Marijuana enthusiasts have long turned to High Times magazine and its Cannabis Cup to learn about top cannabis products, and now the competition is turning to Michiganders for help deciding its winners.
The Cannabis Cup started in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1988 as an international competition recognizing some of the best cannabis products on earth. It’s grown with decriminalization and Michigan has hosted 13 spin-off events drawing 200,000 attendees to the state over the last seven years, the Los Angeles-based company says.
After canceling Michigan’s Cannabis Cup last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it returns in 2021 with a slightly different format.
The skunky clouds of smoke have moved from parking lots to homes. The judges will no longer be industry experts or marijuana friendly celebrities, like Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson. Instead, the judges will be average everyday connoisseurs.
“The legacy Cannabis Cups have historically been judged by a small pool of hand-selected judges,” said Mark Kazinec, the High Times director of competitions and events. “With the new people’s-choice model, we have more judge kits to go around, so judging is opened up to everyone from OG growers, to veterans, to new soccer moms.
“It’s important to gather product feedback from enthusiasts from all walks of life to help determine the winners and to deliver that feedback right back to the brands who put their hearts and souls into creating these products.”
The judges have no easy task, especially in the Michigan market, where recreational commercial marijuana became legal in December 2019 and has since proliferated.
Judges will smoke or otherwise consume in some cases up to 30 samples of marijuana and submit comments along with their favorites.
The judging kits are set to go on sale at select Michigan dispensaries and retails stores at 4:20 p.m. on April 20, with the winners being revealed during a virtual online awards ceremony at 4:20 p.m. on June 20.
“I remember when I was a judge four years ago before joining High Times and I had to judge 28 different strains in a week,” Kazinec said. “That’s two strains every night. It’s a real call of duty.”
Judge kits will be based on category — for instance, edibles, flower or vaping cartridges — and may cost upwards of $300.
Kazinec said, for example, the hybrid flower category is likely to contain 28 strains of marijuana, one gram per strain, at a cost of about $10 per gram, or $280 for the kit, not including the 10% excise and 6% sales taxes.
“The kits will also include merchandise items from our sponsors and some High Times products for free sampling, all contained in a smell-proof High Times backpack,” Kazinec said.
Nearly 2,100 judging kits will be sold at dispensaries that High Times partners with, which are listed at the end of this story, and they’re expected to sell quickly.
“In Illinois, several dispensaries sold out of hundreds of kits within hours of opening on the day of on-sale,” Kazinec said. “Other similar competitions have been held throughout the pandemic in Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon and California.”
Kazinec said one benefit of the “people’s choice” model is they are given more time to try the products. A drawback is that High Times is unable to have blind testing, which it’s traditionally used for competitions, due to state regulations.
“That said, brands have been thrilled that they get to keep their branding, packaging, and labeling intact for all judges to see exactly who they are,” Kazinec said. “Judges are also excited because once they find their favorite, they know how to get more right away.”
High Times, with its prominent name in the marijuana industry, has — separate from its Cannabis Cup and media services — partnered with licensed Michigan growers to brand it’s own flower strains for the Michigan marijuana market.
These are currently 13 locations where judging sample kits are expected to for sale beginning April 20:
Remedii Natural Health, 3557 Wilder Road, Bay City
Dank on Arrival, 3650 Patterson Avenue, Bay City
The Remedii Station, 302 E. Huron Street, Vassar
Remedii Battle Creek, 160 E. Columbia Avenue, Battle Creek
Remedii State Line, 989 E. Main Street, Morenci
Exclusive, 3820 Varsity Drive, Ann Arbor
5&Dime, 20561 Dwyer Street, Detroit
Breeze, 24517 John R. Road, Hazel Park
H.O.D. 8 Mile, 3340 E 8 Mile Rd, Detroit
H.O.D. Traverse City, 514 Munson Ave, Traverse City
H.O.D. Ypsilanti, 50 Ecorse Road, Suite B Ypsilanti
Exclusive Grand Rapids, 2350 29th St SE, Grand Rapids
Exclusive Kalamazoo, 937 Foster Ave, Kalamazoo
More on MLive: