BY ED MURRIETA
Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle
Longtime marijuana event producer Tim Blake has sober advice for first-timers partaking of newly legal pot at the Emerald Cup, a cannabis county fair in Santa Rosa expected to draw 30,000 people this weekend.
“Don’t eat too many edibles,” said the event’s founder.
While a little pot can fight nausea and anxiety, eating too much can make folks queasy and uneasy. The world’s largest cannabis competition and expo will be chock full of such cannabis-infused sweets, savories and beverages Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 10-11 — so much so that the event’s host, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, has required new rules to cut down on overindulgence.
“The fairgrounds makes us give out only low-dose edibles, so nobody gets too high,” Blake said. “We can’t serve over a 10-milligram dose.”
Now in its 13th year and breaking records for entries and attendance, the state’s biggest pot celebration since the general election is enticing a bumper crop of new guests.
Legalization initiative Proposition 64 passed with nearly 57 percent of the vote Nov. 8, making cannabis legal in California for adults 21 and older. But until 2018, you still need a medical card to legally purchase the drug. So there’s been an uptick in first-time medical cannabis recommendations, and Blake said the Emerald Cup’s popular “medication area” — a vast bazaar where you can sample and buy bud in countless forms — will be bigger than ever.
“It was a big mosh pit last year,” Blake said. “It was so crowded emergency crews couldn’t get through. So we had to redesign it.”
Even with the redesign, the event promises to be a spectacle.
The Emerald Cup honors California cannabis farmers and their products with a judged competition, expo, lecture series and a slew of entertainment. A record-breaking 1,100 contest entries were submitted this year in categories that include cannabis flower buds, extracts, topicals and edibles — up from 850 entries last year. A win can be life-changing for contestants, who pay $250 per entry.
“You need to win these contests to establish your brands,” Blake said. “When Aficionado Seeds won in 2012, it made his seed company. All of a sudden, he was selling seeds for $50 apiece. People get a couple hundred dollars more per pound for their flowers. It’s like winning a wine contest. And we’re the most respected contest in the business.”
The Emerald Cup began modestly in 2003 in Mendocino County with a handful of outlaw farmers. By 2013, it became too big for the rural county and moved to Sonoma County, drawing 6,700 attendees that year, 14,000 in 2014 and 22,000 in 2015.
“This year we’ll push it above 25,000 for the weekend,” Blake said. “With the Friday night pre-party, we may push 30,000 for the weekend.”
In addition to awards, the Emerald Cup features all-day lineups of speaker and music headliners like Bob Marley’s son Damian Marley. One of the last educational panels to be announced features two first-time attendees: North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood and Lori Ajax, chief of California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
“I consider that a coup,” Blake said. “We’ve crossed that line of legitimacy, and now they all want to come in and help us prepare for the regulated legal marketplace. It’s about education. After 80 years of reefer madness, we’re slowly untangling it.”
The Emerald Cup: Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 10-11. $70-$120. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. www.theemeraldcup.com
How to go like a pro
Book a room now. The closest hotels to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds sell out months in advance of the event.
Get a medical cannabis recommendation to enter the Emerald Cup’s must-see medical marijuana bazaar, where people smoke, dab, vape, eat and buy the botanical.
Save time by getting your weed card this week. You can do it over the phone for $40 with services like HelloMD, MeadowMD or EazeMD. Then bring your paperwork and valid identification to get a wristband for the bazaar. Doctors will also be on-site issuing cards.
Dress warmly. Temperatures won’t top 60 degrees. Consider hand and foot warmers. Wear comfortable shoes.
Bring cash for food, bud, seeds, pipes, books and clothing; it’s all cash-only, and ATM fees are a buzzkill.
5 essential must-dos
Wander through the Hall of Flowers scooping up deals on cannabis accessories. Pose for a photo with the marijuana entry display case.
Meet famous cannabis growers in the medication area and score some deals on the hottest cannabis brands.
Learn how to clean up your pot record at the Expungement Workshop set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, in the Garden Annex Building.
Catch the funky R&B act California Honeydrops at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the FlavRX Pavilion.
Learn regenerative farming at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Kraft Stage.
Listen to the weed world’s most powerful woman, Lori Ajax, head of California’s marijuana regulatory body, at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, on the Finley Stage.
Concentrates: Whether it’s called oil, shatter, wax, budder or good old hashish, they are all concentrated and, therefore, more potent, forms of cannabis.
Solvents: Butane, propane, hexane, CO2 and other gases, chemicals and compounds used to extract cannabis oil.
Rosin: Born out of the Emerald Cup’s refusal to allow solvent extracts, cannabis entrepreneurs invented a method of heating and pressing raw cannabis to extract oil. The Cup’s rosin competition is in its second year.
Terpenes: Compounds that control the flavors, aromas and types of highs (or lows) experienced from cannabis.
Light Dep: Also known as light deprivation, it’s a farming technique that uses tarps to mimic autumn light and force plants to flower earlier and more often.
CBD: Cannabidiol, which is the second most common active ingredient in pot. It doesn’t get you high, but can treat pain, anxiety and inflammation.
— Ed Murrieta