Judging in High Gear

Well, this is an obvious blog. What else is there to write about right now other than Cannabis Judging for The Emerald Cup? It has consumed us for the past two weeks, ever since we got our first samples. At this point, Swami and I are up to #365 and pushing forward in full high gear. I’m not sure exactly, but have heard there are almost 600 entries in the flower division alone. Because of that, we had to expand our Judges crew to 14 this week, taking on three ex-judges who are real Pros and able to jump right in.


I wouldn’t blame you if you are wondering how we can possibly smoke all those samples in 21 days. Let me explain. The first ten days or so we had few enough samples turned in that all 11 Judges were able to test each one. From combined high numbers, we chose between 5-8 favorites from each Round. Last week we got the final delivery that poured in at the official deadline time. Stoner farmers are notoriously late and wait until the last minute, so that’s when the bulk of the entries always arrive.


Thanks to Vicki and her admirable crew at AREA 101, the thousand-plus entires into all the various categories were carefully sorted through and delivered to the various judging teams. That is a thankless job, and always more difficult than expected. But they were incredibly focussed. I noticed that while we are having boisterous Judges meetings in one corner of the room, which looked like a smoking chimney, the packaging and sorting crew was industriously working away in another part of the big room. What a great balance!


This last large load of entries was sorted into four sections of about 76 each. The full judges panel was also divided into four sub-panels of three or four judges. These groups are now going through their bags of small plastic Cooljarz, each with a 1 gram little bud in it to test. Our next meeting is tonight, when each judge will be polled and their top 10 recorded. Then we will take the top entries from each group and add them to the previously chosen high numbers, which should give us around 65 entries. These will be whittled down to 50 while we are together. Then each Judge takes home a bag of the Top 50 to carefully sort through re-evaluate and select their top ten, in sequential order. This is not an easy task, as each of those 50 is a beautiful girl. This is where the pedal hits the metal in cannabis flower judging. We’ll have 2-½ days to do it.


Th big day will come on Thursday, December 8, when all our Judges gather at AREA 101, naturally at 4:20, to narrow it down to the final Top 20. First, each Judge turns in their personal favorite 20, in order of preference. Then our more mathematically inclined Judges using spreadsheets and calculators figure out how it all fits together. First off, we take into consideration which votes were each Judges personal #1, #2 and #3. Then, if for example #231 was your personal #1 vote, it takes on a bonus of five points so it gets 25 points. Your #2 choice gets 19 plus a bonus of 3 to be 22 points. Likewise, #3 choice gets 18 plus 1 bonus, or 19 points. From there down the numbers go in natural descending order of 17, 16, etc.


It has taken years to figure out this system and I’m probably not doing the best job at explaining it, but it seems very fair. So far it is looking like this year is the same as so many others (this will be our 13th year as Judges) – a consensus will be reached without too much trouble. Already there are some real winners which are rising to the top by appearing on several Judges favorite lists. The cream truly does rise to the top, and it is so reassuring when the Best are so very obvious to one and all.


What’s unique this year is all the fruity samples. In previous years the entires have been heavy on the Kushes or fuelly strains, but this year there is a predominance of fruity favors. It may be because Cherry Limeade won last year or, as our friend Caitlin pointed out, it could be because more women are smoking so the market is going in that direction long with their tastes. We are also seeing lots of joints that burn with a black ash, usually a sign of a plant not being flushed enough before harvest. This is no doubt the case because so many people cut early this year due to the heavy rains this October, when plants just hadn’t flushed all the nutrients, or heavens forbid pesticides. But all in all, the entries are lovely and smell divine.


So goes the life of a Judge in The Emerald Cup. Only a few more days and we can smoke our own cannabis again, something every Judge looks forward to. But until then, it is an honor and a pleasure to sample some of California’s finest. I hope we see you next weekend at The Emerald Cup – we’ll still be walking and smiling after all that Judging!

Are you 21 or older?