Sonoma County is welcoming a bumper crop of visitors this weekend coming for weed, not wine.
Buoyed by Californias legalization of marijuana, Santa Rosas famed Emerald Cup harvest festival a two-day conference, competition and weedfest is expecting a crowd of more than 23,000 enthusiasts, up from 6,700 four years ago.
People are calling from all over the country who want to come and be part of the celebration, said Tim Blake, the festivals founder and producer. All motels and hotels are booked in a 20-mile radius.
From its modest beginnings in Laytonville over a decade ago, the festival is now held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, with heated tents in case of rain.
It has emerged as the nations largest best-grown organic, outdoor cannabis competition well-positioned to take advantage of the states green rush, an emerging billion-dollar enterprise of farms, labs and artisanal dispensaries.
The festival is dubbed the Academy Awards of the cannabis industry by Rolling Stone magazine. And this year the number of entries in its competitive cannabis contest is 50 percent over last year.
About 1,200 samples, up from last years total of 850, are awaiting critiques that can make or break a reputation.
Thats almost 100 pounds of weed thats been tried and tested before Sundays awards ceremonies, Blake said. He has spent about $300,000 testing all entries at Santa Cruzs SC Labs, seeking any trace of disqualifying pesticides, bacteria, mold or fungi.
Entries are judged on four categories. The first three looks, smell and taste each hold a maximum of 10 points, while the final category of effects gets double that, or up to 20 points, judge Nikki Lastreto wrote in the contests blog. Judges spent a month smoking the entries.
So what do we look for in the perfect bud? We begin with the looks, of course is she dense or fluffy? Does she have a clean trim, definitely by hand, that defines the shape of the bud? No loose messy buds ever get far. Is she covered in crystals, and what are her color variations? These are just the first of many considerations, she wrote. How sticky is it? Is it fruity or fuelly or is it sweet or savory?
For those with medical marijuana licenses, the festival features a dedicated medicating section, where vendors will offer samples.
No license? No problem. Physicians will be on staff to provide one. (Bring your California government-issued identification.)
The event is not just for stoners. For the first time, the conference will host a panel discussion with regulatory experts: Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation; Brian Lehay, director of Californias Department of Pesticide Regulation; John Nores of the California Department of Fish and Game; Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Fiona Ma, chairwoman of the California Board of Equalization.
Other panels will explore topics such as cultivation, the cannabis genome, therapeutics, farm certification and marketing and branding. More than 450 vendors are expected.
Performers include reggae musician Damian Jr. Gong Marley, youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, as well as Stick Figure, Kabaka Pyramid, Hirie, California Honey Drops, Tribal Seeds and Dirty Heads.
Marley will unveil his new prison-to-pot farm initiative. In partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts, he paid $4.1 million for the former Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga and is converting the 77,000-square-foot former prison into a cannabis grow space.
The event was conceived in the fall of 2003, when Blake and a friend got to talking about the fact that Mendocino had the best bud on the planet, but no form of acknowledgment or celebration about it, Blake recalled.
That was when it was still very iffy to be out front about having a public competition, he said in a statement. We put out no press, just some last minute posters, word of mouth, and 23 entries into the ganja contest came forward.
Now, it is enormous, he said. Its because people want to be part of this.
When: Saturday and Sunday. Doors open at 11 a.m. each day.
Where: Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa.
Admission: Advance ticket prices: $70 (single day), $120 (weekend), $300 (Emerald Cup Xperience)
Where to buy tickets: The Emerald Cup 2016 Tickets, Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 11:00 AM | Eventbrite
Age restrictions: 18+, medical marijuana area 21+
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Emerald Cup – Thousands Expected At First Post-Legalization Pot Festival
Author: Lisa M. Krieger
Photo Credit: Marissa E.
Website: The Mercury News