Every year for the past two decades, the Who’s Who of Pot has gathered at the world’s Mecca of weed to compete for the crown as King of the Cannabis Kingdom. It is here, in this wonderfully sensuous city of Amsterdam, that the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup sets the benchmark each year for the best marijuana on Earth. And where else would we do it? After all, Amsterdam has been the world’s most progressive trendsetter for the legalization of the sacred herb.


Still, there have been rumblings and grumblings that perhaps that tide is shifting. California is now one of the world’s preeminent hotbeds not for just legalization routes, but also for growing and breeding. Could this signal a possible move for the Cannabis Cup, back home to its roots in the United States? Regardless of what the future holds, this year’s 22nd Annual Cannabis Cup will be held in the same place it has been for over two decades, and we couldn’t be more pleased.


In case you’ve never been to Amsterdam, you’re in for a treat: Aside from the glorious, ganja-laden coffeeshops and mind-blowing party scene, the city is among the most beautiful in the world. Here we present a mini-series to serve as a guide for you to explore Amsterdam and preview what’s in store at this year’s Cup. 

Featured Coffeeshop: The Green Place

Perhaps one of the sweetest aspects of Amsterdam are the canal-lined streets … streets that are, of course, dotted with coffeeshop after coffeeshop. It’s one thing to walk into a coffeeshop and buy a cappuccino and a gram or two of super-dank herb, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to sit outside along the water, sipping your coffee and rolling a phatty.


And coincidentally enough, that brings us to our featured coffeeshop for the 2009 Cannabis Cup: the Green Place Coffeeshop.


A perfect example of everything a Dutch coffeeshop should be, the Green Place sits at the end of a canal, adjacent to Amsterdam’s bustling Nieumarkt (New Market) Square. Nestled in this ideal location on the fringe of the eye-popping Red-Light District, the Green Place is a popular hangout for locals and visitors alike. Recently, the Green Place took home first place in the 420 Cup for Best Coffeeshop.


Although this award is a testament to the ambiance, service, modern amenities and great music at the establishment, Mo, the shop’s owner, attributes the win to more than just comfort. Mo believes that his pot menu is a large part of his success. And he’s right.


Even though Mo opened the Green Place only five years ago, he got a “taste of the cake” last year when he entered the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup for the first time and took home third place for Best Coffeeshop Marijuana. His 2008 entry was an immaculately grown Chocolope.


“I really pride myself on the variety of my menu,” says Mo. “But more important is the quality of every strain we sell. It has to be the best batch of that strain or we won’t carry it.” A welcome bonus to the excellent herb sold at the Green Place is the fact that customers don’t get gouged by “touristy” prices: Grams of primo bud range from €8 to €14. This summer, one of the best herbs in Amsterdam was an OG Kush going for €12 a gram.


ThatOG was grown by Don and Aaron, owners of DNA Genetics, a major seed company in Amsterdam. The Chocolope genetics that won Mo third place in the 2008 Cannabis Cup also came from DNA (though it was grown by a different set of growers), and a definite synergy is starting to develop between the coffeeshop and the seed company. In fact, Mo suggested that his 2009 entries would most likely come from stock created by DNA.


In a sneak peak at some possible 2009 Cup contenders, the Green Place is eyeing Cataract, Headband and maybe even a special OG phenotype as potential entries. The Cataract’s genetics are of the old-school Kush variety from the LA area. It brings with it the super-raw aroma associated with true indica genes that come from multiple backcrosses with its Afghan father.


“It all starts and ends with good weed,” says Mo. “You can have the best-looking coffeeshop in town, but if your weed is shit, no one will ever come back.” The man has a point. The question now is how the Green Place will come back from last year’s thrilling finish? Something tells us that you may see Mo with a Cup in his hands in the not-so-distant future.



