Cannabis is the new normal, as evident in this year’s Emerald Cup, one of the nation’s largest annual cannabis festivals.
The festival entered its sixth straight year of residency at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds over the weekend. This was only the second Cup since California voters decided to legalize marijuana for adult use.
While it’s only been just short of two years since the state officially enacted cannabis reform, it was business as usual at this year’s Cup. A crowd of roughly 30,000 came to enjoy the festivities -- which included food trucks, cannabis consumption areas for adults, and musical performances from the NYC rap group Flatbush Zombies, indie-pop songstress Santigold, and reggae legends Steel Pulse.
“The normalization of cannabis is unbelievable,” said event founder Tim Blake to the Press Democrat. “We have gotten rid of 100 years of stigmatization in 10 years.”
In addition to honoring the state’s best achievements in cannabis cultivation, the Cup took time to honor comedian and actor Tommy Chong with the second annual Willie Nelson Award, created to honor those who helped push marijuana into the mainstream. His iconic career has been synonymous with cannabis culture since becoming one-half of the stoner comedy act Cheech and Chong.
The 81-year-old also famously used cannabis to fight cancer twice, and was once at the center of legal controversy for selling bongs via the internet.
“People ask me if you ever thought this day would come. I never thought about it because I never thought that far ahead,” Chong said after receiving the award at the fairgrounds stage.
This year’s top prize for California’s best sungrown flower went to southern Humboldt County’s Ridgeline Farms for their Ridgeline Runtz strain, beating out 700 entrants from 14 categories. The terpene-packed cross between Zkittlez and Gelato has quickly gained popularity throughout the state’s finer shops. “It’s the most beautiful bud I saw in the entire competition,” said judge Nikki Lastreto to Leafly. “A Boeing 747 that takes you to space.”
Capitalizing on the booming trend of CBD, the Oakland-based dispensary Phytologie took home the award for best CBD flower with their frosty and functional strain, Holy Crunch. Phytologie, which has earned past Emerald Cup awards for its flower is especially stoked to represent its Oakland roots.
Phytologie’s cultivation manager, Adrian Guerrero tells bud.com, “We're honored to win another First Place at Emerald Cup, Calfornia’s oldest and most respected cultivator awards. We’re especially stoked to bring the Cup back to Oakland, where hard work and elite genetics make beautiful music together.." Speaking about the winning strain, Guerrero says “Holy Crunch is an ‘enhanced flower’ it has over 30% Cannabinoids and 3% terpenes..it provides a one of a kind high."
Cup judges also recognized efforts to grow cannabis using environmentally responsible methods by awarding the regenerative farm award to the Humboldt County farm Organic Medicinals, who grow marijuana and vegetables using dry farming practices in the Eel River Valley.
What was once a clandestine event where nominees would wear bandanas over their faces to protect their identities from undercover detectives, has now become the flashpoint when cannabis companies begin to truly take shape.
“The Emerald Cup is rich with culture, and the awards matter,” said Sonoma County resident and longtime cultivator Shivawn Brady to the Press Democrat. “When you win this contest, it immediately creates your brand.”
For a complete list of awards recipients, click here.