What do you do, when just a few short days before the first-ever High Times Cannabis Cup in Canada, you're asked to be a judge?
Without giving it a second thought, you say 'yes'—because even with an incredibly tight timeline, you'd be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this one.
So goes the story of the lead-up to this past weekend's High Times Cannabis Cup in Cowichan Valley. Thanks to a generous local cannabis expert and friend in the industry, I was able to get my hands on one of the coveted kits.
With just three days until the festival and all that time already allotted to work, I was excited, but certainly feeling the crunch.
Thankfully, I had a giant bag of cannabis-infused products to help ease my anxiety.
Let's be real: The nature of High Times' 11th-hour takeover of the Legends Valley Music Festival meant that judges could not have possibly been given less time to test the items in the kit. I'm sure that all of us would have appreciated a little more time to assess the effects of each entry a little more carefully. Hopefully that will be the case next year.
Among the array of entries were 48 cannabis flower varieties, 43 concentrates, 18 edibles, 12 topicals, 11 vape pens, 10 different varieties of non-solvent hash, and three dumpster-worthy items dubbed "medically-infused products" that weren't edibles or topicals. (I'll get to that in a sec).
A total of 20 judges were responsible for rating items in 14 different categories. Additional categories like "best glass" and "best booth" included a people's choice element and were judged at the festival.
Flowers and concentrates were provided to judges in unlabeled containers and judged blindly, while edibles and topicals were provided in their original packaging for hygienic reasons.
I rated products based on qualities like appearance, aroma, flavor, potency, burn quality, and flush. Certain scorecards, like the one for topicals, had additional questions about pain relief, inflammation, and appetite.
Judges were instructed to avoid trying to figure out which brands were responsible for different cultivars and concentrates, but its fair to say that packaging and labeling played an important part in scoring edibles and topicals.
Given the tight timeline, I learned quickly that sampling needed be strategic. There was no way I'd be eating entire cookies or rolling big joints; edibles were divvied into smaller pieces and flowers were sampled in small amounts in a clean glass pipe.
When it came to concentrates, I made sure to keep the indica varieties for later in the day, intermittently sampling CBD varieties to avoid getting absolutely wrecked.
Vape pens, topicals, and edibles were far easier to judge. It helped that I could employ my partner and a few fellow tokers to throw in their two cents, too.
While most products and categories were fairly straightforward, I was thrown off by the "medically-infused products" category. It was bad enough that all three entries were from the same American company, but things got worse when I tried them each out.
One, an infused toothpick, had been soaked in fake cherry flavoring and corn syrup, and supposedly contained 40 milligrams of THC. It was a real head scratcher: Why would anyone pick their teeth with a toothpick soaked in what tasted like sugar?
The next item, a nasal spray, made my sinuses itchy, and the third, a bottle of eye drops, made my eyes water terribly. Every last one of these items scored big fat zeroes in my books.
If you're curious, I've listed the winners, and where applicable, a few of the Straight's top picks for locally-made products. (You can check out the winners in a few categories I haven't listed below here.)
1st place: BCCBD by Dr. Love
2nd place: CBDutch Treat by Dr. Love
3rd place: Auto Cheese x King Crop by Rocky Mountain Kush
Straight pick: It may not have placed first, but The Herb Co.'s London Bridge has been one of my recent favourites. This powerful indica will surely have you 'falling down', hopefully right onto the couch. Find it at The Herb Co (1193 Main Street).
1st place: Tropic Thunder by Pura Vida
2nd place: Pineapple Tangie by Diamond Concentrates
3rd place: Sweet Skunk by the Highve
1st place: Space Cookies by Diamond Concentrates
2nd place: Pineapple Lemon Kush by Pura Vida
3rd place: White Widow by True North Canna
Straight pick: I love the result of Miss Envy's collaboration with Elevated Extracts. This tasty CBD-rich concentrate burns incredibly clean, tastes wonderful, and provides considerable pain relief without the euphoria that comes with THC-dominant concentrates.
1st place: Pink Tangie by Diamond Concentrates
2nd place: White Kush Flower Rosin by the Rosin Factory
3rd place: Romulan by Destiny Biotech
1st place: Sunset Gelato by Happy Stick
2nd place: Happy Hippie by Happy Stick
3rd place: Live Death Bubba by Diamond Extracts
Straight pick: While I agree that Happy Stick's flavours were pretty tasty, the closest shop that carries them is in California. I'd like to know what American cannabis products are doing in a Canadian cannabis competition. Hopefully we'll see a full lineup of Canadian products at next year's event. No pick for this category.
Straight pick: We definitely agree with the winner in this category, but we also want to show some love to Purebud's Cool Stick. While Miss Envy's Buddha Bar offers 300 milligrams of topical THC, the Cool Stick offers 300 milligrams of CBD. Both do an excellent job of providing quick relief from muscle, joint, and back pain.
Straight pick: While Mota's quality, packaging, and dosing are second to none, we were blown away by the taste and texture of an Okanagan-based companies take on infused macarons. At 25 milligrams each, these aptly named Monster Macarons were our favourite.