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December 3, 2019

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Sungrown cannabis gets stronger, more flavorful, affordable, and cleaner than ever in 2020. (Courtesy of L Schneider/Emerald Cup)

Sungrown cannabis gets stronger, more flavorful, affordable, and cleaner than ever. (Courtesy of L Schneider/Emerald Cup)

More than 30,000 cannabis fans and industry professionals from around the globe are preparing for the world championship of outdoor-grown cannabis, The Emerald Cup, running Saturday and Sunday Dec. 14-15, just north of San Francisco.

The 16th annual competition has grown from a backwoods harvest party into the world’s fair of what’s smoking in cannabis, with more than 300 brands fielding huge booths, and even better: legal, licensed, on-site cannabis sales to anyone age 21+ with ID. Emerald Cup tickets start at $90 per day plus taxes and fees.

Wander through the sprawling Sonoma County fairgrounds, cash in hand, and survey the world’s newest up and coming cannabis varieties, the tastiest, most potent extracts, and the most novel edibles.

California’s two-year-old legal industry includes thousands of licensed farms, kitchens, hash manufacturers and more.

The legal California industry is surging. Cup entries have increased from 2018 lows. (Courtesy of L Schneider/Emerald Cup)

The legal California industry is surging—so has the number of Cup entries, compared to 2018. (Courtesy of L Schneider/Emerald Cup)

“The Emerald Cup is a magnifying glass into the current state of California cannabis,” said 2018 Cup winner and Ridgeline Farms Founder Jason Gellman.

Beyond potent flowers and hash, lovers of CBD and terpenes (the oils that give cannabis its aroma) have a field day at the Cup.

All the while, home gardeners fork over thousands of dollars for the best selection of the hottest cannabis seeds in the world.

Here’s a sample of the fiercest cannabis trends for sale at The Emerald Cup 2019.

Outdoor-grown flower: cheaper, better than ever

More than 700 commercial and personal growers have entered their herb in the contest. Winning an Emerald Cup bestows major prestige and unlocks career opportunities.

But you need not grow cannabis to smell, sample, and buy the most attractive, flavorful, and affordable flowers of your life. California leads the world in licensing cannabis events you can legally buy and smoke at. In 2018, The Emerald Cup hosted over $20 million in sales.

Steep yourself in California sungrown at Flow Kana’s smoking lounge with its 11 partner farms including Willie’s Reserve and Brother David’s, plus a photo booth, interactive zone, and art installation.

Go try and buy last year’s 1st place winning strain, Green Lantern, from Ridgeline Farms, over at Booth 88—on sale from Redwood Roots.

Who are you calling 'outdoor'? Ridgeline Farms' Green Lantern. (Courtesy Flow Kana)

Who are you calling ‘outdoor’? Ridgeline Farms’ Green Lantern. (Courtesy Flow Kana)

“While there is so much cannabis being produced right now with so many different methods and on multiple scales, The Emerald Cup helps highlight the best,” Ridgeline Farms’ Gellman told Leafly. “They are not swayed by corporate cannabis, and they have real people judging.”

Expect great eighths of outdoor or greenhouse-grown flower as low as $20, with bigger savings in bulk.

Exotics dominate

The high end of the market reaches new heights, so bring wads of cash to drop on the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of cannabis—exotic strains from Cookies, Connected Cannabis Co., Alien Labs, IC Collective, and Lithouse.

But don’t expect big discounts on the Louise Vuittons of ganja. Lithouse Orange Daiquiri, Sundae Driver, and Lemon Lava strains will sell for $50 per eighth ounce out the door, tax included. Lithouse also runs a limited deal on ounces for $300.

“We’re having a hard time keeping stock for the Cup,” said Lithouse Head of Sales, Erin Malsom. “We’re holding back just enough.”

Cookies Gary Payton

Cookies strain Gary Payton boxes out the competition. (David Downs/Leafly)

Also guaranteed to sell out: Alien Labs’ new strains Milky Way, Cake Walk, LA Zoo, and Alien Mints; and Connected Cannabis Co. strains Mr. Sandman, El Jefe, Biscotti x Gushers, Dosilato, Gelonade, and Gushers.

Cookies also debuts its complete lineup of brands—Minntz, Lemonnade, Runtz, and Grandiflora. Each has their own namesake strains, and it’s all fire.

Next-level hash and other extracts

Teleport to the trippy edge of cannabis crop science with the Emerald Cup’s hash offerings, where innovation has eclipsed almost everyone’s knowledge. Good luck even deciphering the mind-boggling variety of extract awards this year: best solventless rosin, best ice water hash, CO2 cartridge, distillate cartridge, live resin cart, BHO batter and shatter, and BHO sauce and diamonds. Many will say, whaaat.

