For 24 years, counterculture magazine High Times has put on the Cannabis Cup in marijuana-tolerant Amsterdam to award the best in an admittedly underground community. A lot of Colorado folks made the trek this year, some even taking home awards.
Local marijuana attorney Warren Edson also traveled to Holland to take part as a tourist and as a judge. We caught up with Edson, who gave us his take on what some are saying may have been the last true Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, as well as Dutch weed, hash smuggling and what we can expect at the 2012 High Times Denver Medical Cannabis Cup.
For around $335 (250 Euros), Edson got a judges pack that contained a laminated map and a booklet with news and educational information, with pages devoted to the various coffee shops competing in the cup and their strains. He didn't get free ganja, though: Judges go to each coffee shop and buy samples of the herb for anywhere from $10 a gram to nearly $20, and later vote to decide on the winners at the convention. He said a few of the larger shops, like Barney's and Greenhouse, would also give judges a gram of herb not in the contest and a gram of "import" hash and a gram of "nederhash" for around $18.
Judges spend a few days trying out what each coffee shop has to offer and all congregate at the cup at the end to vote on the coffee shop strains. But those are just for the coffee-shop awards. The seed company awards (which were all won by Colorado and California companies) were selected this year based on a few judges' scores and the results from potency tests -- a method Edson says was pioneered at the Denver High Times cup last April.
As for the Dutch-grown herb, Edson doesn't have much good to say about it. Apparently, everything he saw was less than impressive for someone traveling from Colorado -- especially the abundance of low-potency autoflowering strains that don't require a change in light times to produce buds ("It's fucking huge over there right now").
More interesting to him was the hash scene. Various shops openly advertised imported hash from Morocco and Afghanistan. "High Times wrote an article about where to go, because they have direct hash connections," he said. "It's unreal. When it comes time for the award, it's like, 'Is this award supposed to go to the coffee shop or the smuggler?' Neither one of them had anything to do with making it."
On Wednesday night before the Thursday awards ceremony, Dutch police raided the convention hall where the Cup was held. According to High Times, the police originally had an issue with a permit but stayed to make sure that everyone was in compliance with the five-gram personal limit allowed by Dutch law. Edson says the cops' concern had more to do with copious amounts of hash oil and a so-called "dab-a-thon" that had gone on the night before. The police wouldn't let people leave before being processed, but allowed the convention-goers to continue to smoke while they waited, which created a huge smoke out from everyone's remaining stash of herb. After the raid, police banned indoors, on-site smoking, which Edson says created a much more subdued awards ceremony the next day (check out footage of the awards on the next page).
As for rumor about this being the last Cannabis Cup? Edson says that, sadly, there may be some truth to it. A lot of people don't realize that marijuana isn't really legal in Holland -- only very, very decriminalized. And lately, conservative politicians have taken over and are waging war against a part of the country that has allowed marijuana to be bought, sold and smoked openly for more than thirty years. As of January 1, for example, only residents of Holland can buy marijuana in coffee shops in towns bordering Germany and France. In 2013, the ban goes into effect for all of Holland. Edson said he saw and heard some of the anti-coffee shop sentiment -- aimed more at European weekenders (dubbed "Charlie Cheapskates" by the locals) than anyone else. Because of the growing influence of the conservative politicians, a lot of people were predicting that 2011 may have been the last Cup in Amsterdam.
Edson also gave some insight to the planned second High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver. Dispensaries won't be handing out samples in a patient-friendly smoke area like last year. There will still be a patient lounge, but as in Amsterdam, patient would have to purchase meds beforehand at a circuit of competing medical marijuana centers. Edson says he already knows of shops on board with the plan, including several that would host meds from dispensaries not in the metro area. Judging would take place during the week leading up to the awards ceremony. "The idea is to create something like Amsterdam, where patients will be in the different centers and they can distribute where it's legal."
Page down for videos of the awards ceremony from the folks at thesmokersguide.com. Best Coffeeshop strain:
Best hash -- Nederhash competition:
Best hash -- Import competition:
Best hash -- seed company:
Best Indica -- seed company:
Best Sativa -- seed company:
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Best Hybrid -- seed company:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Legalize 2012 initiative in final drafting stage, to be posted online soon" and "CU Boulder is America's druggiest campus? Spokesman offers rebuttal & 4/20 move update."