Vive le cannabis libre!

On November 7, 200 of Canada’s pot-illuminati gathered in a secret location in Montreal to sample some of the nation’s finest bud. It was Canada’s first semi-aboveground pot-judging event, and it was a grand success.
I travelled with pot-connoisseur “Marijuana Man”, loyal assistant to Marc Emery, and we met up with CC’s weedy webmaster Karlis upon arrival.

We landed in Montreal late on the 6th, and headed out the morning of the 8th, so we had no time to see any of the city’s historic or cultural locales. We didn’t visit any of Montreal’s 375 spired churches, nor did we climb the peak christened Mount Royal by Jacques Cartier in 1535. We didn’t even see the City Hall, from whose balcony in 1967 French President de Gaulle cried “Vive le Quebec libre!” We were only in the city long enough to get in, smoke the ganja and get out.

The Quebec Cup

The 1999 Quebec Cannabis Cup was organized by Alain Berthiaume, the founder and owner of Montreal’s premier hemp store and cannabis activism centre: Hemp Quebec. This was apparently not the first Cup, a smaller event had been held last year, but without any publicity or media. This year’s event was Canada’s first semi-above ground marijuana judging event.

Alain was a gracious host, but spent most of the evening looking worried and rubbing his forehead, as he fretted and dealt with necessary last-minute details.

Hemp Quebec is a spacious, well-stocked store that reminded me of the old Hemp BC store in many ways. It offers the full complement of cannabis lifestyle accessories, from hemp clothes to bongs and pipes, from grow books and magazines to lights, soil and hydroponic equipment, as well as a selection of quality seeds.

The event was held in a club called Worldbeat. The main floor was the dining/judging area, and housed the food, tables and entertainment, while the floor above was an ongoing, rhythmically hypnotic drum jam (called a tam-tam), which was a nice place to go escape if you needed a break from the overabundance of snacks, herb and smokey air downstairs.

Upon entry each person received a one gram sample of each of the eight varieties in the competition. Each sample was stuffed into its own little baggie, labeled with the appropriate number. There were four “bio” and four “hydro” entries.

There was a display case available with larger samples of each variety available for examination. A microscope allowed for even closer analysis, so curious judges could navigate the mountainous bud terrain, counting crystals and ascertaining the quality of resin glands.

A fabulous complimentary buffet of fine hemp cuisine was available to deal with repeated munchie-attacks. A continually replenished supply of dips, snacks and crunchy yummies were available throughout the evening, along with free water and pop.

A lovely woman by the name of Yolanda had an extensive display of her handcrafted hempen lotions, creams, oils and other fragrant and potent herbal tinctures, salves and unguents. Yolanda gave me an amazing backrub using a sequence of scented oils that sent me into aromatherapeutic bliss, while she told me about the wondrous effects of her creations, especially her rejuvenating “pussy cream” which was apparently a godsend to many middle-aged women. I left her booth with a large bag of exotically scented bottles and jars, a sweet, invigorating odour clinging to my skin, and feeling better than I had in ages.

Many of the movers and shakers of Canada’s Eastern marijuana movement were present, including Linda Scharfe of Simply Hemp; Mike Ethier of Tarzan’s Hemp in Sturgeon Falls; Jean-Charles Pariseau, one of Canada’s first legal medical pot users; representatives from the Bloc Pot, Mike Foster from Ottawa’s Crosstown Traffic, and others whom I was too stoned to remember.

The live entertainment ranged from reggae to a fellow who mixed pot-comedy in with his tunes… he sounded funny but our french is a bit rusty so we’ll never know for sure.

There was a joint rolling competition, which featured a variety of strange and wonderful spliffs. The winner, as determined by the applause level of the crowd, was our very own Marijuana Man, whose pot-leaf special was five joints in one, and smoked surprisingly well. The runners-up included a special “dutch tulip” with an attached “igniter joint”, and the classic lengthy joint, which measured about sixteen inches.

Marijuana Man donated his $200 gift certificate prize from Hemp Quebec to the Montreal Compassion Club, which prompted a number of other donations and made club coordinator Caroline Doyer very happy.

The event was not promoted in advance, the $100 tickets were sold through Hemp Quebec, only to those people deemed worthy of an invite. This wasn’t snobbery, it was caution. With well over three pounds of pot and two-hundred people in attendance, the event could have been ripe pickings for any overzealous police. There was a slight undercurrent of potential raid and disaster which ran through the evening, adding the electric thrill of doing something slightly dangerous and getting away with it.

The best buds

Pot snob that I have become, I was not overwhelmed by any of the entries. I was of course well-baked by the evening’s end, but none of the samples cut through the others, and none had an extraordinary fragrance or taste. I always complain about the unflushed, “chemmy” taste of most Amsterdam bud, and I found the same thing with some of these offerings.

My favourite was the bio Thai Experience. It was described as a blend of various Sativas, and it burned clean, with a smooth smoke and a subtle, earthy flavour. I voted with the crowd on this one: the Thai took first prize in the bio category. Another nice bio was the Willow, another Sativa with long, thin buds. It had with a piney scent and an elevating, ethereal effect.

The hydro Deep Freeze and Free Tibet were also very enjoyable, both being hearty Indica/Sativa hybrids with a rich taste and stasis-inducing highs. I preferred the Deep Freeze for its more uplifting buzz, but Marijuana Man won my $20 betting on the Free Tibet, which took the top prize for hydro with its heavier indica stone.

One weed weakness might be Quebecois drying and curing techniques. Apparently most growers dry their buds by laying them on sheets of light cloth in a room with the windows open, exposed to the the cold, dry air. Buds are considered dried and ready after a week, yet I believe slower drying and further curing is necessary for a bud to fully ripen and achieve its optimum flavour and smoothness.

I suspect that in some cases the buds may have been rushed for the event, which is understandable when trying to coordinate the cycle of living things to an event deadline. I expect that there will be more entries at the next event this year, as more people hear about the competition and want to enter their best buds.

Congratulations to Alain, Hemp Quebec all those who worked to pull off this amazing event. I look forward to seeing this cup become a Canadian cultural institution.

Vive le cannabis libre!

? Hemp Quebec: 5757 Monk, Montr?al, Qu?bec, H4E 3H2; tel (514) 761-0781; fax (514) 761-5140; website: www.hemp-quebec.com
? Yolanda: tel (819) 838-1563.

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