We sat down with the Emerald Cup’s organizers to see what it was like getting the world championships of cannabis ready for its digital debut with Social Club TV.

The Emerald Cup is without a doubt the most prestigious contest in cannabis. Since its roots in Mendocino County and then on to the massive spectacle it became in Wine Country, it has always been the true world championship of outdoor pot.

But as with the most annual mega-events over the past year, the Emerald Cup has had to adjust to the realities of COVID-19 closing the world. While Spannabis was the first cannabis event impacted by COVID as Americans arrived in Barcelona only to turn around and head back to the airport in hopes of beating the lockdown, after a few months we quickly started looking at early December on the calendar.

Trying to be competitive in the Emerald Cup is a years-long process, and growers if they’d get to showcase all the work they put in on the hill. Maybe 2020 was their year? Well after some understandable delays, we now have our answer.

“These are unusual times that have called for radical change across our entire industry,” Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake said when announcing the collaboration last week. “For 17 years, we have celebrated the best of cannabis by bringing together the leading experts, educators and farmers together with consumers.”

Regardless of the pandemic, what the cup represents goes beyond booths and a lot of awesome pot. Much of the time it’s the mechanism for the little guy to have a fighting shot against corporate cannabis thanks to the accolades bestowed on them by winning The Emerald Cup, or even just being remotely competitive. The Social Club TV deal gives the Emerald Cup the chance to keep the ball rolling on that positive energy that comes from honestly recognizing a job well done.

“Our event is the largest, most-respected organic cannabis competition in the world,” explained Blake. “Pandemic or not, this was the time to open our doors to the rapidly expanding global community. With the help of Social Club TV, we’ll be able to reach millions of fans and enthusiasts. I’m very excited to be working with the Social Club team.”

We sat down with Emerald Cup Associate Producer Taylor Blake-Massive and competition Director Victoria Shea to get the details on what it’s been like getting ready for the belated contest for the 2020 harvest.

“I think that the hardest transition for us was continuing to have hope that we were going to be able to do something in person. Then this year we actually have the contest going,” Blake-Massive told L.A. Weekly. “We’re interacting with judges, interacting with past contestants and so I think it’s really given us a nice sense of joy and purpose again. I definitely feel much brighter about 2021.”

We asked what the pace of change was like at the cup this year compared to years past. Since its earliest days, there has been more and more paperwork over the years before signing up went digital a few years ago. Blake-Massive said one factor was her and Shea’s dedication to keeping paper copies of everything.

She spoke to the current biggest digital project for the website: Updating it with every winner ever.

“Well, it’s like Nancy Drew level treasure hunt digitalization,” Blake-Massive said. “I’m trying to watch videos and figure it out. I’ve been interviewing people just for the 2003, 2004, 2005 years so we’re just trying to button up those last details.” She hopes to have that live online in the not-too-distant future.

Despite trying to make the bare essentials in person, like having judges and contestants gather in some way, it just wasn’t to be this year.

“We definitely decided that fully digital is the way to go,” she said. “We’ve been putting in a ton of time and trying to make it something special and unique. I feel like we’re in a place where everybody’s kind of over digital events. We didn’t want to just put something out that we wouldn’t watch ourselves. And so we’ve really been working hard and putting a ton of energy into trying to make it something very special.”

The biggest change to the contest itself looks like it will be the proximity of the judges, according to Shea. “With the judge teams, the flower and the solventless teams are the ones that historically meet in person. So just trying to figure out how to accommodate that in the current state of affairs, regarding public gatherings,” she said.

Part of their mission for this year’s contest was trying to figure out a way to not have it be such a drastic departure from where it’s been for the past few years, “but still instill that sense of community when we got together and reviewed the entries. It’s been a little bit challenging, but we’re doing our best to try and figure out a way to still make it really enjoyable for them and have that camaraderie.”

As much as fun as it is to speculate possibilities, Shea admits safety is the number one priority.

“Every single year I’m always impressed at how things have improved over the year before,” Shea noted. “It’s always really exciting to be able to go through all of the entries on our end when we do our processing. Even from the packaging to the quality of the entry to the quality of the flower we’re always so amazed at how people are able to up their game.”

We’ll keep you up to date on how the final schedule for the Emerald Cup plays out.


Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.