest residue it was about a 15-20 percent detection rate last year. We expect a higher rate this year, we’ve increased our testing sensitivity to be about a thousand times more sensitive than it was this time last year,” said Dixon, who went on to note these numbers weren’t bad at all when compared to the overall market.“The samples we’re seeing generally have a 50-60 percent detection rate for pesticides on flowers, and on concentrates it gets up to the 70-80 percent range.”
In the build up to this year’s event Blake was at the forefront of the debate over Proposition 64 in California. Many considered him the most highly regarded cultivator within the community to come out in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, this drew both the praise and ire of the hill depending who you asked. Now with the victory behind him, Blake doesn’t expect things to have too much of an impact on this year’s event, but rather on those to come.
“We’re going to see how it plays out, it’s an awfully big change we’re going through at the moment between the medical regulations and AUMA,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of give and take and ironing out the details over the next year or so.”
Being in Sonoma County has helped. In the past few years it took the flag from many places in California that would have easily been considered to have the most developed wholesale markets. Four years ago Sonoma County took in the Emerald Cup after Mendocino and Humboldt refused to the host the event, in that time frame it has gone from a mythical Area 101 weed party in Laytonville, to a driving economic force in Santa Rosa with hotels booked out months in advance for miles around the fairgrounds.
“Sonoma is forward thinking, they’re smart, and they’re doing it right,” Blake said. “It’s now a leader for everything from wine tourism to bicycles. I really believe Sonoma is going to be the headquarters of the cannabis industry in the next five years, because they have the access to the labor pool and housing that we don’t have further north.”
Ticket sales have outpaced last year’s sales nearly two to one. Last year Saturday sold out and Sunday was not far behind on attendance levels, all vendor booths for the weekend were gone months ago.
In addition to the world’s best outdoor cannabis, this year will feature many great activities for cup-goers. Alex Grey will be creating his visionary art live, Hitman Glass will be having live lampworking demonstrations throughout the weekend, and Damien Marley will be taking a break from his prison rehabilitation project to headline the main stage.
For more information on The Emerald Cup, which will take place on Dec. 10 and 11, visit TheEmeraldCup.com
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