Text by Erica Edwards & Caitlin Podiak; Photos by Peter Locke
The 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Medical Cannabis Cup took place June 28 and 29 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California.
(High Times now presents their Medical Cannabis Cup in Seattle and Los Angeles as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. Following up a 2011 Medical Cannabis Cup in Detroit, this year High Times will host a Cup in Clio, Michigan. Of course, there’s also the U.S. Cannabis Cup, in Denver. Not to mention the original High Times Cannabis Cup, in Amsterdam.)
So, San Francisco’s Cup didn’t actually take place in San Francisco. And, since recreational cannabis is not yet legal in California, all “medicating” was restricted to a “medication area,” which was only accessible to patients with valid California recommendations. And those of us accustomed to foggy summers in San Francisco proper may have been somewhat unprepared for the considerably hotter Sonoma sunshine. Nevertheless, we’ve got to hand it to High Times for presenting a Cannabis Cup worthy of Northern California’s venerable cannabis community.
As our first official order of business, the 91LIFE team made our way to “Cannabis for Health, Happiness & Creativity,” a panel conversation moderated by Debby Goldsberry, a prominent cannabis activist and current ambassador for Magnolia Wellness Center. Courtney Sheats, Jeremy Daw, Rev. Dr. Kymron deCesare, and Diane R. Fornbacher discussed how cannabis reduces stress, augments good health, and inspires creativity. We were particularly excited to learn about THCV, a fascinating cannabinoid with valuable medicinal benefits, from Rev. Dr. deCesare.
Next up was “Free Weed from Danny Danko”, featuring a panel of cultivation experts: DJ Short, Kyle Kushman, Subcool and MzJill, “K”, Aaron, and Rick Pfrommer. It was lovely to hear from MzJill of TGA Genetics, who provides a welcome feminine perspective in the otherwise male-dominated breeding scene. MzJill goes above and beyond to help patients through her extensive outreach work.
After that, we were ready to get into the mix and see the sights in the medication area. Weaving our way past booths displaying glass, gadgets, all sorts of accessories, jars full of cannabis flowers, and one vaporizer pen after another, we found our way to Buds & Roses. We met Aaron Justis, who owns this popular Los Angeles dispensary, and learned how Kyle Kushman’s “veganic” growing methods influence the quality of the buds at Buds & Roses.
Then we visited Subcool and MzJill at the TGA Genetics booth, and when we mentioned that we had yet to actually smoke anything all day, Subcool immediately offered us a few grams of Strawberry Cough. By then, the hot afternoon was melting away and a cool breezy evening was settling in. We took a blissful break from our busy day to light up a few bowls of Subcool’s tasty and impressively potent strawberry-scented buds.
Finally on the right wavelength with the sea of smoke and stony smiles surrounding us, we floated into the pavilion where moe. was already deep into a jam that pulled us into a mellow groove, while dazzling lights traced trippy patterns in the fog and smoke-filled air.
Throughout both days at the Cannabis Cup, we frequently found ourselves gravitating to the Magnolia Wellness booth, which had music, art, hula hooping, and a bar where the dabs and bong hits never seemed to stop. More crucially, Magnolia provided comfy seats, shade, and free bottled water. Mickey Martin, founder of Compassion Edibles, was serving up medicated miniature doughnuts to raise funds for Parents 4 Pot, and the tantalizing aroma attracted plenty of donations. We were delighted to meet Michelle Aldrich, who has been a legalization activist for most of her life, helped draft Proposition 215, and famously eradicated lung cancer with the help of cannabis oil.
On Sunday we found Diane Fornbacher, publisher of Ladybud magazine, relaxing in Magnolia’s shady lounge area, as well as Debby Goldsberry, who sat down with us to talk about the process of judging the entries for Best Indica. We were thrilled when she opened up a tote bag containing the remains of her samples of all the entries, which she allowed us to examine, smell, and even smoke. But, while passing around one enormous joint after another, we were appalled to learn that Magnolia had accidentally been left off the ballot for Best Booth, since their space was clearly one of the best, and certainly our favorite at the Cannabis Cup.
