Several of the entries for the 2015 Emerald Cup.
Several of the entries for the 2015 Emerald Cup.


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Walking into the open room in back of Area 101 in Mendocino on Tuesday, about a dozen of this year’s judges were gathered around a large table as the flower entries for The 2015 Emerald Cup were labeled with anonymous numbers and placed in large mason jars. Judges immediately started examining the entries, but for those who have taken part in judging before, this year’s approach is different.

By introducing an entry fee, the cup has partnered with SC Labs to provide full-spectrum testing (including terpene profiles) and will be providing both judges and contestants with more information about their entry. And let’s face it — this isn’t a cheap competition to run if you’re going to do it proper. Bringing judges together to sort through hundreds of entries, processing each entry to ensure anonymity, and sending samples out for timely testing. It’s no easy feat.

Higher Bar, Better Entries

Experienced Emerald Cup judges were enthusiastic about the entry fee and the mold/chemical disqualification. “Just from looking at the table tonight, there’s already better herb than we saw last year,” said Rick Pfrommer, dispensary consultant and Cannabis Now Magazine contributor.

Prior Emerald Cup competitions allowed contestants to enter for free, and they were given a weekend pass to the event. But that wasn’t incentive enough for everyone to submit their best, Pfrommer said. “If you charge people, they trim it better and they care more.”

The judging session this year started like it usually does when the flowers are put on the table: Judges start opening jars, picking out prime specimens (“Don’t touch that one. That’s the showcase bud!”) to inspect the trim, crystals, look and fragrance of the flowers. “If it’s shaggy looking and doesn’t smell, we don’t smoke it,” said Swami Chaitanya of Swami Select, who came with Nikki Lastreto as his judging partner.

If there’s an entry that stands out, the judges try not to smoke too much of it at this stage because what if they run out in the final round? Casey O’Neill of HappyDay Farm said this is a concern every year, but the panel seemed to be more careful this time. Joints are typically passed around long judges tables, but only two or three were rolled for this session. O’Neill and his judging partner Amber Cline relied on a bong with a small bowl to taste a variety of entries in small amounts.

Early birds who submit their entries first do seem to gain an advantage. While over 200 entries have been submitted, the judges each took home samples of the first 30 because those had time to be processed and sent out for testing already.  They will pick up the rest of the entries soon, and there are at least two judge’s meetings remaining.

How many entries are expected in the 2015 Emerald Cup?

Not the roughly 800 entries submitted last year. Contest coordinator Jeb Berman said he can’t project the total they’ll receive, but there were more than anticipated. “When we scheduled a time to come pick up the entries and got an estimate of how many each place had so we knew how many boxes to bring, most of them told us they had 10 or 15. Those numbers quadrupled while we were sending drivers down.”

For those who missed the entry deadline and can drive to Healing Harvest Farms at Area 101, you can make a last-minute submission if you do so by Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.


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