COVID restrictions are lifting and the cannabis events dam has burst! This summer and fall, millions of weed fans will have more chances than ever to be the judge of their state’s best herb.
Marijuana awards offer a rare data point on cannabis quality with history tracing back to the first Cannabis Cup held in Amsterdam in 1988. Now, with 18 legal US states and counting, America’s weed contests have evolved into fully legal ‘people’s choice’ formats.
A slew of new cannabis competitions—like High Times Cannabis Cups, Grow-Offs, Terptown Throwdowns, and Emerald Cups—are coming back after a gnarly hiatus, and encouraging more participation than ever.
Anyone age 21 and older can purchase a judge’s kit, smoke the contestants, and rank the winners; as opposed to a private group of industry judges.
2021 weed competitions already underway
In June, leading Los Angeles dispensary Greenwolf threw the “Zalympix” exotic cannabis competition, using 250 judges kits, online voting, and an awards party June 26.
Seven-year-old Greenwolf has always dominated in flower, winning the most Cups of any retailer. The store invited its best vendors to compete in the Zalympix—running out of spots in the top-tier, 16-way battle between:
- Alien Labs and their new strain Biskante
- Bohemian Estate and their Zake
- Cali Kush Farms’ Z-41
- Connected’s Slow Lane
- Deo Farms X Wizard Trees’ Zoap
- Doja’s RS-11
- Dubz Garden X La Coz’ Gelato Plus
- Fire Society’s Etherium
- Green Dawg’s Updawg
- Kush Co’s Kush Co OG
- L.A. Family Farms Rainbow Belts
- LoKey Farms’ Heavy Fog #4
- Small Boutique Farms—Chocolate Mints
- The Association—Bazquiat
- Turtle Pie Co—X-Rose
- Zushi by The TENCo—Blue Zushi
“With COVID and everything, there was nothing really exciting going on, and not a lot of ways to shine a light on these top-tier cultivators,” said Greenwolf Co-Founder Brian Hart. “We pride ourselves on having the best of the best available, and we decided to do something fun and tie it to our seven-year anniversary.”
Each judges box included 16 half-eighth-ounces totaling one legal ounce of super-hot fire for $700 out the door. Heavy smokers and growers bought a box, lit up with their friends, took notes over two weeks, and voted via unique QR codes in six categories:
- Best Overall and Best Tasting went to The Ten Co. for their Zushi brand Blue Zushi
- Best Looking: Cali Kush Farms’ Z-41
- Best Terps: Alien Labs’ Biskante
- Most Potent and Most Gassy—LowKey Farms’ Heavy Fog #4
Pot competitions help outline the shape of a state’s adult-use weed market. In California, for example, indica-dominant crosses of Gelato and Zkittlez dominate what the culture deems ‘exotic’ or ‘zaza’ for short. A hot, new brand or cross in L.A. generates counterfeits around the globe days or weeks later.
“I think the world is definitely watching California cannabis,” said Greenwolf’s Hart. “If they’re any type of connoisseur, I don’t know how you couldn’t,”
Most of the legal growers in the Zalympix came from the Sacramento, CA area, as opposed to Los Angeles—where adult-use grow licensing implementation remains stalled five years after legalization.
“As far as cultivation licensing, Los Angeles has been known as a big shit show, for lack of a better term,” said Greenwolf Co-Founder Adam Bregman.
Greenwolf plans future Zalympix contests in flower and hash, and ideally would like to blind the judging, so packaging and branding has less influence.
“There’s been an overwhelming response from cultivators and customers—we’re super-excited to do more,” said Bregman.
Upcoming US cannabis competitions
Here’s a roundup of more announced cannabis competitions for 2021.
- High Times Cannabis Cup Arizona 2021—People’s Choice Edition; judges kits out June 12; digital awards show Aug. 15
- High Times Cannabis Cup Northern California 2021—People’s Choice Edition; judges kits out June 25; digital awards show Aug. 29
- Weedcon Buyer’s Cup; awards show Nov. 11-12, Los Angeles, CA
- The Emerald Cup 2021; awards show Dec. 11-12, Los Angeles, CA
- The Connoisseur Cup; award party July 10; Denver, CO
- The Grow-Off—Colorado 2021; competition clones out July 30
- High Times Cannabis Cup Illinois 2021—People’s Choice Edition; judges kits out Sept. 11; awards show Nov. 14
- The Harvest Cup, New England’s premier cannabis competition; submission dates Sept. 20-Oct. 2; awards show Nov. 13-14, DCU Center, Worcester, MA
- The Pheno Cup; entries due by July 29; awards show Aug. 13-15, Harmony, ME
- First-ever New York Grower’s Cup at The New York Cannabis Arts & Music Festival; Sept. 24-26; New Lisbon, NY
- High Times Cannabis Cup Oklahoma 2021; judges deadline Sept. 12; awards show Sept. 19, Tulsa, OK
- The Grow-Off—Oklahoma; competition clones out August 8