With the Emerald Cup running throughout the week on Social Club TV leading up to Sunday’s big awards show, we’re taking a look at what it was like to judge the world championships of cannabis through the pandemic.

This year I had the pleasure of judging the Emerald Cup’s solventless hash category. As with flowers, the Emerald Cup is considered the most prestigious hash championship on the planet. This includes the rosin, water hash and personal use entries of the solventless or all the dope stuff in the hydrocarbon category. The cup was probably the longest I’ve gone in nearly a decade without trying some new crazy BHO.

This is L.A. Weekly’s third adventure with Emerald Cup judging. In 2018 we headed north to the redwoods of Mendocino County to watch the final hours of both flower and solventless judging. I put the winners to the side of the pile as the judges convened around the table called out the winning full-sun flower entries. Last year, I got the invite to take part in judging the BHO. It was absolutely amazing. But for many, the marquee extract category is solventless.

This year, I judged alongside Nick Tanem of Essential Extracts, Tony Pitts of HoneySuckle Lotus, Dorian Schraner of Beezle, Ashley Gaertig of ICExtract Equipment, Flora aka Cuban Hash Queen, Roger Volodarsky of Puffco, Maya Elisabeth of OM, and The Dank Duchess.

Pitts serves as the elder statesman of the solventless team every year. He comedically ushered the BHO judges to the side house at the big meeting last year and has hosted the final judges meeting himself in the past.

“Unlike most years, the group of solventless pirates that makes up Emerald Cup’s judging team responsible for breaking down and evaluating some of the world’s best hash entries from California was not able to actually meet in person because of COVID but the Zoom calls were still just as entertaining,” said Pitts.

Pitts believes searching blindly through a mountain of entries for something that can kick your teeth in and make you feel like you are floating on a cloud is a dream job for a lifelong stoner.

“The love and passion for hash shared by this group of judges was so real that the respect for each other’s opinions helped move the critiques along smoother than any other contest I have been a part of,” Pitts said. “Nobody was fighting for any particular winner but instead everyone was making sure that whatever great experiences were had were not looked over by anyone else and sure to be noticed. In the end, a clear winner was picked by a great team and I can’t wait to find out what it is.”

That Zoom aspect Pitts referenced was certainly a wildly different vibe from years past, but it really felt like the process was sound. Another aspect that may have contributed to the judges concurring on much of the top 10 out the gate was how much time we had to review them.

Sometimes cups feel a bit faster. For example, last year I had just over 70 BHO entries to grade in a couple of weeks. This year we got 56 rosin entries and couple dozen more water hash and personal use entries. Pretty much the same workload, but nearly twice as much time to judge.

This allows you to really get head to head with the nuances of things like the impact that are tougher to dial in when you’re dabbing back to back to back. That being said, the best hash in the world will always cut through the pack. But maybe there was a little less noise making it easier to really pick out what you found special just behind the podium.

Most judging experiences fall under an isolated experience where you don’t know who the other folks are or a group setting like the Emerald Cup. This year’s cup kind of felt like a mixture of both. Last year, when we first met up to get our entries, we had the opportunity to review everything together off the bat and we had an ongoing Instagram chat with constant contact. This year we were isolated for that initial week of review. Then, over the course of the meetings, we’d highlight our favorites to the group.

More importantly, we heard other people’s take. Not everyone has the same preferences for hash so hearing people you have a lot of respect for mention what you might want to take a look at again goes a long way.

“As a first time Emerald Cup judge, I was deeply appreciative of the hard work and dedication that went into the production of so many solventless entries,” The Dank Duchess told L.A. Weekly. “The Pandemic offered a unique opportunity for the judges to pore over the entries over the course of weeks; developing our palates in the month-long weekly discourse with our fellow esteemed judges. The hash and rosin were incredible and the camaraderie was unforgettable.

In the end, it was all pretty smooth and exciting. Despite the challenges faced by growers and manufacturers through the pandemic and fires of 2020, the hash was awesome.

We’re looking forward to seeing who takes home top honors on Sunday.

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