Photo and story: Jimi Devine

This year would see the Emerald Cup’s award show move to the Bay Area for the first time after a long stint in wine country before the pandemic and last year’s show at The Montalbán in Hollywood. While nowhere in the state worth having the cup could be considered neutral territory given how many competitors dot the state from north to south, the Bay is one of the better spots to have it because it’s essentially halfway between L.A. and Arcata — most of the state’s cannabis enthusiasts and businesses lie between that two points, too. The venue at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion was undoubtedly the most gorgeous the cup has seen since it left the redwoods in the early 2010s for bigger venues closer to population centers.

But the most beautiful sights to behold on the water’s edge were the glass cases filled with this year’s entries. As the judges, contestants and special guests entered the venue, they were greeted by the cases. The flower entries were the most packed, as people wedged in tight to get pics of all the pretty buds for the social media adventures.

As the award show kicked off, it was like the final countdown to the big categories at the end began. After making its way through some of the more niche photography and product categories, it was on to the social justice awards. In one of the coolest moments of the night, Luke Scarmazzo came on stage to accept The Social Justice Award on behalf of his good friend Weldon Angelos.

Angelos was released in 2016. He was originally sentenced to serve 55 years over a cannabis conviction with a mandatory minimum sentence but only served 13 years. After his release, Angelos began advocating for others who remained in the circumstances he was able to escape, eventually founding The Weldon Project. One of the people Weldon has helped get out of prison was his close friend Scarmazzo.

As he took the stage, Scarmazzo noted he was celebrating 100 days since being released from prison after serving 15 years over medical cannabis. The news received one of the loudest ovations of the night.

Other awards would include The Pioneer Award going to Amber Senter for her work on Social Equity and The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award going to Mila Jansen for her contribution to the world of hashish over the last 50 years as an entrepreneur, smuggler, and inventor.

From there we started into the big dog categories of flower and hash. This year’s theme was champions still crushing it. The rest of the evening would feature a carousel of repeat winners or those returning to the podium after a year or two off.

One of the biggest returns was Ridgeline Farms. After being the only mixed-light cultivator to qualify for the Zalympix finals, the LANTZ hype rolled on this weekend with Ridgeline taking top honors.

Founder Jason Gellman shared the experience with L.A. Weekly.

“With all the competition going on these days, The Emerald Cup to me is still the most prestigious and authentic. The judging is taken seriously by a talented group hand-picked for their dedication to the plant,” Gellman said. “As our small cannabis communities have taken a giant hit from the challenges of the industry, it’s as important as ever to stay relevant. I take lots of pride in growing the best herb possible, so when I submit my entries I always feel they have a chance to win.”

After the near-perfect farming conditions up north for most of the last year before monsoon season hit, it was expected Southern Humboldt would be very competitive. Most of the years that a NorCal farmer didn’t win the cup it had something to do with mother nature. Gellman was proud to see what the county did this year.

“This year, Humboldt County showed up big. Winning is huge, but it’s more about us representing our community as a whole than just one of us,” Gellman said. “Ridgeline took home multiple awards including first in mixed light with my new strain LANTZ, but what we were the most proud of is winning the Breeders cup.”

Gellman had been working on creating this strain for over four years.

“Lots of time, energy, money, fails and finally one giant win,” Gellman said. “I knew LANTZ was the one, but this just solidifies it. The cup was a giant success this year and was great to see so many real heads in the game. Overall, it was a great day in the bay”

Rebel Grown took home top honors in the Full Sun. After regularly gracing the top 10 and top 20 over the years, this time they were able to take first place with their Double OG Chem.

In indoor, Fig Farms would became the only indoor farm to ever win The Emerald Cup twice after now winning both the past two renditions of the contest. The Blue Face that won the indoor category was also the first-ever indoor flower to win The Emerald Cup’s prestigious best-in-show award.

“The love we received at the Emerald Cup has elevated to a new level,” Keith Healy of Fig Farms told L.A. Weekly, “Two years at the top spot for indoor flower, and this year going a step further by receiving Best in Show. Fig Farms’s Blue Face is the first indoor flower to receive the Best in Show award, which has been given exclusively to Sungrown flower until now. I am so proud of our team, and truly honored in a way that cannot be put into words.”