Pot steps into mainstream at this weekend's Emerald Cup

  • Cory Reuter, with Peace and Medicine in Sebastopol, samples one of the 50 varieties during judging for the Emerald Cup, a competition for the best organic outdoor marijuana grown in California. Judges gathered at Area 101 north of Willits to determine the winners on Thursday night.

    John Burgees/For The Press Democrat

What was once an underground celebration after the cannabis harvest up in the hills near the Mendocino-Humboldt county line will debut in a new form this weekend at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Organizers expect the 10th annual Emerald Cup to draw about 5,000 people each day to Grace Pavilion, the Hall of Flowers and other areas of the fairgrounds where farmers have for generations displayed their harvests.

But this weekend, people will file through the gates to learn about organic, outdoor marijuana production, visit more than 170 vendors hawking paraphernalia alongside farming goods, and listen to panels discussing issues from legalization to business tactics.

Emerald Cup Judging


This year's change in venue to the hub of Sonoma County's mainstream agricultural roots — from livestock to wine — isn't lost on medical pot advocates.

"The fact that Sonoma County Fairgrounds is opening and welcoming to the medical cannabis community and helping patients come into the mainstream is a testament to the acceptance of cannabis as medicine," said Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, executive director of Peace In Medicine dispensaries and a panelist this weekend.

Organizers of the two-day Emerald Cup, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, agreed.

"It's a big step up for us," said founder Tim Blake.

The Cup culminates in an honors program recognizing the best of Northern California's outdoor, organic pot.

This year, 10 judges spent the past five weeks evaluating 257 cannabis flowers for appearance, smell, taste and effects, up from just two-dozen entrants in 2004, the contest's first year. The first-place winner receives a two-week vacation at a marijuana-friendly resort in Jamaica.

The consumption of marijuana this weekend will be limited to a designated area, and patients will have to present doctors' recommendations to take part, Blake said.

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