A Serious Comeback? A Conversation with Simon of Serious Seeds


Talk about comebacks: The 2009 Cannabis Cup may see the Comeback of the Century if Serious Seeds decides to throw its hat in the ring once again. In a rare interview, Simon, a Dutch biologist and the founder of Serious Seeds, sat down with HIGH TIMES to talk about weed, life and a possible return to the Cannabis Cup.


Serious Seeds hasn’t entered the field of competition in five years, but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Indeed, Simon conveys passion for his work—so much so that it sometimes keeps him from entering the Cup, because he refuses to degrade his reputation by entering something that isn’t up to his own high standards.


An extremely bright and pleasant man, Simon prides himself on his classic and stable strains. His philosophy is to sell only the best genetics and, as such, his current roster of strains stands at five. Rather than constantly working to develop new strains, Simon intends to ensure stability and make improvements to his current strains over time. When the improvements are successful, he doesn’t rename a strain, but rather denotes the date of improvement in his seed catalog and keeps the original name of that genotype.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that Simon doesn’t aspire to find new genetics. In fact, some of his ideas involve creating cannabis plants for the everyday hobbyist—much like regular houseplants. Finding auto-flowering genotypes in other cannabis species such as ruderalis may provide the link he’s looking for in developing a whole new concept in marijuana cultivation.


Perhaps one his best-known strains, the AK-47, won Serious a Cannabis Cup in 2003, Simon’s last victory. That year, Serious Seeds took home second place for Best Indica in the breeders’ category—a huge honor and victory, for sure, but only one of many for Serious Seeds. Serious strains have won Cups all over the world, not just in Amsterdam. Besides the AK-47, one of Serious Seeds’ most successful strains is the fabled White Russian. One of the first strains to break the 20% threshold for THC count, the White Russian is a beautiful mix of AK-47 and White Widow parents.


Outside the AK family, Serious Seeds also carries the Bubble Gum, Chronic and Kali Mist lines. Each strain has its own distinct characteristics that make it tops in its particular category. The Bubble Gum, for instance, is one of the best-tasting herbs out there, while the Chronic is known as a huge yielder. And the Kali Mist—well, if you like sativas, you know all about its super high.


With all these classic strains at his disposal, coupled with his excellent knowledge of horticulture, we can only hope that Simon makes a serious comeback to this year’s Cannabis Cup. Here’s keeping our fingers—and strains—crossed!


What to Expect at the Cannabis Cup

A lot of people ask what exactly they get with their Cannabis Cup Judge’s Pass. The answer is simple: The best experience of your life, dude! Nah, but seriously, here’s the deal: With the judge’s pass, you’re allowed access to the venue (expo center) every day, where there are tons of booths, vendors and shows going on. It also gets you into the parties at night—each one held at a separate venue in the city and sponsored by a different Cup participant. These parties feature headline music acts, plus a little bit of smoking and drinking on top.


So what about the weed? Well, that’s easy, too: The weed is everywhere, but you have to explore the city a bit to find it. Here’s how it works—you know what a pub-crawl is, right? Well, this is a bud-crawl! Judges are asked to try and visit as many participating coffeeshops as humanly possible. (There are a lot, and if you make them all, you are the man!) At each shop, you ask to buy a gram or joint of their entry, and then you do your judging thing. Many people take notes and rate each coffeeshop’s entry based on a variety of factors. Most judging occurs on the following levels: look, smell, taste and high. At the end of the week, voting booths are set up at the expo center for judges to cast their ballots. Be sure to vote early, if possible, since the lines begin to build up toward the last hours!


This year’s expo is at the Power Zone, a multi-tiered venue with bars, stages and outdoor decks. It’s a gorgeous setting for the event, and every year it gets packed with more and more booths. Seeds companies, coffeeshops, grow-gear companies and paraphernalia manufacturers line the sides of the expo, displaying their products and usually allowing judges to try their wares free of charge. It is a most exceptional experience. Tickets for this year’s Cannabis Cup can be purchased in advance for discount rates. Visit www.cannabiscup.com for more info.