Colorado Sweeps A Turbulent Amsterdam Cannabis Cup
The 24th annual High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam saw events which were both unexpected and unprecedented in a variety of areas. In the early afternoon of November 23rd, which was the 3rd official day for the expo at the Borchland (a large venue just outside Amsterdam city limits), a strong contingent of local Dutch police swarmed the entrances and began rounding up competitors while the attendees were warned over the loudspeakers to vacate the premises. This was the first time in the event’s long history that the organizers or participants had experienced anything of this sort from Dutch law enforcement, a development which seemed to signal that perhaps the days of Amsterdam being the ultimate destination for cannabis freedom were over. The raid reportedly resulted from the organizers missing a meeting regarding a permit for the event, and also from the mayor of the Duivendrecht area, who was against the event being held in his town and set out to make a very public point.
While the initial announcement and continued presence cast an unexpectedly authoritarian shadow over many of the proceedings, ultimately no one was arrested aside from legendary hash artist Mila, who was in possession of nearly 100 grams of trim for a hash-making demonstration… however, she was freed later that night after paying a fine, and presented the award for Best Nederhash to a rousing round of applause the following day. The scene when the police first arrived and informed the competitors and many judges that they were there to enforce the Netherlands’ 5 gram personal possession limit was one for the archives, as everyone crowded around to smoke their excess, throwing piles of sample-laden baggies, bare nugs, and containers of hash on top of trash cans to facilitate easy rolling – all this transpired as the Dutch police looked on, largely unconcerned and seemingly just going through the motions. Videos of this marijuana melee are all over YouTube and offer a unique look into an unprecedented and historical moment in the annals of the Cup.
Though the raid has dominated the media coverage since the event, there is perhaps a larger story for the cannabis community brewing underneath the headlines – namely, that American seed companies (many of whom call Colorado home) swept all three categories of the seed company awards for the first time in history. Colorado’s own Rare Dankness Seeds took home 1st Place for the coveted Sativa cup with their “Moonshine Haze”, while Reserva Privada Colorado (a local division of the Amsterdam-based DNA Genetics) won 1st Place for both the Indica and Hybrid cups, with “Kosher Kush” and “Holy Grail Kush”, respectively. Colorado transplant T.H.Seeds (whose head breeder Adam Dunn has called the state home for a couple of years) also took 2nd Place for Best Seed Company Sativa for the “Electric Lemon G”, a collaboration with another local company, Teslaponics Seed Kompany. It was a night of celebration for the many Colorado attendees at the Cup, and according to the murmurs of much of the crowd, may have signaled a changing of the guard in terms of the elite cannabis breeders and growers of the world.
Adam Dunn (head of T.H.Seeds), who has been deep in the Amsterdam scene for over a decade but now calls Colorado home, spoke at length about the differences between the regulated, medical-minded system in Colorado compared to the cannabis commodity market that is the Amsterdam coffeeshop scene: “Here, where it’s considered medicine for consumption by patients as opposed to tourists, everything is just grown with more care,” Dunn explained, “pretty much everything out there is produced in large warehouses with little concern for anything but yield and production.” It seems that these differing intentions have paid off for Colorado not only at the award ceremony, but also in terms of attracting some of the biggest and best cannabis breeders on the scene. The regulated system which exists in Colorado offers seed companies the opportunity to operate out in the open, with agricultural licenses for seed production and their products sold through licensed medical marijuana centers rather than the at-times sketchy “gray market” type of system offered by the U.K. and The Netherlands, making Colorado an attractive option for breeders who also have intentions of breeding for true medical patients rather than solely consumers. Again, Dunn elaborated, “Out here we have real patients that you can have contact with regularly – this makes it much easier to get real data on medical benefits, which can influence decisions on breeding”.
A breeder such as Scott of Rare Dankness Seeds, who has existed under the umbrella of Colorado’s medical marijuana system for much of his breeding career and credits cannabis for saving his life after being diagnosed with cancer, knows the importance of high-grade genetics in the lives of many Colorado patients and bred his entry with them as well as the Amsterdam judges in mind. The Moonshine Haze “has just enough Cali influence due to the Trainwreck” but otherwise was designed to be Scott’s signature Haze, showcasing the heavily-Sativa strain in an exceedingly frosty and aromatic package which seemed to set it apart from the vast majority of local competition. “We really focus on the elite genetics of the world, including those that were developed in Amsterdam like the Amnesia Haze I used in the winner – luckily, in Colorado, we have access to those lines as well as a huge collection of clone-only strains which only exist in North America … this makes for truly elite cannabis and seeds,” said the RD founder as we toured his facility. Moonshine Haze is a special phenotype found within the “Amnesia x Nevil’s Wreck” seed population that RD released earlier this year, which is already popping up in dispensaries state-wide.
The unique regulatory environment of Colorado perhaps now affords a greater chance than does Amsterdam for patients and connoisseurs alike to try exclusive genetics before legally purchasing them… the appeal of this will surely be shown at the next Denver Medical Cup, which will take place during the weekend of 4/20 and already has many of the Amsterdam winners readying entries. Many industry insiders are skeptical that the international reach of Colorado-based seed companies can be maintained, largely due to the strict state regulations on the MMJ product supply chain of in state-licensed facilities… but that doesn’t temper the excitement that many patients feel for Colorado breeding in general, which now seems to be leading the charge towards greater genetic diversity and quality in cannabis. According to Adam Dunn, this collective excitement is certainly shared by Colorado’s breeding community, “In Colorado, we’re pretty much all happy to see eachother do well – when Rare Dankness and Reserva Privada Colorado won, I felt like I won, and that it was a ‘win’ for Colorado in general… we all wave the same flag here, and I think the camaraderie among the companies shows itself in the level of genetics produced. Winning at the cup just shows that we’re all in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time.”
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