Inside a Secret Dutch Cannabis Competition

At a secret location in the Dutch city of Eindhoven last month, around 70 cannabis growers, concentrate producers, and cannaseurs gathered to take part in the second annual Homegrown Cup. Their charge: Judge entries in four different categories: outdoor, indoor, traditional hash, and concentrates.

Because cannabis is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, organizers had to operate with the utmost discretion. Dutch authorities have succeeded in chasing away both the High Times Cannabis Cup and the Highlife fair, which has served as the template for every European cannabis festival from Spannabis to Cannafest. The last Highlife fair last took place in Amsterdam in 2007, and the Cannabis Cup left in 2014—27 years after organizing its first gathering in the Dutch capital.

In typical Dutch fashion, these events weren’t banned outright. Instead, local authorities and the police simply made life hard for the organizers. One particularly noteworth example came when more than a dozen police vans descended on the 2011 High Times cup. Officers fanned out and checked every visitor for possession of more than 5 grams, the allowed limit.

After High Times left, a number of smaller events emerged to fill the void. The Homegrown Cup, however, was different from the start.

First, it’s not in Amsterdam. The event is held in the southern city of Eindhoven, the fifth-largest in the Netherldands. Second, the cup gives hobbyist producers and home growers the same consideration as it does large, commercial producers. A third difference with most other cups in the region: The contestants themselves are the judges, whereas most competitions either have an expert panel or tasks judges who pay to for the privilege. Finally, the level of transparency is unusually high at the Homegrown Cup: the full results—meaning all scores for every entry—are all published online.

As participants were getting to know each other, rolling their first joints and firing up their dab rigs, the Homegrown Cup team readied the samples for judging. Each entry was photographed, divided into 1.5 gram samples, and put in plastic containers marked with a nondescript code so that judges had no idea who produced the product.

Putting the Monopoly to the Test

What few of the judges knew was that among the 27 entries in the indoor category, organizers had  included Cannabis Flos, produced by the only licensed Dutch cannabis producer, Bedrocan, The company currently has a monopoly on medical cannabis the country’s health ministry supplies to pharmacies. As best anyone could tell, it was the first time ever that Bedrocan’s cannabis was subjected to a blind taste test.

Despite the company’s scientific and regulatory expertise, Cannabis Flos left judges disappointed.  The Berocan product placed 20th out of 27 entries in the indoor category.

A Personal Note

Through the years I’ve had the honor to be part of a number of cannabis cup juries, including at the Highlife Cup—the oldest Dutch competition—as well as various local cups organized by cannabis social clubs in Spain. But I’d never before been a contestant.

At this year’s Homegrown Cup, I entered one of the plants I grew on my balcony this summer in the outdoor category. It was my biggest plant, a gift from Doede de Jong, a longtime cannabis grower and activist. Every year De Jong brings a plant from Friesland, the northern province he lives in, to Amsterdam to put on stage at Cannabis Liberation Day, the country’s biggest cannabis event. I got to take the plant home and, thanks to an exceptionally sunny and dry summer, she flourished and produced copious flowers. I called my entry Doede Special and took extra care manicuring and drying the buds.

As I judged the other entries I realized I was clearly facing some stiff competition. Just by looking at them, I was quite sure that two entries were not grown in the Netherlands, but in a country with more sun. This was all part of the game, though, as a number of entries came from elsewhere in Europe. After a long and thoroughly enjoyable day of testing and talking, eating and more testing, one of the two challengers that caught my eye indeed won the outdoor category. An amateur home grower took third prize, with 35.9 points, narrowly beating my Doede Special, which earned 35.3—not bad for a first time, if I do say so myself.

2016 Homegrown Cup winners:

Indoor: Scott’s OG (Rare Dankness Seeds) by Organic Earth
Outdoor: Brainstorm by Dutch Passion Seeds
Traditional Hash: Alien Cheese Balls (Exodus Kush by DNA Genetics) by Brother Extracts
Concentrates: White Sumo by Karma Squad

Derrick Bergman

Derrick Bergman is a Dutch journalist, photographer, and activist who has been covering cannabis culture since 1994. He is a founder and the current chairman of the VOC, the union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition. Since 2010, he’s served as the coordinator of Cannabis Liberation Day, the biggest cannabis and hemp event in the Netherlands. He is a father to three sons and has been growing his own cannabis for more than two decades.

