Celebrity judging the Cannabis Cup

Jorge Cervantes at the grow seminar.Jorge Cervantes at the grow seminar.A feeling of excitement began to overcome me when the wheels of the DC-8 touched the ground at the Schipol airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands. This trip to Amsterdam was more exciting than most. I had been selected for a once-in-a-lifetime honour, to be one of 11 celebrity judges at the 11th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup.
What does a Celebrity Judge do at the Cannabis Cup? First, you are asked to sign a waver that allows High Times to photograph you and use these photographs in their magazine, on video and in future publications. To Celebrity Judges from the US, signing this waver is similar to standing up in Hitler’s Germany in 1942 and saying “I’m a Jew and proud of it!”

I put my John Hancock on the document and shook hands with Celebrity Judge Milton Mezzrow, son of the jazz great Mez Mezzrow, the first man to be arrested in America for cannabis possession. With this formality complete, the cameras started clicking and the strobes flashing.

Baggie of Dutch bud.Baggie of Dutch bud.A Great Year to be a Judge

1998 was a great year to be a Celebrity Judge. Ten seed companies (Dutch Passion, Flying Dutchman, Greenhouse, KC Brains, Nirvana, Paradise, Sagamartha, SAGE, Sensi and Soma) did their best to impress Celebrity Judges with their finest frosted buds. By the look on all the judge’s faces when each company presented them with their newest varieties, I’d say they were impressed!

Flying Dutchman, Holland’s newest seed company, gave us three new varieties, packaged in a traditional Dutch wooden shoe.

What KC Brains lacked in packaging was made up with quality smoke.

Paradise Seeds presented three new varieties in rigid plastic containers with a magnifying top that gave extra size to the buds.

Soma Skunk from Seeds of Courage.Soma Skunk from Seeds of Courage.Sagamartha’s three varieties were packaged in clear plastic bubbles, attached to a necklace. Difficult for serious stoners to lose a necklace!

Dutch Passion’s T-shirt and poster was accompanied by 20 “all female” seeds. We were later given samples of the smoke back stage.

SAGE Seeds single sample of an elegant bud was presented in a unique magnifying tube that seemed to double the size of the resin crystals.

Nirvana’s and Soma’s single samples were presented in simple shrink wrapped plastic bags to keep buds as fresh and at peak potency.

Maple Leaf Indica from Sensi SeedsMaple Leaf Indica from Sensi SeedsSensi Seeds presented Celebrity Judges with their three 1998 Cup entries and three past entries. The impeccable foot-long spears were presented in a commemorative Sensi Seed box along with a lighter, pipe, papers, scissors, and finger hash!

The Greenhouse’s samples came in a large briefcase packed with the eight varieties they offer and two killer pieces of hash, plus a super high quality RooRs bong with “The Greenhouse” etched in the side, and accessories.

Our mission as Celebrity Judges was simple in theory: test the smoke and choose the best overall seed company. We had more than 200 grams of the best smoke in the world in front of us. Just one toke of any one of these top quality buds would get the average smoker stoned for hours. There was enough high quality bud to get me stoned for 6 months, and we were given only four days to make a very important decision, pick the best all-round seed company.

In addition to ranking the seed companies first, second and third, we also had a full schedule. We toured the two most advanced and biggest breeding facilities in the world ? Sensi Seeds and Greenhouse ? conducted seminars, were honoured guests at numerous official and unofficial parties, plus there were hundreds of friends, fans and coffee shops to visit! Who says stoners have no energy?

Ice from Nirvana Seeds.Ice from Nirvana Seeds.The Incredible Cannabis Castle

This was the first trip for most of the judges to Sensi Seeds’ Cannabis Castle and their high-tech, computer-controlled breeding facility. I always love to see the look on American’s faces the first time they see greenhouses and huge grow rooms full of the world’s finest marijuana. Even the most seasoned stoner walks around in a trance when they see what is possible in the Netherlands, a free country. They just can’t believe their eyes! The judges shot roll after roll of film to prove to the folks back home the Castle really exists.

Head breeder Alan Dronkers showed the crowd around his home at the Cannabis Castle where Sensi Seeds started. The top two floors of the hundred-year-old mansion are living quarters, while the large daylight basement is dedicated to Alan’s pet projects. Several state-of-the-art greenhouses are packed with seeded females.

The large greenhouses are illuminated by natural sunlight and 400-watt HP sodium lamps attached to photo cells. The lamps turn on when the intensity of the sun diminishes during the early morning and afternoon hours. An opaque shield automatically turns day to night during long summer days to achieve a 12-hour flowering photoperiod to ensure seeded females flower on schedule. Heat is generated by propane furnaces in each greenhouse. This heat is further contained by thermal blankets that automatically cover the inside of greenhouses on cold nights.

For high-tech growers, the tour of the main seed production facility (location is secret) is more impressive than the facilities at the Cannabis Castle. This huge discreet warehouse, located behind a menagerie of security measures, is packed with computer-controlled rooms of world-famous Sensi Seed weed.

