Talk about a “Hall of Flowers.”
Up to 10,000 medical cannabis patients and industry members have snatched up most of Santa Rosa’s lodgings for California’s annual cannabis county fair, The Emerald Cup, Dec. 13-14 at the sprawling Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The organic, outdoor flower competition broke new records for size this week and will feature nearly 800 entries in the buds, edibles, tinctures, and topicals divisions, said co-founder Tim Blake Wednesday.
“It’s just off the hook,” he said.
Blake had to add to his roster of judges — each of which may have to sample about 100 flowers over the course of a week during the first round of the competition.
“A lot of professionals, the best judges in the world, they looked at it and said, ‘OK, we’re going to have to limit entries or add an entry fee (next year),’” said Blake. “We were up to 12:45 am the night of Dec. 1 with five extra people just to handle the logistics of preparing judges packs and sending entries to the lab.”
In a typically soggy, off-season for Wine Country, Blake estimates the industry could add $1 million in weekend tourism on local hotels, restaurants, breweries, and stores. Private medical cannabis growers from every corner of the state will gather there.
“We have 300 entries coming up from L.A. today,” Blake said. “I’m so humbled, touched, and grateful by what has happened here.”
The Emerald Cup is California’s premier outdoor, organic cannabis flower competition. Created by and for the state’s original growers in the Emerald Triangle, it is named for the nexus of three cultivation epicenters: Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties.
Since the ’70s, California has ranked as the number-one domestic supplier of U.S. cannabis, second only to Mexican sources.
Federal efforts meant to interdict international marijuana in the ’80s turned cannabis into the Triangle’s number-one economy — sending demand for domestic, artisanal bud soaring, along with its cost. Pot revenues add billions of dollars per year to Humboldt’s economy.
With the rise of medical marijuana beginning in 1996, once-secretive Emerald Triangle growers began gathering at the end of the fall harvest to swap stories and tips.
Over the last eleven years, the contest has grown from 20 flower contestants to over 250 flower entries last year, along with almost 60 solvent-less entries in 2013.
The event grows in every possible way this year, adding more indoor space, exhibitors, guest speakers, entertainers, and guests. Major acts Slightly Stoopid and Ozomatli are scheduled to entertain the relaxed crowd.
“People are ready to come out, they’re no longer hiding in the woods,” Blake said. “They want to be part of and proud of the culture and industry… People are going to have a great show.”