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Me, the Munchies, and My Chopsticks: A Smarter Way to Snack

Eating food with chopsticks is like an 8 out of 10 on the eating utensil difficulty scale. The dexterity and coordination required to convey food from the plate to my open mouth is a feat I once believed best left to the steady hands of a surgeon. But once mastered, chopsticks can be the single most useful piece of ancient technology you ever own. Their place at the table and in the kitchen is only the beginning of their magnificent utility, and as a cannabis consumer, they have turned my half-baked snacking routine into an exercise in motor skill mastery.

Here are a few foods I recommend eating with chopsticks after (or while) enjoying fine cannabis products of your choosing.

Chips

chips

Examples: Spicy Nacho Doritos, Funyuns, Tim’s Cascade Sea Salt & Vinegar

These types of chips are often covered in flavor powder or are greasy and fried (and delicious!). But by snatching these crunchy devils up with a pair of chopsticks, the residual flavoring that would have ended up on your fingertips (and subsequently everything you touched afterward) now ends up in your mouth.

Bonus: Small to medium-sized chip bags usually fit chopsticks perfectly. (Based on 9-inch chopsticks.)

Fruity Candy

Bowl of jelly beans
Examples:
Sour Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers, Hi-Chews

Fruity candy made this list because fruity candy makes up a third of the blocks in my food pyramid. Also, while doing “research” for this article, I noticed a dramatic decrease in the speed at which I could demolish a haul of candy simply through the use of chopsticks. Cannabis can antagonize a sweet tooth (or savory tooth) and chopsticks might not stop you from eating a pound of sweets, but they might help you stretch it just a little further.

Extra Credit: Undo Hi-Chew or Starburst wrappers with your chopsticks.

Chocolate Candy

chopped chocolate pieces isolated on white
Examples: Reese’s Pieces, Whoppers, Heath bar

Chocolate candy tends to melt in your hand and in your mouth, and on the TV remote and possibly in your beard. That last part may come from personal experience, but regardless, chocolate melts when it encounters heat. Enter cold, lifeless chopsticks. Problem solved. Enough said.

Holiday Favorites: If you happen to be the lucky recipient of a holiday sweets tray with English toffee, miniature cookies, peanut brittle, and so on, turn to your trusty chopsticks for a mostly mess-free way to nibble.

Popcorn

Homemade Kettle Corn Popcorn

Examples: Fiddle Faddle, buttered popcorn with nutritional yeast, or Annie’s Organic White Cheddar Cheese powder

Popcorn should be a staple in any muncher’s go-to snack cabinet. It’s relatively healthy (healthier than fruity candy, anyway — give me a break, okay?) and contains a solid amount of fiber. You can also fancy up popcorn in a ton of different ways, spanning the sweet and the savory. And now, what was once a butter-smeared video game controller is now your mess-free picture of technological Pan-Asian sophistication.

In a Pinch: Chopsticks are usually made of wood, but if you are in desperate need of some roach clips, a pair of chopsticks will more or less fit the bill.

Lastly, as you contemplate whether or not you have earned the title of Chopstick Snack Master, first consider whether or not you have the perfect pair of chopsticks. While I enjoy the raw, classic aesthetic of splintering takeout chopsticks, I now know there is a rainbow of chopstick styles and colors available at certain Asian grocery stores. As a cannabis consumer I love to personalize my glass, my torch, my dabber, and pretty much everything else related to my consumption of cannabis. Why should my chopsticks be any different?

Fun Fact: Using chopsticks correctly is a sign of good breeding. The closer to the top they are held, the more gracious and glamorous your eating style!

Jeremiah Wilhelm

Jeremiah is the Strain Researcher at Leafly.

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