Sample and learn about all those extracts at leading extract booths like Beezle Brands, Guild Extracts, or Chemistry—which sells all its Cup entrants at deep discounts, including its XJ-13 sativa vape, and Forbidden Fruit indica hybrid vape.

Stop by the Puffco booth to take a dab off the most disruptive piece of technology in three years, the Puffco Peak. This year, Puffco and glass-blower Ryan Fitt created the trophies for the extract Cup winners: each custom Puffco Peak is worth thousands of dollars.

Thousands will gather for the trophy awards Sunday. This year, the Cup comprises a record 30 categories. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)

Thousands will gather for the trophy awards Sunday. This year, the Cup comprises a record 30 categories. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)

“Emerald Cup is where the entire industry comes out to showcase the best products of the year,” said Puffco CEO Roger Volodarsky. “For years crowds have swarmed to the show for a chance to get the newest genetics in seed, flower, and extract form. We love attending because we get to connect with brands that we’re fans of as much as we get to connect with our own fans.”

Also, pop in the Future of Vaping panel on Saturday Dec. 14 to talk vape safety, testing, health, and science with experts like Dr. Sue Sisley and Alex Dixon from SC Labs, moderated by Leafly editor David Downs.

Terpenes, CBD, and edibles surge

Just like tannins versus alcohol in wine, it’s the terpenes in cannabis—not the THC—that truly elevate the experience. Terpene appreciation is soaring worldwide. For the first year ever, lab results for aroma and flavor factor into the judging process.

“Terpenes add this new layer of complexity to this beautiful flower,” said Cup founder Blake. “We’re here to educate people and really spread the word across the country and world about what’s going on.”

And speaking of winners, prepare yourself for a run on the best CBD products in seven different CBD categories: flower, edible, topical, tincture, concentrate and cartridges, and hemp-derived CBD topical. Many Cup entrants are for sale, like Chemistry’s Electric Jah strain CBD vape.

The Emerald Cup also shapes the market for infused food and drinks, with awards for the best sweet or savory edible or beverage, as well as topical and tincture. This year, The Cannabis in Food and Wine panel highlights the intersection of foodies and cannabis culture.

Home growers, seed sellers flourish

With legalization on the march nationwide, home cultivators are having a blast, and the Emerald Cup is supercharging personal gardening.

For one, this year’s Emerald Cup is open to all California home-growers who could cough up the $500 entry fee and three ounces of bud. Just like a county fair, one backyard farmer is going home with the blue ribbon and major bragging rights Sunday, Dec. 15 at the award ceremony.

“We’re extremely excited to be able to carry on the essence of the contest, which is the tradition of the competition between the personal use farmers,” said Cup founder Tim Blake.

Furthermore, thousands of gardeners scoop up seeds for 2020’s crop. Unlike dried flower, there’s no daily limit to how many cannabis seeds you can buy at the Cup. Neptune Seedbank offers elite cultivars like Capulator’s Banana MAC, Dying Breed Seeds’ Watermelon Zkittlez, and Relentless Genetics’ Cherry Rozay.

TFW you get amazing seeds for the 2020 garden. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)

TFW you get amazing seeds for the 2020 garden. (Courtesy of Emerald Cup)

Fuel up on piney, gas terpenes from Rebel Grown Seeds, which placed 2nd in 2018 with a Double Chem OG #15.

Start your own genetics collection for posterity. Own exotics like Compound Genetics’ Jet Fuel Gelato crosses, or high-CBD seed and landrace strains like Equilibrium Genetics’ Orange Burmese or CBD Orange Tide. And lastly, don’t miss Sherbinski’s “The New” seeds, crossing Larry OG and GSC, from Humboldt Seed Organization.

“Seeds is the strongest part of the show,” said Blake.

Go like a pro—Emerald Cup tips

  • Bring a valid ID. Only adults 21 and older with valid identification will be admitted.
  • Bring cash. Seeds alone can run $100 per pack of ten. Avoid steep, on-site ATM fees and payment hassles with cash on the barrelhead.
  • Dress warm. Speaking of cold—expect highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. Wear thick socks, comfy waterproof shoes, and layers. It’ll be hot inside at Santigold, yet freezing outside.
  • Pace yourself. Eat unmedicated food, and drink water—or you’ll have a bad time.
  • Regional hotels are booked, so get creative with lodgings.

(Courtesy of Emerald Cup)

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David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He’s written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns


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