cannabis cup

Cannabis Cup – Its History, Origins and Evolution

The High Times Cannabis Cup has become the pinnacle of cannabis success in the world of weed. But what is it, and where did it come from?

From its humble beginnings, this illustrious event has established itself as one of the most distinguished and prominent occasions for cannabis growers, cultivators and breeders to engage in healthy competition and compare various cannabis strains and flowers.

At the same time, other members of the cannabis community can network and celebrate their shared affection for marijuana during this event.

With this in mind, today, we will be taking a closer look at the world’s largest cannabis competition, its origins and how it rose to such prestige and significance in cannabis culture.

What is the High Times Cannabis Cup?

While more commonly referred to as simply the Cannabis Cup, the full title of this event is the High Times Cannabis Cup.

High Times has been the world’s most well-known, recognized cannabis brand for over 46 years. It is a dynamic company that advocates for educating the masses on what cannabis naturally provides. It began as a “small counterculture lifestyle publication” and has since grown to become a diverse network of cannabis dispensaries and the host and creator of events like the Cannabis Cup.

In short, the Cannabis Cup is the world’s largest leading marijuana competition comprising blind competition judged by experts existing within the cannabis industry to determine the best cannabis products worldwide.

The competition ranks entries as determined by the various judges’ votes, crowning the top three products per category, with the top spot earning the heavily sought-after, coveted Cannabis Cup trophy.

High Times Cannabis Cup Awards. Jesse Faatz

Events can have different categories ranging from 8 for the Amsterdam event to up to 12 for this year’s North California Cannabis Cup. However, all of them feature these three categories:

  • Best Indica
  • Best Sativa
  • Best Hybrid

Other categories may include, but are not limited to, pre-rolls, concentrates and extracts, vape pens and cartridges, edibles and more.

In 2017, High Times reformatted the competition to compromise a local city “Regional Competition” for every participating location, culminating in the broader “World Championship Cannabis Cup” at the end of the year.

In this new structure, competitors submit their entries ahead of each event in the following categories:

  • Flowers (Sativa, Indica, Hybrid)
  • Concentrates (Sativa, Indica, Hybrid)
  • CBD (Flowers, Concentrates, Edibles)
  • Non-Solvent Hash
  • Edibles
  • Topicals
  • Vape Pen Cartridges
  • Medically-Infused Products (Moon Rocks, Caviars, etc.)

At the end of the year, producers who place in the Top 10 for each category in their separate regional competitions will qualify for entry into the World Championship Cannabis Cup.

The Cannabis Cup has undergone several iterations and evolutions over the years, branching out into competitions conducted in multiple countries globally. Cannabis Cups comprise touring festival-type celebrations where hundreds of cannabis brands and members of the cannabis community congregate to provide those in attendance with a deep dive into the complex and ever-changing world of cannabis.

The event itself has existed through the various trials and tribulations of the industry itself, starting from the days of prohibition and heightened stigma surrounding marijuana use to the more modern legalization of recreational and medical cannabis in an increasing number of regions.

Throughout it all, obtaining the moniker of Cannabis Cup winners has become the highest praise and recognition producers can achieve in the world of weed, both figuratively and literally.

The Origins

The original Cannabis Cup was founded in 1988 in Amsterdam by former High Times editor Steve Hager. Since then, it has transitioned to become the most globally recognized competition for the best cannabis products.

From the original Amsterdam event, the Cannabis Cup has expanded into the United States and abroad with the evolution of legalization of medical and recreational cannabis across other regions. Separate events include Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Michigan, Seattle, and Jamaica, with additional locations popping up every year.

The High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver, Colorado. Seth Mcconnell

As we previously mentioned, the event has evolved over the years, establishing its humble beginnings from in-house underground judging in Amsterdam back in 1988 and seeping into the early 90s during the time of prohibition.

The first American Cannabis Cups focused specifically on medicinal products. However, they gradually began to incorporate more categories, leading to its eventual rise to the distinguished level of distinction it holds today.

Now, the Cannabis Cup, regardless of the event’s location, has become a significant occasion for those occupying or operating within the cannabis industry or cannabis culture. From starting as an understated, underground event, these festivals have evolved to incorporate world-class judges from within the industry and legendary musical acts, including Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg, to commemorate the winners of the competition.

Examples of big names that have participated as judges in various Cannabis Cups include Tommy Chong, Joe Rogan, Damian Marley, Method Man, Kid Cudi. 

Why is This Event so Significant in the Cannabis Industry?

As we’ve repeated throughout this article, the Cannabis Cup started from small and humble beginnings.

It began as an underground gathering for producers and cultivators to share their strains and flowers. From there, it evolved into something that helped lead the charge towards the advocacy for cannabis legalization and combating the over-generalized and hyper-villainized stigma surrounding those who utilize it. Reefer Madness, we are watching you.

In this way, over the three decades, it has been in existence, the High Times Cannabis Cup has managed to open the minds and provide alternate perspectives of once naysayers. It has also created long-lasting economic impacts for Cannabis Cup winners.

Brands that have attained the coveted awards and titles of ‘winners’ at these competitions have been propelled into the limelight to gain substantially more recognition, garnering a significant increase in customers and revenue.

Additionally, these competitions have transformed once unknown strains into some of the most famous and sought-after cannabis flower. The Cannabis Cup website says it best when it states, “Simply put, the most commonly known strains in the world have generated their reputation from winning this contest.”

These significant festival-like gatherings have also become a safe haven for like-minded members of the cannabis community to congregate and celebrate their shared love for cannabis in an understanding and collectively accepting way.

Cannabis Cups During COVID-19

Cannabis Cups. High Times

Across the globe, the unforgiving COVID-19 pandemic has managed to seep its way into essentially every industry, and cannabis is no exception. However, organizers of the Cannabis Cup did not let the virus keep them from carrying on.

While physical events are still deterred, High Times has established an innovative solution to keep these events going despite lockdowns and various other imposed restrictions. Yet again, they reinvented the renowned competition to “let all those at home get in on the fun and crown the region’s best.”

Typically, the Cannabis Cup enlists the services of 28-35 judges to determine the rankings. However, High Times extended its illustrious titles of judges to members of the general public in Southern California via exclusive kit drops in participating retailers for the first time.

With this latest update, the competition pivoted to instead rely on crowdsourcing to determine the regional rankings, providing 224 judging kits per category for consumers in the state-wide competitions across the United States.

This inaugural event was called the People’s Choice Cannabis Cup. According to a press release issued by High Times in December 2020, “Over 68 brands across 146 entries will compete to be crowned the best in the state across ten categories.”

The people’s choice edition of the Cannabis Cup also featured, for the first time, the intake and distribution processes being conducted by the company’s own High Times Delivery cannabis delivery service.

Winners of the innovative 2020 People’s Choice Edition can be found on the High Times website.

High Times Cannabis Cup – Winners Across the Board

When it comes to the progression and evolution of the High Times Cannabis Cup, in one way or another, all members of the cannabis industry come out as winners.

Its active and passionate advocacy for legalization and creating an opportunity for like-minded users to come together and celebrate has become an inspiration. Even in the more literal sense of producers vying for the various coveted titles, it’s no wonder why these events are held in such high regard.

Even during the turbulent times of COVID-19, organizers still found a way to engage the cannabis community and highlight the efforts of producers and breeders to distinguish the best of the best.

It only shows that the unfavourable stigma surrounding cannabis users should shift from outdated preconceived notions to one of appreciating its contemporary, innovative and creative minds.

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