Emerald Cup founders announce new Mendo cannabis festival for July

As Sonoma County’s Emerald Cup reached critical mass this year, with some 20,000 attendees at the sold-out marijuana competition, founder Tim Blake decided it was time to get back to his roots.

The Cannabis Country Fair featuring music, speakers, camping, a cannabis cup and plenty of locally grown ganja, happens at the historic Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville July 21-23. The focus of the more intimate three-day festival and cannabis market in Mendocino County is to create “a unified community of organic cannabis farmers and wellness enthusiasts, combining industry education with a variety of experiences for the “cannabis tribe,” according to Blake, with the help of high-powered music management and event production company, Red Light Management. About 4,000 to 5,000 attendees are expected each day.

“I’m gonna enjoy a smaller competition at the Country Fair and a new way of doing things,” said Blake, who founded the Emerald Cup in 2003 as harvest gatherings of a few hundred Emerald Triangle growers.

“We have new partners working with us to support the Emerald Cup and the new event,” said Blake.  “When you get to the point that you have that many people, you’re dealing with the size of a small city, you need production managers. It’s amazing how many people you need to support a show,” said Blake.

In 2016, the Emerald Cup came under fire after disqualifying several winners when later test results indicated that the samples were tainted with either microbial or pesticide residue. A number of other cannabis competitions around the country have also been criticized for up to 80 percent of their entrants later being disqualified for pesticide use, and testing for pesticides is still not required by law and has only come into regular practice in the last couple years. The event was also marred by extreme rainfall, ticketing disorganization and confusion about submission dates for Cup entrants, making it clear to Blake that  it was time to bring on some new partners for his events.

Hoping to bring judging of cannabis entrants into the future, Blake has created a new style of cannabis competition as part of the new Country Fair event,  based on terpene profiles rather than broader categories of flowers, concentrates, Sativa or Indica. That means that strains will compete based on the distinctive flavors and aromas, for example, citrusy, limonene dominant strains like Berry White and Strawberry Banana will be judged in one category, while piney strains like Blue Dream will go against other Pinene-forward strains.

The five dominant terpenes chosen by the Cannabis Country Fair include Terpinolene, Pinene, Limonen, Caryophyllene and Myrcene. There are more than 100 identified terpenes in cannabis, along with other fruits and herbs. Terpene profiles will be determined scientifically, by SC Labs during the testing process

“I’m an old-time guy, and when we started (the Emerald Cup) we didn’t even know what terpenes were. But realizing that some of the lighter buds can’t compete against an OG, it becomes hard to make (the judging) fair. Different types of strains to even have a chance by separating into the profiles.—its the wave of the future,” he said.

Blake said the impetus to use terpene profiles as a judging qualifier came from Alec Dixon, co-founder of SC Labs. “He’s been beating on me to do this through logic and science. With concentrates, people are really looking for terpenes,” he said. Terpenes are among the compounds tested by laboratories, along with THC and CBD levels, pesticide and microbial presence.

In addition to the Cup, the Cannabis Country Fair will also include a marketplace with about 100 vendors, selling cannabis and non-cannabis products, along with dozens of food vendors.

Music acts announced include Thievery Corporation, Portugal, The Man, Beats Antique, White Denim, Allen Stone, Anders Osborne, Jamestown Revival, Katchafire and Lyrics Born. In addition, there will be a cannabis marketplace featuring top Emerald Triangle growers, ganja yoga, and speakers including Amanda Reiman of Flow Kana, Alec Dixon (SC Labs), Jeremy Plumb (Farma) and others to be announced.

Blake said he hopes to possibly expand the event to other locations in the future.

Three-day passes are $285, two-day passes $225. Walk-in camping is available, along with special VIP “Glamping” packages for cannabis connoisseurs with serious cash. The event is 18 and older, and medical marijuana cards are required.

More details online at cannabiscountryfair.com.