Emerald Cup awards feature look to past and future

Longtime advocates of legal marijuana looked to the past and the future Sunday at an industry awards ceremony held in Santa Rosa.

Hundreds gathered for the Emerald Cup Awards at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds as organizers spoke of those imprisoned for growing cannabis in years past and predicted that lucrative opportunities lie ahead once recreational marijuana becomes legal in California next month.

Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake told producers and manufacturers that in the next five years, “some of you guys are going to be national brands like Nabisco.”

Even so, he noted the new era also will include falling prices for cannabis and a level of competition where “we’re going to lose a lot of small farmers.”

The awards ceremony capped the two-day gathering at the fairgrounds that attracted thousands of attendees. After last year’s Emerald Cup when about 25 percent of samples in the concentrates category tested positive for pesticides, and about 5 percent of cannabis flowers did, all entries were tested before the judging process began.

Among the winners, Molecular Farms took home first place in the flowers category for its “Lemon Crush,” Utopia Farms placed first in the edibles category for its Peanut Butter Macaroon, The Squishery was the winner in the tinctures category for its “1:1 Tincture” and Newell’s Botanicals got top prize in topicals for its “Deep Skin Penetrating Topical Oil.”

Sunnabis of Humboldt County was named winner in the Innovative category for its “Festival Throat Spray.”

Other categories awarding winners including CBD, rosin, solventless, CO2, distillate and light deprivation.

Among those honored Sunday was Dale Gieringer, the state coordinator since 1987 of California NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. A second lifetime achievement award went to Steph Sherer, founder and executive director of Americans for Safe Access, for her advocacy for medical cannabis patients.

Gieringer recalled that “in the 80s along came the helicopters,” where paramilitary raids by state and local law officers destroyed marijuana plants, arrested growers and seized land. Those raids led him to fight for a change in the laws.

Blake, also the co-founder of two Mendocino County cannabis dispensaries, acknowledged that for many years he sought to keep a low profile and “never lived the big life.

“You lived like that, you went to jail,” he told the audience.

Blake mentioned a man who previously had taken part in the Emerald Cup and has spent the last seven years in federal prison for transporting 100 pounds of marijuana from California to Missouri. The man was convicted and sentenced to 23 years, he said.

Blake called for the ending the incarcerations of “nonviolent cannabis prisoners” and led the crowd in a chant of “You are not forgotten.”

He also said the Emerald Cup had raised $75,000 for victims of October’s wildfires. Most of the funds came from the contest entrants; $50 from each $400 entry fee went to fire relief.

The relief funds will be given to the California Growers Association, which separately has collected $200,000.

“There’s about 70 folks in our community that lost significantly in the wildfires,” said Hezekiah Allen, the association’s executive director. He said the losses amount to nearly $4 million.

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