A Closer Look At The 2021 High Times NorCal Cannabis Cup

Major growth within the marijuana industry has made room for many new cannabis-friendly opportunities like contests, tours, paint nights, and more.

For example, cannabis competitions like the Toker’s Bowl in Canada, or the Nimbin MardiGrass Cannabis Cup in Australia, are quickly gaining in popularity. These events provide a platform for cultivators and producers to duke it out to find out who has the best-of-the-best cannabis products. 

We recently covered some of the best cannabis competitions in California, but now we want to go a bit deeper and focus our attention on one of the most successful (and well-known) marijuana competitions out there—the string of High Times Cannabis Cups that take place in cities throughout the United States.

While in-person Cannabis Cups have sadly been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, the People’s Choice Edition of the NorCal Cannabis Cup will be taking place virtually on August 29th. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at what makes the High Times Cannabis Cup the “world’s leading marijuana festival and trade show”, how you can become a judge for the NorCal Cup, and why you should enter your products if you’re a business owner.

norcal cannabis cup
The NorCal Cannabis Cup will host the 2021 People’s Choice event online.

A Brief Look At The History Of The Cannabis Cup

The Cannabis Cup was first held in Amsterdam in 1988. Since then, the event has grown substantially, with new locations being added almost every year! You can currently find this ever-popular competition in SoCal, Denver, Seattle, Michigan, Jamaica, Las Vegas, and of course, NorCal—where the next one is set to take place.

As the popularity of medical and recreational marijuana has grown over the years, so has the size and reach of the Cannabis Cups. Before the pandemic hit, High Times Magazine hosted these 420-friendly events over a few days with crowds of thousands of canna-enthusiasts attending. People flocked to events for the music, products, festival vibes, company booths, networking opportunities, overall good time, and to find out who will take home the contest’s major trophies.

More recently, the Cannabis Cups have looked a bit different. Instead of a massive in-person event, High Times decided to go with a people’s choice approach for their competitions. This means that the NorCal Cannabis Cup has—for the first time ever—opened its judging slots to the general public of California. In the past, only 28-35 expert judges were allowed to test products, but this year, they want their community to be more involved and will allow up to 224 judge’s kits to be picked up per category!

Speaking of categories, below are the 12 product groups that the 224 judges will be evaluating between June 25th and August 23rd.

  • Indica Flower
  • Sativa Flower
  • Hybrid Flower
  • Sungrown Flower
  • Pre-Rolls
  • Solvent Concentrates
  • Non-Solvent Concentrates
  • Vape Pens & Cartridges 
  • Edibles: Gummies
  • Edibles: Non-Gummies
  • Edibles: Beverages
  • Topicals + Tinctures + Capsules

Do you think you have enough user experience and know-how to make a great judge for the NorCal Cup? Great! Let’s go through how you can become a judge at this year’s event.

How To Become A Judge At The NorCal Cup

If you’ve wanted to be a judge at the NorCal Cannabis Cup, this is the year for you! Starting June 25th, judge kits will be available for delivery and pick-up at multiple High Times locations including Oakport, Redding, Shasta Lake, and Coalinga.

If you’re serious about becoming a bonafide cannabis judge, here are the steps you’ll need to take and things to consider:

  • Anyone of legal age (18+ for medical users, 21+ for recreational users) can be a judge at the NorCal Cup.
  • In order to be a judge, you must first pre-register here.
  • Once you’ve pre-registered, you can purchase your judge’s kit (around $100-$300) starting on June 25th at any of the above locations. Confirmation is not needed to be a judge. Just register and you’re all set.
  • Keep in mind though—since judging is now open to the public—kits will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. Just because you’ve pre-registered doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a kit, so be sure to get to your nearest location early on June 25th. 

It’s also important to note that High Times wants only serious judges who will take the time to score EACH item fairly. When you open up your backpack full of cannabis goodies, you’ll notice a scorecard and an access code to the NorCal Cup online portal. You can submit your scores and comments there once you’ve gone through all of the products in your kit. When testing each item, you’ll need to consider and evaluate aroma, taste, effects, aesthetics, and other qualities. We also advise you to be interactive. If you post creative content on your social media handles or thought-provoking comments in the judge’s portal, you might even land yourself a shoutout at the live event on Sunday, August 29th at 4:20 pm PT. Winners will be announced on the High Times’ Facebook page.

Are you a cultivator or processor and would like to enter your marijuana product for evaluation and ranking instead? Keep reading to find out how!

online norcal cannabis cup
Cannabis enthusiasts can now enter to judge the online NorCal Cup.

Enter Your Product In The NorCal Cup

Because this year’s Cannabis Cups are all strictly online, the two main ways to participate are to become a judge or by entering the competition as a licensed cultivator or processor. If you do want to see how your product stacks up against your competitors, these cannabis contests are a great way to gain exposure and increase your brand’s reach. On top of that, having an item that scores well based on the new people’s choice format is a surefire way to boost your sales! So, why not give it a shot and see what happens?

Whether you’re already an established company, or just produced your very first strain from high-quality cannabis clones in California, entering your product could be just the push you’re looking for to get your product into a large number of consumers’ hands! The High Times Cannabis Cups have a massive following and influence over canna-enthusiasts, so take advantage by registering to compete today. Once registered, products are accepted at Natura in Sacramento, CA between June 16th-18th.

Here are some additional details from the NorCal Cup page about the amounts you’ll need to submit based on the categories we listed earlier: 

  • Flower: (228) 1-gram samples
  • Pre-Rolls: (228) pre-roll samples
  • Concentrates & Vape Pens: (228) .5-gram samples
  • Edibles: (60) samples
  • Topicals + Tinctures + Capsules: (60) samples

Note from the NorCal Cup website:This Cannabis Cup is a Recreational Cup only. All products must be licensed by THE BCC/CDPH and adhere to State and local regulations. Further details provided upon confirmation.”

Final Thoughts

While there aren’t as many opportunities for in-person marijuana events this year, that shouldn’t stop you from competing and having fun virtually! Thanks to strategic thinking and careful planning, companies like High Times are moving forward with their competition in a new, innovative way that allows the public to be more involved. 

We have high hopes that everything will go back to normal soon, but until it does, there are still events like the NorCal Cannabis Cup to look forward to. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at judging cannabis products but never had the opportunity before, now’s your chance! Or, if you’ve taken some time during the lock-down to establish a new cannabis company and want to see how your products fare against the top dogs, why not enter a competition and see what happens?

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we can find some sunshine in the gloom and doom—you just have to take the opportunities as they come and make the best of them! So, if you decide to be a judge, or enter as a competitor, we wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing the 2021 NorCal Cup winners crowned on August 29th!

Homegrown Nursery proudly signs the content on the Cannabis News Blog. We are a dependable source for healthy and feminized clones. For marijuana businesses and entrepreneurs, we offer special wholesale pricing. Get in touch for more details!

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