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New crop of cannabis contests announced for US

Published on July 8, 2021
Greenwolf's Zalympix Contest Judges kit sold out at $700 (David Downs:Leafly)
Greenwolf's Zalympix Contest Judges kit sold out at $700 (David Downs:Leafly)

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.”

The Emerald Cup’s 2021 winners and where to buy them

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
Blue Zushi (David Downs/Leafly)
Zushi by The TENCo’s Blue Zushi took Best Overall and Best Tasting in Los Angeles dispensary Greenwolf’s Zalympix. (David Downs/Leafly)

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.

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“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.

Best cannabis strains of summer 2021

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.



Cannabis events are back! A file photo of The Emerald Cup. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)
Cannabis events are back! A file photo of The Emerald Cup. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)





The Terptown Throwdown promises heady fun on the East Coast. (Courtesy Terptown Throwdown)


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Did we miss an upcoming Cup or contest? Holler at us in the comments below.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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