Inside a Secret Dutch Cannabis CompetitionDerrick BergmanJanuary 13, 2017
Because cannabis is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, organizers had to operate with the utmost discretion. Dutch authorities have succeeded in chasing away both the High Times Cannabis Cup and the Highlife fair, which has served as the template for every European cannabis festival from Spannabis to Cannafest. The last Highlife fair last took place in Amsterdam in 2007, and the Cannabis Cup left in 2014—27 years after organizing its first gathering in the Dutch capital.
In typical Dutch fashion, these events weren’t banned outright. Instead, local authorities and the police simply made life hard for the organizers. One particularly noteworth example came when more than a dozen police vans descended on the 2011 High Times cup. Officers fanned out and checked every visitor for possession of more than 5 grams, the allowed limit.
After High Times left, a number of smaller events emerged to fill the void. The Homegrown Cup, however, was different from the start.
First, it’s not in Amsterdam. The event is held in the southern city of Eindhoven, the fifth-largest in the Netherldands. Second, the cup gives hobbyist producers and home growers the same consideration as it does large, commercial producers. A third difference with most other cups in the region: The contestants themselves are the judges, whereas most competitions either have an expert panel or tasks judges who pay to for the privilege. Finally, the level of transparency is unusually high at the Homegrown Cup: the full results—meaning all scores for every entry—are all published online.
As participants were getting to know each other, rolling their first joints and firing up their dab rigs, the Homegrown Cup team readied the samples for judging. Each entry was photographed, divided into 1.5 gram samples, and put in plastic containers marked with a nondescript code so that judges had no idea who produced the product.
Putting the Monopoly to the Test
What few of the judges knew was that among the 27 entries in the indoor category, organizers had included Cannabis Flos, produced by the only licensed Dutch cannabis producer, Bedrocan, The company currently has a monopoly on medical cannabis the country’s health ministry supplies to pharmacies. As best anyone could tell, it was the first time ever that Bedrocan’s cannabis was subjected to a blind taste test.
Despite the company’s scientific and regulatory expertise, Cannabis Flos left judges disappointed. The Bedrocan product placed 20th out of 27 entries in the indoor category.
A Personal Note
Through the years I’ve had the honor to be part of a number of cannabis cup juries, including at the Highlife Cup—the oldest Dutch competition—as well as various local cups organized by cannabis social clubs in Spain. But I’d never before been a contestant.
At this year’s Homegrown Cup, I entered one of the plants I grew on my balcony this summer in the outdoor category. It was my biggest plant, a gift from Doede de Jong, a longtime cannabis grower and activist. Every year De Jong brings a plant from Friesland, the northern province he lives in, to Amsterdam to put on stage at Cannabis Liberation Day, the country’s biggest cannabis event. I got to take the plant home and, thanks to an exceptionally sunny and dry summer, she flourished and produced copious flowers. I called my entry Doede Special and took extra care manicuring and drying the buds.
As I judged the other entries I realized I was clearly facing some stiff competition. Just by looking at them, I was quite sure that two entries were not grown in the Netherlands, but in a country with more sun. This was all part of the game, though, as a number of entries came from elsewhere in Europe. After a long and thoroughly enjoyable day of testing and talking, eating and more testing, one of the two challengers that caught my eye indeed won the outdoor category. An amateur home grower took third prize, with 35.9 points, narrowly beating my Doede Special, which earned 35.3—not bad for a first time, if I do say so myself.
2016 Homegrown Cup winners:
Indoor: Scott’s OG (Rare Dankness Seeds) by Organic Earth
Outdoor: Brainstorm by Dutch Passion Seeds
Traditional Hash: Alien Cheese Balls (Exodus Kush by DNA Genetics) by Brother Extracts
Concentrates: White Sumo by Karma Squad