Tokin’ Road Trip: Humboldt County’s Emerald Cup

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All photos by Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
The glass entry case contained all 200 flower entries, and a couple dozen concentrate entries in the center wheel

The ninth annual Emerald Cup medical cannabis competition — a Humboldt County, California-based event in which only outdoor, sun-grown, organic marijuana and concentrates are allowed — was held this past weekend in Redway, and Toke of the Town was there.

The winning strain (left), entry #47, Chem Dawg, from Cannabis Aficionado

Two hundred strains of marijuana were entered (compared to last year’s 108 entries), as well as a couple dozen concentrates. Winners were selected, and the Grand Prize winner — entry #47, ChemDawg Special Reserve, grown by Leonard Bell and Elenah Elston (first female to take the top spot in this cannabis competition) — was announced. A very happy Leonard and Elenah, who together run the company Cannabis Aficionado, won an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica for seven days and nights.
The winning strain, according to the lab results posted on Facebook by The Emerald Cup, contains 18.4 percent THC and 0.9 percent CBD.
Entrants in the Emerald Cup are judged by entry numbers only. It’s a completely blind judging process, i.e., the judges have no idea who grew it, what strain it is, or anything else about it. Entrants are judged on the high, appearance, smell, taste, and potency, with the high counting twice as much as the other components (and rightly so).

Going Down the Coast

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Grant’s Pass, Oregon

Sure, you can catch a plane if you want, but the drive down the Pacific Coast from the THC-attle area to the Emerald Triangle is beautiful, particularly if one has a plentiful supply of marijuana and some good jams on the stereo. This being the case, I headed south Friday morning in my rental Ford Focus (impressive handling and 40-mpg fuel efficiency) with a little Tang Kush, a little Golden Goat, a little Strawberry Cough, and whole lotta Blueberry. (I have abdominal pain issues due to adhesive scarring from multiple intestinal surgeries, so it would have been quite unwise to start out on a 675-mile, 12-hour road trip without some serious indica.)
It was smooth sailing until I hit Grant’s Pass, Oregon, at which point I encountered what I would consider a blizzard. It was enough of a snowstorm to get the snow plows on I-5, and the left lane was practically unusable for a few miles.

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The Oregon Caveman

But once that challenge was over and I took the exit descending from the heights into downtown Grant’s Pass itself, I was out of the snow and ready to relax and dispel my tension by enjoying a kitschy tourist attraction.
The Oregon Caveman, a 17-foot sculpture created back in the 1920s by a bunch of local weirdos calling themselves The Oregon Cavemen, claiming to be direct descendants of the Neanderthal Man of ancient times. These were bored local businessmen who worked as civic boosters, spreading the word about Grant’s Pass as a tourist destination.
When it was time to exit off I-5 South onto Highway 199, I was soon treated to one of the most beautiful, spiritual places on Earth — the Redwood forests of Northern California. It’s hard to conceive of anything living for 3,000 years, and these trees carry a powerful energy from having that kind of relationship with time.

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Redwoods in the mist

I must say it’s quite a rush to drive down a road where rock cliffs literally touch the white line on the right-hand edge of the road, and a guardrail is the only thing between you and a steep plunge into a ravine on the left. Did I mention that some tractor-trailer rigs were sharing the road with me? And that some of the redwoods were so close to the road, they had been flattened on the side next to the road, so that passing vehicles wouldn’t bump them?
But I wasn’t stressed. The deep spiritual presence of the redwoods was too centering to allow that to happen, as were the beautiful vistas of mist-shrouded, redwood-covered mountainsides, lush verdant valleys, and whitewater streams.
A few more hours’ driving took me to Highway 101 with its great scenic vistas of the Pacific Beaches, with some of the most spectacular waves you’ll see anywhere.
For those who are wondering, it’s about seven joints from Seattle to the Emerald Triangle.
Having a Party
Driving to Redway, California’s Mateel Community Center from my motel room in Garberville, two-and-a-half miles away, I quickly saw that the Emerald Cup is a big enough event to stretch Redway’s infrastructure to the breaking point.

