It's been dubbed the Academy Awards of Cannabis, only instead of a red carpet there was a leaf blower modified to blow pot smoke in attendees' faces.
Yes, with much fanfare, the first post-recreational legalization Emerald Cup took place last weekend at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Humboldt County represented. Hard.
But to read reporting on the event, it seems there was a melancholy undertone to the festivities, with many openly acknowledging that legalization is pushing the once underground scene into a marketplace dominated by global capitalism. Between the deep-pocketed incursions of global conglomerates and the high cost of regulation and taxation, some attendees seemed more than ready to pour a little out for those who weren't there, or who soon won't be.
"There is a mourning going on for all the people who were part of the industry who are not going to see the Promised Land," Tim Blake, who founded the Emerald Cup 15 years ago, told the Los Angeles Times. "Our typical American capitalist society is taking it over. It's going to be a fight for every small farm and every small cultivator to find a place at the table. I'm excited but I am torn for all the people who have come to me and said, 'What happened?'"
There's more than a bit of irony in that quote, as some locals have complained about the Emerald Cup's high entry fees — coupled with the requirement to submit several ounces of flower for judging — saying they make it hard for small farms to join the pageantry. (Oh, and in that same interview with the Times, Blake lamented spending a cool half a million on lobbyists and compliance efforts.)
But the mourning honestly seems to have been somewhat limited, as the vast majority of the 28,000 folks who attended the two-day event seemed happy to network, sell their wares or just get stoned to the bejesus belt, as America's favorite caddy was fond of saying.
Amid this backdrop, the Cup bestowed good tidings on the North Coast. Southern Humboldt's own Ridgeline Farms took home the coveted top prize for sun-grown cannabis flowers with its "Green Lantern" strain. Rebel Grown, also of Humboldt County, took second place with its "Double OG Chem #15" strain. Mendocino's Tar Hill rounded out the group with its "Cherimoya" strain finishing in third place.
If the region is to retain its reputation for producing the world's best sun-grown cannabis, these kinds of dog and pony shows are worth something and the honor should surely make the farms proud.
CannabisNow, a pot-focused website, also offered some flower reviews and gushed about a pair of Humboldt Seed Co. offerings: "Blueberry Muffin" and "Pineapple Upside Down Cake."
On a related note, if pageantry and cannabis are your thing, you'll be stoked to learn that recently crowned Miss Universe 2018, Philippines' own Catriona Gray, used her time in the Q&A period of the program to plug cannabis. Asked whether she supports medical marijuana — side note: these questions seem to have changed markedly — Gray offered an endorsement, if a somewhat muddled one.
"I'm for it being used in a medical use. But not so for recreational use," Gray said. "Because I think if people were to argue, 'What about alcohol and cigarettes?' Well, everything is good but in moderation."
While one can certainly quibble with the clarity of her answer — not to mention the value of these pageants generally — it represents a pretty incredible moment for cannabis, especially considering she offered it before being crowned. It has also reportedly revived efforts in the Philippine House of Representatives to pass medial cannabis legislation.
In the Outside Reporting Done Poorly category, Green Market Report this week published a story headlined: "Cannabis Fuels Humboldt County Comeback."
The report, available on Youtube, begins with: "Eureka, California, was formed with the Gold Rush, then they fell on some hard times. Now the town is looking to the Green Rush to bring back its fortune."
The video features Eureka Community Development Director Rob Holmlund, who — despite looking at times like he's in a hostage video standing in front of a cannabis plant — offers a pretty measured history of the city and cannabis in California and Humboldt County. He also notes that cannabis is on track to double the city's manufacturing jobs in the near future.
What he doesn't note — and goes unsaid by the narrator — is that most locals see the cannabis industry contracting with legalization, taking local sales tax receipts along with it.
While there may be a cannabis comeback in Humboldt County's future, it remains on the horizon with some rocky seas before it.
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.