Cannabis goes mainstream at the California State Fair


After a two-year hiatus imposed by the pandemic, the California State Fair returns in 2022 with a new competitive category: cannabis. Yes, the fair will honor the best bud in the state. It is perhaps the most culturally significant moment for Californian agriculture since the famous Judgment of Paris, a blind tasting in 1976 in which a panel of predominantly French judges ranked the wines of the Napa Valley above those of Burgundy and Bordeaux, a result that shook the wine world. and started the Californian wine craze.

California only legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016. In five years, it has gone from a modest skunk bag bought from a guy’s friend at work to an invitation to compete among the jellies and jams at the state fair. It’s almost like someone flipped a switch and moved the grass into the mainstream.

From a purely agricultural standpoint, cannabis cultivation has earned its place at the Sacramento fairgrounds. Marijuana and its producers have played a vital role in the state’s economy for decades, generating more than $ 3 billion annually in licensed cannabis sales. This means that as an agricultural product it would earn a respectable fourth place in the state ranking – just behind dairy products, almonds and grapes, and just ahead of pistachios. Add to that the illegal cannabis market, and it is by far the # 1 crop in the state.

Which means cannabis is overdue to take its place at the fair alongside artisanal goods such as olive oil, cheese, and wine. Keep goats and llamas away. Move the cakes and bread back. The state where five high school friends coined the phrase “420” 50 years ago has a different kind of baking in mind.

Not that somebody’s actually going to, you know, use cannabis at the fair.

Competitions to determine the potency and flavor of marijuana strains are not new. The pioneering Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, launched in the late 1980s by High Times magazine, was so successful that it spawned a global industry of such contests. Growers come from all over the world to showcase their unique strains, from ancestral landrace marijuana to genetically modified hybrids. Winning a Cannabis Cup is big business; the seeds of the winning varieties can be worth millions.

In Amsterdam, the judgment is traditionally made by a gang of stoners who seriously endanger a houseboat, but California takes a scientific and decidedly high-tech approach. Instead of smoking to find the most excellent flavor and effects, the plants will be judged using laboratory tests, which is like putting a gourmet meal in a blender and then measuring how many calories it has. contains. I can’t help but imagine a Roomba bumping into the house with a joint in its mouth.

The flowers will receive a full physical examination as they are checked for levels of CBD, short for cannabidiol, a compound commonly used as an anti-inflammatory in ointments, creams and oils; and THC, the psychoactive component that gets a user high; and the five distinct terpene profiles that give cannabis its unique flavors and effects.

Think of it as a version of a Bill Clinton-inspired tasting: no one will inhale.

It’s the terpenes – the hoppy smell of myrcene or the citrus blast of limonene – that can make smoking quality marijuana such a pleasure. And within grapes loosely labeled as indica, sativa, and hybrid, there are hundreds of combinations of these various terpenes bringing unique flavors, scents and sensations of euphoria, relaxation, or a burst of extra energy. Take out the terpenes and you basically end up with hemp. It’s great for making paper or string, but not so good for listening to reggae.

In wine review competitions, the white wine category contains dozens of distinct grape varieties that include Albariño, Chardonnay, and Macabeo. Experts taste the wine and pass judgment, sometimes spitting it into a bucket. Real human beings use their senses, knowledge and experience to determine quality.

California may be the tech capital of the world, but putting technology in the judge’s seat may be going a bit too far. A machine-based analysis probably can’t appreciate the nuances of the flower in the same informed way that an experienced ganjier – a cannabis sommelier. If you think wine lists in fancy restaurants are intimidating, try analyzing a dispensary menu without expert help.

The State’s Proposed Cannabis Judgment and ensuing rewards seem like a delicate compromise between people who enjoy smoking marijuana and those who suffer from whiplash due to acceptance and ascension. sudden grass.

Although in fairness to the judges, the scans even make the playing field. The competition will not be influenced by personal preferences and the flowers will be contrasted with those with similar chemical profiles. As a future cannabis judge said at the state fair, “You wouldn’t judge a rosé against a cabernet.”

This approach could be science-based and completely unbiased, but as a judge I would drink the rosé. It looks like the state fair wants to recognize the importance of cannabis to California, but doesn’t want anyone having fun doing it.


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