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Barry Tigger of Peace in Medicine takes in the fragrance of an Emerald Cup entry.
Barry Tigger of Peace in Medicine takes in the fragrance of an Emerald Cup entry.

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Judging the Emerald Cup is no small task. Jar upon jar of California’s finest outdoor grown cannabis will pass through the hands of this year’s judges, and these ganjiers must roll and smoke nearly all of the 300+ expected entries. No easy feat with only five weeks to judge and a majority of the entries won’t be submitted until December 1.

But at the first judge’s meeting for the 2014 Emerald Cup on Sunday, none of the judges were complaining about the work ahead of them. Veteran judges feel a sense of obligation and duty to fairly judge the cup, and newer judges were filled in on best practices for rating and sorting through hundreds of flowers.

Ganjier co-founder and Wonderland Nursery cultivation director Kevin Jodrey returns as a judge this year. “When I judge the Emerald Cup, I’m not judging pot. I’m judging the California harvest and I get to see the trends. What else shows us what’s current? High Times? What’s grown in your neighborhood? No. It’s not a big enough picture.”

Fellow judges include Rick Pfrommer of Harborside, Joyce Centofanti of Bud Sisters, Rachel Schmidt of Baked in Humboldt, Todd Weatherhead, Nicki Lasgretto, Barry Tigger of Peace in Medicine, Mikey Martiti of Redwood Herbal, Sammy Klebanov, and Green R. Fieldz. Swami Chaitanya and Pearl Moon were also there to assist friends who were judging.

“You’re not being judged on your ability,” Kevin told the first-time judges. “You’re being tested on your ability to work through all these entries and still be able to judge them.”

Swami explained to the group how the scoring works. There are four categories that are scored but that’s just the start.

Four Categories Judged in the 2014 Emerald Cup

  1. Looks, including trim and cure (10 points)
  2. Fragrance (10 points)
  3. Flavor (10 points)
  4. Effect (20 points — double points because, as Swami said, “it’s supposed to get you high”)

Each entry is rolled into a joint and smoked, a hand-written number on the joint let’s the judge’s know which entry they’ve just been passed. Swami said taking a dry hit is crucial because “you’re tasting the trichomes.”

Perfection isn’t what the judges are looking for. “No strain is going to get tens in all categories,” Swami said. I don’t think we’ve ever given one 50 points.”

The numbers aren’t the whole story. In fact, the judges laid out several ways to sort through the top 10 percent that don’t rely on numbers much at all. Some sort by category, and others look for those ones that just pop. Judging perspective was a debated point as well– some judges score a strain higher if they feel it has a high market potential, even if it’s not exactly the kind of cannabis they like to smoke personally. Most felt it should be based solely on what the judge’s liked personally. Sifting through so much professional grade cannabis is a process that each approaches differently.

Being impartial, however, is the most important piece. “Give people a shot to showcase their product,” Kevin said.

Judges don’t just consider the smoke by itself. Passionate debates about the merits of a particular entry are a part of the experience. Fields said, “You better be ready to tell me why that is bomb and convince me that it is, and I’ll do the same.”

Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake lead the meeting and called judging these outdoor entries from around the state “an incredible process.” To aid the judge’s final decision, Tim wants the panel to meet before the cup and re-experience the top 10 or so entries so they can better pick a winner. All the past judges agreed that about 10% of the entries stand out from the crowd every year, so reconsidering the top 20% is considered due diligence.

For those of you keeping count at home, that’s 300 plus entries, almost all of which must be smoked at least once. Then at least 60 will make it into the unofficial semi-finals for reconsideration. Being a judge is a little like having a second job, albeit an awesome one.

Lowdown on the First Round of Emerald Cup Entries

The 11 earliest submissions from a few drop-off locations were available for the discerning palettes at the judge’s table. Numbers are assigned randomly to each entry and none of the judges, including Tim, knows which strain is from which cultivator. Only one person has access to that information and he certainly isn’t a judge. Max Bowen of Healing Harvest Farms was content to watch the judge’s table from a distance.

One entry, #6, was immediately identified by Fields as a possible indoor-grown submission. This problem isn’t taken lightly. The Emerald Cup relies on the honor system and the expertise of its judges to keep out indoor grown cannabis. Kevin suggested that at first glance this one looked like heat-affected, preemie indoor due to its coloration and dryness, but it could also be that someone had finished their outdoor under some lights or that it was pure light deprivation. So they gave it a shot anyway and Kevin said the flavor was good.

Too early to tell whether this first wave will make the cut, though not all were smoked equally — #9 was rolled up at least five times and #14 was another popular pick.

The Ganjier live blogged and tweeted this first meeting of the judges and they’ll be back later this month to take on the next round. We’ll keep you posted.

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