The High Times Cannabis Cup, an expansive competition for legal marijuana growers, extractors and product makers, is returning to Colorado this summer. Because of COVID-19, there won't be any big event or other gatherings as in years past, but there will be judges...and lots of them.
Instead of bringing thirty "expert" judges together in one place where they can try the best that Colorado's marijuana industry has to offer, High Times decided to throw this event for the people, according to Vice President of Content Jon Cappetta. Dispensary customers will be responsible for choosing Colorado's best this year, picking up large collections of samples at participating pot shops, then sampling them and filling out their ballots at home.
"People can't just walk around and sample products this year, and that was the biggest opportunity for cannabis brands, given advertising regulations," Cappetta says. "So this year, imagine you open up a backpack at home, and there's thirty containers of buds inside for you to sample."
There will be two parts to the competition in Colorado this year, with dispensaries in Denver distributing the competing products on June 1 and 2, and Pueblo dispensaries doing the same on June 4 and 5. Judges will then have until July 23 to cast their votes, which will be announced on July 25 during an awards show broadcast online.
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Because of Colorado marijuana packaging laws, the samples won't be unmarked, Cappetta notes, so everyone will know whose weed they're smoking or what edibles they're trying — something typically avoided by judges in the past. In addition, recreational dispensary purchasing limits (one ounce per day, per customer) will legally limit judges to participating in just two of the three categories.
But those small concessions were easy to make in order to bring the Cannabis Cup back to Colorado.
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"The most important purpose of the Cannabis Cup isn't awarding products; it's bringing the industry together," Cappetta explains. "That's where Dennis Peron and Jack Herer became friendly. ... Sure, this isn't as great as being in person, but it's still connection."
Colorado's preeminent cannabis event in the early days of legalization, a full-blown Cannabis Cup hasn't been held in Colorado since 2015, the last time organizers were able to find a friendly local government to approve the event. The cup returned to Denver last year, but it was a private affair for industry members.
As High Times transitions from a publication to a business owning dispensaries in California with an initial public stock offering — a bumpy and clouded conversion, according to media reports — Cappetta believes that involving the audience in the company's most powerful arm, the Cannabis Cup, could open up more opportunities.
"Once we do have regular events again, we'll be able to have a people's-choice aspect to this. I think that's something it's been lacking," he says. "How can you argue with those results?"