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The community tent at Emerald Cup

Arriving around 4 p.m. at an event which had been going since high noon, I saw the entire area covered in stoner traffic; the roadsides were lined with cannabis bumper sticker-festooned vehicles and happy hippies making their way to the community center. I ended up parking about half a mile down the road and hoofing it back to the center, easy to find because of the stream of hippies and the sound of music.
The community tent was the first thing I encountered after going through the gate. Hip-hop artists were performing on the stage, revelers were smoking tough, the air was filled with a hazy happiness, and bales of hay lined the center of the tent, providing soft seating for those who wanted to take a load off (or find a seat while they enjoyed the effects of sampling the abundant herbs and concentrates).
About halfway through the tent, I found a gorgeous display case full of all 200 flower entries, along with the couple-dozen concentrate entires on a little display wheel in the middle. Longing to touch, smell, and taste all the flowers, I settled for taking their pictures through the display case.

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Vendor tables held glass oil rigs, necklaces, pendants, smudge sticks, seeds, cannabis books, posters, paraphernalia, and info.
Meeting Old Friends
for the First Time
After enjoying the stony ambience of the community tent for awhile, I noticed the Community Center itself, just up the hill, and braved the mud to make my way up there.

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Toke of theTown editor Steve Elliott with legendary activist Pebbles Trippet

As soon as I walked through the door, I saw one of my personal heroes, longtime cananbis activist and legendary hippie chick Pebbles Trippet, with her vendor table of cannabis cards honoring the marijuana culture’s remarkable heroes. Legends such as Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, and Brownie Mary are honored with text by Pebbles and graphic art by Ralf Laguna.
I loved this quote from the official Emerald Cup program: “Pebbles will be speaking on the topic of her choice, no matter what we say.”
Pebbles — my longtime friend on Facebook, but whom I’d never met face to face before — shared with me her hope that California voters will, at the very least, repeal their state’s marijuana laws in 2014 with an eye towards setting up a distribution system by 2016.

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With “O’Shaughnessy’s” editor Fred Gardner (center) and “Acid Dreams” author Martin Lee (right)

Pebbles took me over to a table shared by two more of my heroes: Fred Gardner of O’Shaughnessy’s, a medical marijuana newsletter for doctors who want to stay abreast of the latest cannabinoid research, and Martin Lee, author of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD – The CIA, The Sixties, And Beyond.
My friend Ngaio Bealum, who seems to be at every single marijuana event anywhere, entertained the crowd with his cannabis-inflected comedy between musical acts, and as I was enjoying Ngaio, I saw, waving at me from upstairs on the balcony, another familiar Facebook friend, Toke of the Town contributor and cannabis activist/author Cheri Sicard, author of The Cannabis Gourmet CookbookCheri had plenty of great stories from her recent vacation to Italy, which I enjoyed as we sampled some greens together.

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The Swami (Swamichaitanya) and his partner Nikki Lastreto emceed the awards presentation part of the program

The Awards
At 8 p.m., it was time for the presentation of the awards. Event producer Tim Blake, a Mendocino County guy himself, told the crowd that “most of his friends” are from Humboldt County and kicked off the presentations. The Top 20 entrants were announced from the state, with the Top 10 being allowed to actually come up on stage, accept their awards, and give speeches.

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Leonard Bell and Elenah Elston of Cannabis Aficionado took the top spot with Chem Dawg Reserve. They’re goin’ to Jamaica!

The white-robed Swami (that’s what everyone calls him, “the Swami”) served as co-emcee for the awards presentations, along with his girlfriend, Nikki, and he said some pretty entertaining things, like this:
“I want to talk a moment about trimming your flowers for Emerald Cup entries. Now, ‘grower trims’ are fine at home, but we don’t want your Colorado Cut; we don’t need your Oregon Trim or your medical trim. We want the California club cut, trimmed tight. If it’s not trimmed like that, the clubs won’t buy it.”
Of course, there’s lots of room for argument on how tight a trim is too tight. But I’d personally, in an ideal world, prefer the “appearance” section of the judging to stick to things of more substance than whatever cut’s currently the fad in the California shops… Oh well; it is what it is.
In any event, I was gratified to note that almost every one of the Top 10 entrants who spoke on stage appeared to be humble, centered, and focused on growing good cannabis, not on ego-feeding like a rock star. I prefer to like the people who grow my medicine!

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