We also stopped by DJ Short’s booth on both Saturday and Sunday. It was a rare privilege to chat about some of our favorite strains with the man who created them. The legendary breeder turned out to be laid back, down to earth, and very friendly. We were honored when he generously took the time to answer our questions and share a few tidbits of breeding wisdom with us, such as the fact that despite his reputation for producing uniquely flavorful genetics, he always prioritizes specific medicinal effects and then refines the flavors once he has achieved his desired therapeutic benefits.
Eventually, we made our way back to the pavilion, where we encountered even more celebrities of the cannabis world while we all waited for the awards ceremony to begin. Then the ceremony kicked off with the announcement that Vader Extracts had won Best Booth, which didn’t come as much of a surprise based on the number of people seen crowded around their booth all weekend. Best Product went to Cloud Penz, and Best Glass to Hitman Glass.
San Francisco-based Madame Munchie took home the award for Best Edibles, for their artisanal cannabis macaroons. Madame Munchie explained to 91LIFE that their goal is to “create a new category in edibles, to offer patients something more than just medicine.” Some edibles are so potent, the average patient can only consume an impractically small portion without overmedicating, but these little cookies contain 20 mg of THC, a relatively mild dosage.
The most touching and dramatic portion of the evening came when the Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Valerie and Mike Corral, who founded the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, or WAMM, in 1993. WAMM is the oldest continually operating medical cannabis collective in the United States and is uniquely focused on serving those with terminal and chronic illnesses. After the DEA destroyed their garden in 2002, WAMM sued the federal government and won the right to replant and continue providing medicine to their patients. Valerie and Mike Corral were also instrumental to the passage of Proposition 215.
The first place award for Best Non-Solvent Hash went to Medi Brothers for their ice water hash made from Kottonmouth Kush x Strawberry Cough. Jenn Doe, the artisan who grew the flowers and created the hash, credited her skills to YouTube tutorials, and later revealed that “the secret to [her] win, from seed to finish,” is simply, “Give a shit.” She said, “I care, every step of the way… My two favorite strains plus lots of love and giving a shit equals winning hash.”
Los Angeles dispensary Gold Coast Collection won Best Hybrid with their Thin Mint Cookie. Gold Coast Collection has described this Girl Scout Cookies phenotype as “definitely a head turner,” and a favorite to grow. The winning strain for Best Sativa was Cracker Jack, “a piney, cheesy, mango-scented Jack Herer x G-13 phenotype” from Santa Cruz Mountain Naturals, who touted their “superior genetics” and “absolute attention to detail and unwavering commitment to true organic cultivation techniques.” Chem Scout, from IC Collective, was declared Best Indica.
Best Concentrate was announced last, emphasizing the extent to which concentrates were the main event for so many Cannabis Cup attendees. First place went to Gold Coast Extracts for their Hell Raiser OG, which was produced with material from TLC Collective, and which Gold Coast Extracts described as having “a very lemony candy flavor.”
It was clear throughout our time at the Cannabis Cup that dab culture has become enormously influential. Wherever we turned, someone was either dabbing or offering us a dab. Glass displays were dominated by oil rigs, rather than familiar pipes and bongs. It took some effort to track down the people passing joints instead of dabbing wax and shatter, because that side of the Cannabis Cup was quieter and less conspicuous.
Ultimately, we had an excellent experience at the Cannabis Cup and sampled a fantastic selection of flowers. The cannabis community is evolving in new directions, and it remains to be seen whether concentrates will continue to predominate while buds become marginalized, or whether dabbing will turn out to be a passing fad. But we don’t begrudge those who prefer dabbing, and it’s unlikely that we need to be concerned about any lack of access to a diverse variety of expertly cultivated flowers. Despite our differences, we’re all part of the same cannabis community, standing up together to celebrate one remarkable plant.