When I was a newbie cannabis consumer in the early 1990s I would read in magazines about cannabis competitions and wondered what it would be like to be a judge. I always assumed that the judges were the luckiest people on the entire planet since they not only got to consume amazing cannabis for free, but that they also got to chime in on what they thought about the strains they got to try.
I have literally spent a significant amount of time daydreaming about what being a judge would be like and what approach I would take to judging cannabis. With that in mind, you can only imagine how delighted I was to be picked as a judge for what I think is the best cannabis competition on earth, the Cultivation Classic. It’s a tremendous honor that I am very grateful for. I was fortunate enough to be picked last year to be a judge and apparently did something right because I was invited back again this year! To be fair, I have been consistently training for the task for a while now.
The Cultivation Classic is a competition dedicated to highlighting Oregon’s best craft cannabis farmers. Many other competitions allow entries of cannabis flower that were grown using heavy metal fertilizers and who knows what else. The Cultivation Classic is superior because it only allows entries from farms that are growing cannabis the right way, which shows in the quality of the entries.
This year’s competition had a drop off in Portland, Medford, and Bend, so the samples were representative of the entire state. The competition has every flower category you can think of, including a CBD category. Most importantly, unlike other competitions which obviously give out the top awards to the companies that pay the most money to the organizer, the Cultivation Classic is a completely blind process with the category winners truly being determined by votes alone.
The judges get their packs, which in my case included 15 different strains, with all of the samples being given four-digit numbers. The judge does not know the farms that grew the samples, nor do they know the strain names. There is no hype to any of the flower, all I knew was that the entries were from the indoor THC category. After receiving the samples (as pictured in the image at the top of this article) the judges take them home and fill out an online questionnaire for each strain.
The questionnaire was put together by Habu Health and the results of the questionnaires are not only used to determine a champion for the competition but also to help further cannabis research. I don’t know that any other cannabis competition can say that. Because of that, I took the judging extra seriously. The questionnaire involved all types of questions and numbered ranking for things such as smell, taste, appearance, whether the strain induced hunger, and several other things.
I have a specific approach when I judge cannabis. For starters, I don’t consume any other cannabis on the days that I am judging an entry. I want to completely dedicate myself to the task and I don’t want other cannabis affecting my experience with a particular entry. I also use my Volcano vaporizer rather than smoke the cannabis because I want to really unlock the flavor as much as possible. By using a low vaporizer temperature setting I can really wrap my head around the taste.
Judging appearance is pretty straightforward as far as if the color, trichomes, trim job, etc. is desirable. Unlocking the smell and the effects of the flower is a bit trickier. I wrote an entire article on judging cannabis based on the smell if you want to check it out. For the effects, I like to go for a walk while they settle in. By doing so I can be alone with my thoughts while looking around at trees, birds, flowers, and other things and really take in the experience. Perhaps it leads to other activities but I always start with a nice walk.
Every single strain in my pack was unbelievable, which makes it hard to differentiate them on some levels. I always feel bad giving a lower score to a particular entry because they are all the best-of-the-best, but there can only be one winner so the minor differences matter. After providing various information about the entry the Cultivation Classic questionnaire asks for an overall desirability score of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the best. I gave one entry a 7, several of them 8s, two of them 9s, and one a perfect 10. The 10 will be the first one I check out once the flower/farm identities are announced.
It’s possible that the 9s could have been 10s to other people, and the 8s could have been 9s, but I would consider myself to likely be a tougher grader than the average judge, and I grade on a curve. I cannot overstate how awesome it was to be a judge of such an amazing competition. I am a third generation member of the Oregon cannabis community and a fourth generation Oregonian overall, and I couldn’t be more proud to say that this competition is the best representation of Oregon’s cannabis industry.
The flower that was entered into this competition is literally the best on the planet, and it was unreal to be able to say that I was able to consume so many samples of it. Even if I am never asked to be a judge again, I will always pinch myself because I am so lucky to have been a judge twice in such a stellar cannabis competition. A HUGE hat tip to the people behind the Cultivation Classic as well as everyone that entered. Thank you for being so awesome!
As far as I know, tickets are still available to the event which will take place on May 12 in Portland, Oregon. You can find out more about the event (including their amazing speakers!) via their website. Attend if you are in the area, trust me you will not be disappointed!