The Emerald Cup celebrated its 19th awards show with conviction. The famed weed event took place at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California, on May 13, 2023. The Emerald Cup has deep roots in Northern California near the epicenter of cannabis known as the Emerald Triangle. Towering alongside the redwood forest are veritable giants in weed breeding.
“We started out with just the sun-grown flower competition,” says The Emerald Cup’s founder Tim Blake. “That evolved over the years to now, where we have almost 50 categories. We had 7 judges in the beginning. Now we have close to 100 judges.”
Many heavy hitters from the legal and legacy markets throw their hats into the ring. Out of hundreds of applicants, any top 10 showing is impressive. The rigorous and anonymous judging process focuses on quality, smoothness, effect, among other markers. Here’s the complete list of 2023 Emerald Cup Award Winners.
The California weed industry, which has been through a regulatory storm in the last few years, welcomed this bright and auspicious event. Most industry folks showed signs of hard-fought hope and exuberance for what’s to come. The resilience of these entrepreneurs over the years is nothing short of heroic. Most cannabis growers in the running must dig deep to be on shelves today.
“To fix the disastrous situation we find ourselves in, they need to remove all the excessive taxes and regulations that have crushed the industry in California,” says Tim. If he could write a prescription to aid the cannabis farmers in the state, he says the government needs to federally legalize cannabis and open up interstate and international commerce.
The 1st place winner for Indoor Flower was the in-house bred cultivar called Blue Face by Fig Farms. The strain also won Best In Show, a coveted prize among all the flower entries. Fig Farms is the definition of a mom-and-pop shop. The Oakland-based and Sonoma County-born brand was founded by Chloe Healy and Keith Healy. The duo are as meticulous in their growing process as they are in pheno hunting for unique strains that you’re not likely to see anywhere else. Fig Farms’ ingenuity has won them 1st place Indoor Flower at The Emerald Cup for the second year in a row. “It feels incredible to be recognized for our life’s work,” says Keith Healy.
Other strains that landed in the top 10 for indoor include Gas Face by Sense, French Alps by Cannabiotix, and French Laundry by Maven Genetics, and Watermelon Punch by Decibel Gardens.
Southern Humboldt County was well represented at the 19th annual show. Lantz by Ridgeline Farms won 1st place for Mixed Light and 1st place Breeders Cup. Its founder Jason Gellman is offering up beloved genetics from his family’s legacy. “It’s a huge honor to win among so many great growers,” Gellman says. “Mixed-light produces some of the most amazing flower and brings out a whole other level of terpenes. Winning with Lantz and winning the Breeders Cup is definitely the highlight. It took my pops and me four-plus years crossing strains. I spend the summers growing them out to look for the winner. It’s a lot of work, but keeps my lifelong profession and passion exciting. Every time you pop a seed, you never know what you’re going to get. This seed, we got the one we call Lantz by Ridgeline.”
Nearing two decades since its inception, The Emerald Cup has expanded categories over the years to match consumer demand. At its core, The Emerald Cup remains a regenerative and organic-centered event. This year’s award show highlighted growers from Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, and Nevada Counties. Regenerative growers won big.
“We started testing with SC Labs 12 years ago, way before anyone else,” says Tim. “We have a Regenerative Farm award to acknowledge regenerative cannabis farmers and to promote and educate society to the benefits of regenerative farming. We have a third party certified award to acknowledge farmers who are farming with the best possible organic practices.”
Sol Spirit Farm won 1st Place for its stunning bud LMNT in the 3rd Party Certified Flower category. This includes Sun and Earth Certification, a 3rd party certification option for cannabis growers that is akin to what other industries have. Sol Spirit sits on a river-adjacent property in Trinity County and offers a stunning cannabis-friendly glamping experience on their property so visitors can see award-winning weed grown in person.
Rosin Tech Labs took home 1st place in the Solventless Infused Pre-Roll category. Its hash holes offer a combination of rosin and flower from Luma Farms. “You have to be part of the community to survive in this industry,” its founder Sam Jurist recently told me at Hall of Flowers. “You’ve got to actually be part of it, not fake it. You need to really live it and breathe it. Show up for the community. We really love what we do, so I feel like that comes through in the products that we make.”
Mila Jansen, an author and lifelong activist known as the Hash Queen, was given the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in hash alchemy. The winner for Most Innovative Product was Rainbow Cheddar Flower by Compound Genetics x Node Labs x The Original Resinator x Industry Processing Solutions.
Queen Mary won the award for Most Health Conscious Edible. Space Gems won 1st Place for the competitive product space of Edibles Gummies with its Sour Spacedrops. 1st place winner in the highly coveted Rosin concentrates category was Fully Melted x Alien Labs’ Zkittlez. The solventless concentrate maker Fully Melted is based in Humboldt while Alien Labs is a beloved craft company based in Sacramento.
“The competition has matured right alongside the cannabis industry over the past 19 years,” says Taylor Blake, Associate Producer running The Emerald Cup alongside her father Tim Blake. The indoor flower competition took off this year with almost twice as many entries as the sun grown flowers. The number of entries has also expanded and contracted along with the market pre-legalization, in the medical days of Proposition 215, to now post adult-use legalization. The Emerald Cup keeps a category exclusive for Personal Use and honors the work of medical caregivers to this day. These growers aren’t in it for the money.
“Each year, seeing the joy of those who win on stage is such a rewarding experience to be a part of. Our contestants represent the best of California cannabis,” says Taylor. “I think a lot of cannabis consumers can appreciate a variety of products so we want our competition to reflect that.”
Taylor says each judging panel consists of individuals with a variety of different preferences and varying levels of purism. “We ask that our judges give each entry in their category a fair chance, no matter what their personal preference is,” says Taylor.
“There is so much resiliency in the cannabis community, and you really feel it when we come together,” says Taylor. “Many of us have had a hard past few years and we could use some breaks.” Suggestions Taylor has to aid the regulatory issues in California’s weed industry include: lower the taxes on operators, eliminate the 280E tax code, and have counties across California open up more pathways for licensing and allowing events. “I would want it to be done in a way that is helpful to legacy communities all over the country rather than more harmful,” she says.
Taylor said that the Indoor flower category grew the most in 2023. “We also saw an increase in the solvent-less cartridges, gummies, and the alternative cannabinoid flower categories,” she says. “I think the most disruptive category is our tincture category and I would love to see more entries in that category next year.”
Tim leaves The Emerald Cup winners with a message of inspiration: “Our winners are going to see how much winning the Emerald Cup means for a brand, they’re going to see us help them get their products on the dispensary shelves, and we’re going to produce some winners markets over the year.”