Twenty-one Cups, 339 brands, 1,389 batches of entries, all judged by about 15,000 judges who helped crown 249 award-winners for best products in their state. Our industry is going through a tough recession, restrictive regulations, and plenty of other woes, but one thing that’s for certain is that people want to find out who has the best weed, and we’re here to help.
As a refresher on the new model, the Cannabis Cup People’s Choice concept opened up the competitions to a whole new world of possibilities. Switching from having a small pool of hand-selected judges, the People’s Choice model allowed consumers from all walks of life and palette types to be a judge. Now with up to 228 judge kits per category, judge kits are no longer reserved only for the Snoop Doggs and Frenchy Cannolis of the world (RIP Frenchy).
Ever seen people waiting in line for that new Supreme drop? You’ll find the same thing when the judge kits drop. Each Cannabis Cup consists of anywhere between 1,800-3,300 judge kits available across the state via hand-selected dispensaries that get a rush of consumers ready to grab their bag. With categories ranging from Indica Flower to Sativa Flower, Non-Solvent Concentrates to Edibles, and Topicals to Tinctures, there is something for every cannabis enthusiast. Judge kits come packed with products submitted into the Cup from brands well-known and obscure, all in hopes that judges will score them highest on Aesthetics, Aroma, Taste, Effects, Burnability, Terpene Profile and other criteria. Most importantly, we gather detailed comments from all judges, or at least the caring ones, on their experience – all impactful for the growers and processors to see what people truly, and anonymously, think. If you haven’t been a judge in the past because you were never selected, now is the time to get in on the action. Visit CannabisCup.com/Preregister to get updates.
To many’s surprise, we started the year off in one of the most bustling cannabis markets, the state of Michigan. During 4/20 week, from Detroit to Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo to Crystal Falls, crowds of judges lined up early to be the first to get their hands on their judge kits, which varied between 17 different categories including medical and recreational products. With 3,300 judge kits, this was the biggest Cannabis Cup in history. I spent 26 cold days in Detroit for this one. Local community favorite, LocalGrove, came back with first place wins in several Flower categories with their Runtz and Brain Stew, while newcomers FLWRPot and Society C slid in to take home 1st place wins for Tropicanna Cherry under Rec Hybrid Flower and Spritzer under Rec Indica Flower, respectively. We saw the infamous CannaBoys come out from the darkness to win Best Medical Pre-Rolls and Rec Non-Infused Pre-Rolls with their Zhits Fire Cannonz, while fresh collabs stole the Concentrates show including Pro Gro x Element plus Glorious Cannabis Co. x Superior Solventless. Afternoon Delite, KIVA, Binske, Church x Pressure Pack, Pro Gro, and Hypha all came home with 1st place trophies.
Returning to our backyard here in California, we brought together 150 entries across 57 brands that came in with unique strains and product types for our judges. Thanks to our 7 High Times dispensaries, plus Green Dragon shops, we had 2,000 judges voting across 11 categories. Top-Shelf Cultivation returned with 1st Place trophies for Indica Flower and Pre-Rolls for their Whoa-Si-Whoa strain, while Team Elite Genetics and SENSE took 1st in Sativa and Hybrid flower, respectively. Jeeter, Bear Labs, PAX, Sensi, Bhang, Mari Y Juana, Dr. May, and Kan-Ade are amongst the 1st Place winners as well. Honestly though, there are too many great cultivars in CA that aren’t competing and simply letting other people take home the gold. We’re hoping to change that.
We ventured off into the mountains of Colorado in June to see who’s been bringing the fire since our last Denver Cup in 2020. High Level Health kept their streak going with 1st Place Indica Flower, Hybrid Flower and Solvent Concentrates, while Veritas took 1st Place Sativa Flower. I have to give a nod to D’Z Trees Honolulu Choo Choo which took 2nd Place Sativa and kept me running like a train during this laborious 3-week process. The AKTA Tropicanna Banana Live Rosin was a huge fan favorite; taking home 1st Place Non-Solvent Concentrates. High Country Cones, Nectar Bee, Evolab, Mountain Select, Smokiez, Incredibles and Escape Artists joined the 1st place podium as well.
Excited to return to my Midwestern stomping grounds (I lived in Cleveland for 5 years), we ran the 3rd-ever Cup in Illinois, launching it with a small judging session at the RISE Consumption Lounge in Mundelein where judges came together as a community to smoke and discuss terpene profiles of each entry. Highly-regarded Fig Farms expanded into the state this year and took home 1st Place Sativa Flower, while behemoths Rythm and RevCanna took home 1st in Indica Flower and Hybrid Flower, respectively. RevCanna won several awards including 1st Place for Concentrates with their Gorilla’d Cheese Rosin which one judge describes as “Hands down the most potent and volatile terpenes in the kit” while another judge claims “The smell is so weird it may polarize a household worse than the 2020 election.” Other 1st place trophies went to Nature’s Grace and Wellness, Superflux, Mindy’s, Verano Reserve, Beboe, Incredibles and Bedford Grow.
Next up, we froze our butts off and explored the beautiful ranges of the Last Frontier up in Alaska, where the sun was shining until 10:30pm everyday. No MSOs, just local craft cultivators putting their hearts into their products. High North was a huge standout with all of their flower, but their Black Koffee takes the cake for Indica Flower. One judge noted that “The robust dark roast flavor comes through smoothly” and “the aches and pains drift away as you melt into the surroundings.” I’ll take some of that please. AM Delight and Flower Mountain Farms respectively brought home trophies for Sativa Flower and Hybrid Flower, while the highly sought-after Refine Alaska wowed judges with their Royal Gorilla Loud Resin for first place. GOOD Cannabis, Enlighten Extracts, Einstein Labs, Dosed Edibles, and Great Northern Cannabis were amongst the 1st place winners as well.
Last Cup of the year, but not least, the Commonwealth called us back for the 2nd annual Cannabis Cup in September. People in Massachusetts are very discerning and don’t take kindly to bullshit; it was very apparent in their judging comments. That said, Happy Valley powered a winning streak with Hybrid Flower, Sativa Flower, Beverages and Sativa Gummies, while Northeast Alternatives brought in 1st Place Indica Flower for their Runtz OG. First place trophies also went home with Treeworks, Triple M, Munchèas by GGG, Smokiez, Incredibles, Sticky Fish as well as Church x Pressure Pack.
The Cannabis Cups are for consumers to learn about all of the products they have access to and to determine who is the best of the best in their state. They’re also for the brands to learn more about their customer base and improve their products so that consumers get what they deserve. We will continue to plan and execute Cannabis Cups in territories where it’s legal, and continue to shine a light on the Cannabis Cup-winning brands around the world in 2023 and beyond. Thanks to everyone involved in each and every one of these Cups.
To see all Cannabis Cup People’s Choice winners and upcoming competitions, visit CannabisCup.com.
Interested in competing? Email Competition@hightimes.com
Interested in Judging? Sign up for updates at CannabisCup.com/Preregister
Stay tuned on social media @hightimesmagazine