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Cannabis Cup, Oregon Edition 

Whereas a judge has to pay to attend the High Times event he's judging

As someone who writes for three newspapers, I've come to understand that publications usually have two sides: editorial, which produces what you read, and sales, which sells the ads and produces events that pay for what editorial creates.

This can lead to conflicted feelings for the reader, as they enjoy the content created by the publication, but are troubled by how an event is produced, including ticket and refreshment prices, crowd management techniques, the quality of the experience for attendees, etc. You can love the team who wrote and designed the events guide but want to slap the taste from the mouths of those who execute it.

  • GDJ, Pixabay

Last year, I faced this dilemma when fulfilling a long time wish: Serving as a judge for the inaugural Oregon edition of the High Times Cannabis Cup. It became an eye opener into how the quality of work provided by each side can differ dramatically.

The breadth and quality of the content and reporting by High Times magazine is remarkable, including work by Mount Puffmore cannabis icons The Guru of Ganja, Ed "Ask Ed" Rosenthal, Chef Ra, Jorge Cervantes and Editor-in-Chief Steven Hagar. One could write an entire column about the vast number of key pioneering cannabis projects, editorial undertakings and events Hager alone created.

One event is the Cup, which began in Amsterdam in 1988, where celebrity judges voted on best flower, hash, seed company, dispensary and other categories. Coffee shops offered ticket holders the opportunity to try some of these products, often via free samples. The big-name musical performers and accounts from judges and attendees made it a Bucket-List event for any serious stoner.

The first American CC happened in 2010. Due to various regulatory and legal changes, the last Amsterdam-based CC happened in 2014. Since then, High Times has produced Medical and Recreational CCs in northern and southern California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Detroit and other locations.

In November 2014, they announced an Oregon edition of the CC in Portland. Earlier that year, Denver had hosted the largest version to date, with 37,000 attendees over two days. It had morphed into a trade show, with opportunities to sponsor elements/stages, buy booths, and more. Expectations were sky high.

But by September 2015, High Times called off the Portland event, citing issues finding a venue in Portland large enough to satisfy the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and moving the event to Milwaukie, just outside Portland city limits. The organizers said the process of attempting to produce the event "has proven to be a Herculean task— in fact, it's been the most difficult of all of our Cannabis Cups to get off the ground."

I was excited to hear High Times was trying again in 2019, and by summer, word began going around that the CC would be held at The North Warehouse. Time passed. In late September I saw a website confirming a date of Oct. 26 and providing a link to apply as a judge! I completed a short survey about what I preferred, methods of ingestion and favored effects, and on October 17, I received an invite. From the categories I had selected, I had been assigned vape pens.

The invite said judge's kits could be picked up at the Pure Green dispensary between October 18 and 20, and that I had been assigned a category of products. "Categories have been assigned based on what you requested to judge. No switches or additions will be accommodated. If you are unhappy with your category, please let us know and we will cancel your kit and assign it to someone on our waitlist."

Furthermore, the invite read, "Judge's kits do NOT come with tickets to the awards show. We welcome you to purchase VIP tickets and join us at the...Awards Show to hang out with us and witness the winners."

VIP tickets were $100. General Admission cost $80. Um...OK. Steep for the "witnessing of winners," perhaps. On Oct. 18, I got in line to pick up my judge's kit.

Look for the follow-up to this column: The Kit, the Cup, and hitting an all-time low," in an upcoming issue.

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