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BOSTON (SHNS) – Over the next two months, marijuana consumers across Massachusetts will sample and scrutinize buds, edibles, pre-rolled joints and more from growers and manufacturers around the state to declare the winners of the first publicly judged Massachusetts Cannabis Cup.

Working with New England Treatment Access and other Bay State retailers, long-time counterculture magazine High Times is bringing its fabled Cannabis Cup competition to Massachusetts to bestow bragging rights on the companies producing the cream of the cannabis crop.

The High Times Cannabis Cup, which originated when hand-selected judges would get together to judge cannabis strains for a few days in Amsterdam in the 1980s, typically relies on about 20 judges selected based on their experience and High Times’ knowledge of them. But that’s always led to disappointment among cannabis connoisseurs who wanted to put their palate to use, Mark Kaz, High Times’ director of competitions, said.

So this year, the competition is becoming a “people’s choice” award — judging is open to the 21+ cannabis-consuming public and at least 10 times the number of judges will sample, rate and review marijuana and marijuana products grown, manufactured and sold in the growing number of adult-use retailers opening since marijuana use was broadly legalized almost five years ago.

“So now we have 2,000 kits that are going across the entire state. They’re being distributed to 16 retailers across the state and it is open to everyone and their mother,” Kaz told the News Service last week. “We want OG growers who have been in the game for a while. We want new soccer moms who are trading out their glass of wine for a joint at the end of the night. We want non-smokers who don’t even want to touch flower but they want edibles, they want topicals. We want the concentrate dabbers who know the difference between terpenes and a rosin versus a resin.”

Judging kits will become available Aug. 21 as the participating retailers across Massachusetts open for business. People interested in being a judge can register for updates, but all kits are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Kits range in pre-tax cost from $119 to $239 depending on the category and will include just about as much product as Massachusetts regulations will allow.

The categories are: flower (best indica, best sativa and best hybrid strains); pre-rolls and infused pre-rolls; solvent concentrates and non-solvent concentrates; vape pens (indica and sativa); edibles (gummies, chocolate non-gummies and fruity non-gummies); and topicals and tinctures.

Each judge will get a High Times-branded backpack loaded with their samples and a scorecard with a link and specific access code for the judging portal. Judges will have about 60 days to scrutinize the entries from the comfort of their own homes.

“They’re judging on aesthetics, aroma, taste, burnability and effects. That’s kind of the main criteria at least for the combustibles, the flower, the vape pens and the concentrates,” Kaz said. “And edibles, that actually is judged on packaging and labeling because we feel that that’s an important criteria — putting ingredients, putting the dosage amounts, putting the activation times, things like that — is important.”

The winners will be announced during a virtual awards show planned for Oct. 24. The winners could get more out of it than the High Times trophy and bragging rights within the cannabis industry, Kaz said.

“That’s the most recognized trophy or award in the cannabis industry, so we’ve had people just increase their distribution, their sales, a ton — even their social media followings,” Kaz said. “We’ve even had people claim that they’ve gotten better commercial space and leasing deals because they were a Cannabis Cup winner.”

The Cannabis Cup is not the first competition held to discern the best marijuana products from the Bay State. The Harvest Cup has been held each year since 2017, originally sponsored by the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, MassCann/NORML and the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. The 2021 competition is planned for Nov. 13 and 14 in Worcester.

High Times runs similar events in other states around the country, including upcoming Cannabis Cups in Oklahoma, Arizona, Northern California, Illinois and Nevada.

“We’re seeing a lot of really good packaging, we’re seeing a lot of really good bud structures,” Kaz said of the entrants to the Massachusetts competition.

As for how the Bay State’s cannabis ecosystem and industry stack up to others around the country, Kaz said there’s still room for growth.

“I think Massachusetts has, first off, limited licenses compared to some of the other states we work in,” he said. He added, “the regulations are pretty strict but solid and I think there’s a good process that we’ve seen so far. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement and a lot of room for more licensees to come in so that we can have more competition and that just increases the quality of the products.”

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