A custom cannabis strain developed in Sonoma County known as "Cherry Kola" won the Breeder's Cup at the 10th annual Emerald Cup cannabis competition, held for the first time ever at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this weekend.
The proprietary strain was developed over a number of years by the Sonoma County Collective, CEO Asa Shaeffer said. The strain also won the second place in the annual "Flower" contest, which pitted hundreds of cannabis buds from across California in a juried competition.
"I can't put it into words; this was an actual event where people viewed it as an honor," Shaeffer said as workers cleaned up from Sunday's awards ceremony to make way for performances by classic rock bands that included Big Brother, Canned Heat and Jefferson Starship. "Overall, we're overjoyed."
The collective is a home-delivery-only dispensary headquartered in Santa Rosa. Shaeffer said the collective doesn't plan to sell seeds to other growers, but would hold onto the strain as the eventual flagship of a brand of similar products.
The Emerald Cup had formerly focused only on the "Emerald Triangle," a region said to be the largest marijuana producing zone in the U.S., including Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. The event had previously been held at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, but growing popularity led organizers to move it south to Sonoma County this year, and to open the competitions to growers from other parts of the state.
"For our first year moving from a much smaller location to a much larger location, I feel like it was a success ... I think we will probably come back here," event organizer Samantha Mik said.
About 4,500 vendors and conference-goers attended each day of the two-day event, she said. Conference goers were able to browse displays with a variety of marijuana-related products, including seeds and agricultural equipment. Those with state medical marijuana certificates were permitted to buy and smoke marijuana as well, with no interference from patrolling Santa Rosa police officers and private security.
But the conference had a serious side, with panels on both days on various aspects of cultivation, branding and medicinal use of marijuana.
"The Emerald Cup is an example of how we can scale up in our industry without losing our soul," said Andrew DeAngelo, general manager of Harborside Health Center in Oakland and San Jose, which bills itself as the world's largest distributor of medical cannabis.
Harborside took the top spot in the Flower contest with a strain developed for it by a grower in Monterey County.
Topics at the panels did not shy away from the controversial, including one on Sunday about the use of medical marijuana by ill children. That panel included activists Erin Purchase and Brandon Krenzler of Oregon, whose 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and who have used a cannabis oil as part of her treatment, despite threats from state authorities to intervene.
"This is medicine for a child; it works, it is safe," Krenzler said. "It is the best decision we could ever have made for our daughter."
Breeder's Cup winner Shaeffer told the crowd as he collected his awards that the Sonoma County Collective would donate all of the proceeds from sales at the Emerald Cup to Mykayla's family. That should amount to about $5,000, he said later.