Tales From The Cannabis Cup: Prelude

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Our friend Roger Norville will be heading to Amsterdam tomorrow for the 25th annual Cannabis Cup. He’ll be filing reports each day next week about his experience. Before he leaves, Roger has shared some thoughts about his upcoming trip and what the Cannabis Cup is all about these days…

Ringed with canals and hundreds of stone bridges, endless bike paths and row after row of stunning gabled buildings; to get lost strolling through the labyrinth of cobbled streets that is Amsterdam is one of the great joys of Europe.

As you wander you’ll inevitably pass by some of the world’s greatest art collections and some of the world’s most conspicuous window displays, and though the city is undeniably famous for Van Gogh, Rembrandt and the centuries-old Red Light district Amsterdam is most notorious for its liberal attitude towards marijuana and hashish.

It’s what keeps me coming back.

And it’s what keeps the Cannabis Cup coming back. Now in its 25th year, the High Times-hosted annual search for the world’s top smokables begins November 18th and ends with a prestigious awards ceremony on November 22nd. As you read this thousands of judges are making their way to Amsterdam ready to hit as many coffee shops as they can and sift through the world’s best strains of marijuana to select winners in a myriad of categories.

And just how does one go about becoming a judge in the Cannabis Cup? That’s easy, just buy a ticket. A pass runs about $275 and includes daily admission to the expo where dozens of booths offer up tons of swag, lots of information and twelve-foot tall vaporizer bags filled with contending strains that get casually passed through the crowd. There are daily seminars featuring knowledgeable expert panelists and nightly concerts at Melkweg exclusively for pass holders, and several of the city’s coffee shops give out free samples and offer special Cup package deals for judges.

Best of all your pass allows you to vote for the world’s best hashish and marijuana, an award that is not taken lightly. To win a Cannabis Cup is to have your strain known around the world. It inevitably leads to global notoriety and increased sales, in short: a very big deal for entrants. For marijuana enthusiasts it’s an honor to cast such a heady ballot and hundreds line up to do so on the final day of judging.

Last year’s Cup was a resounding success, marred by a shocking raid of the expo by Amsterdam police. In the unprecedented move dozens of officers swooped into the building, judges were searched and released and the expo resumed as normal the next day. There was a smoking ban enforced at Melkweg for Thursday night’s awards ceremony and while spirits (and judges) remained high, the questionable future of the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam was the talk of the coffee shops on Friday morning.

Of course you can’t be in this business without being resilient and the organizers kept their cool and took it in stride. With a new exposition venue and an engaging lineup of panelists and musicians it looks like the 25th Anniversary Cannabis Cup may be their biggest event ever. There’s lots to talk about this year, from the two successful ballot initiatives in the US to the tightening of regulations in The Netherlands, and of course there are still plenty of coffee shops to get lost in and around. Concerts by the likes of Ghostface Killah and MF Doom will keep the Melkweg thumpin’ at night, and everything in between is beautiful Amsterdam.

Keep your eyes on this spot in the coming week as I file daily reports on the Cup from start to finish, with deviations in and around the city so I have stories to tell my mom.

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