This last Sunday I participated in the judge’s training for the Cultivation Classic competition. The Cultivation Classic is taking place in Portland, Oregon May 17-18. The event was born out of a conversation between Oregon legends Jeremy Plumb and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and is put on in collaboration with Willamette Week. It’s now in its fourth year.
In my opinion, the Cultivation Classic is the greatest cannabis competition event on the planet and I am very lucky to be able to participate in it as a judge. The Cultivation Classic is the best representation of Oregon’s cannabis cultivation community, and since Oregon cultivates some of the best cannabis flower on earth (the best in my opinion), it’s a very special competition.
I have had the privilege of getting a peek behind the scenes at some other cannabis competitions, and to be blunt, they were largely just glorified pay-to-play pissing contests. It wasn’t a coincidence (in my opinion) that the largest sponsors won the categories. It didn’t even seem to be a big secret. It was a very noticeable elephant in the room that organizers never really talked about.
Most cannabis competitions seem to just be designed to generate revenue and hype rather than being designed to find the truly best cannabis flower involved. Judges pay a sizeable fee to participate, growers pay an even larger fee to compete, and presumably people that want to actually win pay even more. Those that win can then add it to their websites, social media channels, and labeling and I assume end up making more money of their harvests?
Competitions that fit that description are essentially just glorified marketing campaigns. I will defer to Weed News readers as to how many competitions they think that applies to. So many events give judges way too many samples to be able to reasonably consume them all in a short amount of time, and ultimately no sample gets the proper attention that it really deserves. To make matters worse, the judges are given no tips or instructions for judging.
With all of that in mind, the Cultivation Classic is so much superior to any other competition that I have seen. With an exception of just a few Oregon farms that I know of, the field of competitors includes all of the best farms in Oregon. Nearly every one of my favorite farms is competing, and entries are accepted from all over the state. Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse, CBD – all types of cultivators.
The entries are split up among the judges, with this year there being 160 judges. That’s up from 100 judges last year, and if my memory serves me correctly, that was up from 75 (?) judges two years ago which was the first year that I was lucky enough to be a judge. The judges are given thorough instructions ahead of time and sufficient time to provide a proper evaluation of each sample that they receive.
The entries are put in small generic glass jars with a number on them, with about 1 gram in each jar. This year I got 11 jars in my kit. The judges don’t know what strain it is, who grew it, or any other information. It’s a completely blind competition, with this year having a special twist where judges didn’t even get to know what category samples were from. Instead, our judge’s kits included all types of samples without us even knowing what was sungrown or indoor.
We are asked to judge the cannabis flower on a variety of factors, filling out a survey that provides data to event organizers to compile. The Cultivation Classic is the most data-driven competition I have ever heard of by far, and math alone takes home the awards. As someone who once took a probability and statistics course in college as an elective and who loves the cannabis plant, I can’t emphasize how amazing I think that is. It’s all totally objective.
The data collected doesn’t just determine the winners of categories for the competition, it’s also used for scientific research. One of the event organizers is Dr. Adie Rae, who is a neuroscientist and co-founder of Habu Health. She leads academic studies revolving around cannabis and uses the raw data from the Cultivation Classic to help with her research.
Because of that, I take my judging duties for the competition very seriously. The input I give will literally be used to help patients all over the world, as will the input from all judges from the competition. I would be methodical and thoughtful in my approach regardless, but because of that element, I was willing to do something that I would never do for another competition – take a tolerance break.
For those that don’t know what a tolerance break is, it’s when a consumer refrains from using cannabis for a period of time. As Dr. Rae explained at the judge’s training on Sunday, a 2-day tolerance break helps ‘reset’ the body’s endocannabinoid system. For the specific purpose of Dr. Rae’s research, the closer a person’s tolerance level is to the average person, the better.
To the best of my memory, the last time I went a full day without consuming cannabis was in 2011 when I was in Las Vegas visiting relatives and I couldn’t find any cannabis. Needless to say, my tolerance is pretty high. I have been smoking like a broken chimney ever since, and I knew that my tolerance level was not ‘average’ at all. It’s certainly not the same as a patient who would be trying cannabis for the first time or after many years of non-consumption.
In the name of science, I took two days off from consumption. I didn’t smoke cannabis, or eat it, or even use topicals. I stopped consuming all forms of the gigglebush cold turkey. Tonight I consumed cannabis for the first time and it was AWESOME. I cracked open the first of 11 samples from my judge’s kit and used my recently-cleaned Volcano. My consumption experience was so much more fantastic than it had been in a long, long time.
Taking a tolerance break was not easy, especially at stressful times of the day. In years past when I would refrain from consumption my appetite would be limited and sleeping was hard. These days I am husky (fat) and work so much that I’m virtually always exhausted, so those two struggles were not an issue. Thankfully, the tolerance break proved to be totally worth it in the end.
I won’t lie – the thought of going a couple of days without cannabis was not a desirable proposition to me at first but I am very glad that I did it, especially knowing that it will make my input for the Cultivation Classic more meaningful. If I am lucky enough to be picked again next year to be a judge I will take an even longer tolerance break!