Each of the breeding rooms is packed with up to fifty 400-watt lights. Sensors attached to a central controlling computer monitor air, nutrient, light and water levels 24 hours a day. Each room is given the exact amount, down to the nanometer, of what they need to achieve optimum growth. After a tour of the Cannabis Castle and Sensi’s breeding/seed production facility, it is easy to see why they always finish near the top of the company list.

Homegrown Fantasys new strain, not named yet.Homegrown Fantasys new strain, not named yet.Greenhouse #1

The Greenhouse breeding and seed production facility is managed and controlled by Scott Blake, head breeder. Scott’s passion runs deep; it permeates his soul. You can see it in his eyes, in his smile, hear it in his speech, and most of all you can feel it when he passes you a hash joint rolled with tobacco which keeps the hash burning. I made the mistake of sharing one of his Shanti Baba hash joints with him before dark. I must admit, I was wrecked for the next few hours, can’t remember how many. The joint was so strong, I had auditory and muscular incongruencies. Yes, it made me stagger and my words were jumbled. It was similar to a religious experience when the Shanti Baba God descends and whacks you on the noggin, which makes you speak in foreign tongues.

The Greenhouse crew consists of Arjan, savvy pretty boy and front man; Nevil, the original guy that got together seeds from the strongest varieties in the world and started the original Seed Bank; and of course, Scott, Mr Shanti Baba himself. The celebrity judges had a short discussion and smoke out to decide which was the number one seed company? The Greenhouse!!

Upon close examination of the Greenhouse buds with a 30X hand-held microscope, the resin glands of two Greenhouse varieties, El Nino and Super Silver Haze, were as frosty as Christmas on the North Pole. Simply unbelievable! Looking at these two varieties was like looking at a close-up of the Milky Way. In fact, I remember a good Italian friend remarking: “I have a difficult time seeing any green at all when I look at these buds with a microscope.”

A fine specimen of the White family, from Greenhouse.A fine specimen of the White family, from Greenhouse.Overwhelming Buds

What about the other varieties? There were more than 25 different official entries in all. There were some great ones, such as Jack Herer and Jack Flash from Sensi Seeds, The Real McCoy and Pot of Gold from the Flying Dutchman, Sensi-Star and Yumbolt entered by Paradise Seeds, Soma Skunk by Soma and the entire White Widow family from The Greenhouse are some of the varieties that I definitely remember as being sweet, tasty and stony.

Nevil’s Haze (Greenhouse) which was a touch leafy and with a few seeds, had something special. This variety definitely has Thai at its base, was one of the most soaring, sativa highs I have experienced in years.

There were so many great buds and so many to choose from that it became overwhelming for at least one of the Celebrity Judges (I’ll never tell who), who made hash out of the entire selection of great buds. OK, it was after this person had checked out the samples, smoked them and made a decision on first, second and third. The judge confided in me: “it was just too much, there were too many kinds there and there was so much to do that I had to have some order to it all. That’s when I knew I had to make hash out of everything.”

White Shark on display, from the GreenhouseWhite Shark on display, from the GreenhouseShared Wisdom

Representatives from other marijuana magazines, Essensie (Netherlands), Ca?amo, Cogollo and Mundo High (Spain), Hanf and Grow! (Germany), Weed World and Red Eye Express (UK) and of course Cannabis Culture (Canada), were all there covering the event. In fact, several of these representatives proved to be invaluable helpers when it came time to test the samples and render opinions.

The authoritative opinion of Sean, a Canadian seed expert and marijuana connoisseur who once worked for Marc Emery Seeds, emphatically confirmed my beliefs on numerous accounts.

I was also in charge of putting on two days of official Grow Seminars, and Sean kicked off the first seminar with an overview of indoor growing in BC, Canada.

Sean was the logical choice to tune the mostly American crowd into the BC grow scene. He has spoken to literally hundreds of growers in BC and all over the world about their specific indoor growing situations, experience that proved invaluable to the audience. I could see stoners hanging on his every word, taking notes and waiting to roll joints until he was done. You could have heard a seed drop when Sean spoke.

The three other speakers included Jose Gallego, grow editor from Canamo Magazine, who kept the audience spellbound with a slide show of more than 100 different outdoor Spanish gardens. Arjan from The Greenhouse and Alan Dronkers from Sensi Seeds shared the stage for the last seminar about Dutch high-tech breeding and growing.

Salute to High Times

The Cannabis Cup is the number one marijuana event in the world. It has been going on for 11 years and will continue forever. I am proud to be a part of this event and I take my stash cap off and salute High Times and their organization for their courage to stand up and work to change the draconian cannabis laws in the United States and the rest of the world.White Shark on display, from the Greenhouse

* Jorge Cervantes is author of the classic grow guide, ‘Indoor Marijuana Horticulture,’ and the brand new ‘Marijuana Outdoors: Guerilla Gardening’ and ‘Marijuana Indoors: Five Easy Gardens.’