Sonoma County hosted one of the country’s biggest MMJ competitions this month, and the winners are in.
The Emerald Cup, in its 10th year, drew hundreds of people to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa to try, test and judge the best organically grown weed in the world. In a sign of how much times have changed, the event, which began as a hushed, secretive affair, was held in the open, at a major public venue.
“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 Robert Jacob, executive director of two medical marijuana dispensaries and mayor of Sebastapol – the first mayor in the country from the cannabis industry.
First place out of about 130 entries went to DNA Genetics’ Lemon Skunk strain from Monterey, a 60/40 indica/sativa hybrid. Cherry Cola from Sonoma Patients Cooperative took second place, while third place went to Cherry Limeade from Mendocino’s Mean Gene, a mix of Jigga’s Girl Scout Cookies and an old NorCal Black Lime.
The Emerald Cup rewards only the very best organic weed, which means marijuana grown in sunlight or hash cured without chemicals. It’s the only contest of organic pot in the country. Judges included buyers for dispensaries and long-timer growers.
The event is named after the Emerald Triangle, the area in Northern California that includes Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties. That region has been producing some of the country’s highest-quality cannabis for decades and is known as the center of the state’s marijuana industry, medical and otherwise.
Organizers of the Cup have focused on the outdoor, organic approach to growing even as the industry is dominated by major indoor growers.
“We never thought of it as a branded name, something commercial,” said founder Tim Blake. “But now we’re proud of it. We stand for integrity, we stand for organic, sustainably grown medicine.”
In Sonoma County, famed for it wineries, weed is becoming another important cash crop, said Ben Stone, director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.
“I can’t say if it’s good or bad, but it shows there’s a business there,” Stone said.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, but only in recent years has marijuana achieved broad public acceptance in the state. Two recent polls found most residents favor not just MMJ but full legalization, with one poll showing 60 percent of likely voters supporting it.