Hazed and enthused

Throughout history the Dutch have been astute, bordering on ruthless, business people. By the mid-17th century, the Dutch dominated overseas commerce and became the first great maritime trading nation. From spices to salt herring, for 400 years, the Dutch have effectively been the world’s biggest dealers.
I think about that every time I head to the High Times Cannabis Cup ? that and the beautiful ironies that abound. The Cup is essentially an American festival, organized by the descendants of Europeans who once fled the very same ground to find their freedom. With tails between their legs they slink back each year to taste the freedom they’ve never quite been able to muster at home.

The Dutch, on the other hand, enjoy the freedoms that they do because they don’t owe anyone any money ? much of which they made by dealing slaves to America, thereby making Americans rich enough to be able to travel. The Dutch meanwhile continue doing what they do best: selling you anything you want when you get there. I always thought it would be fitting if one year the High Times crew sailed a replica of the Mayflower to the Cup.

The Cannabis Cup began as a hippie celebration with icons of fairies, goddesses and wizards; designed to exalt our favorite plant in a place where it was safe to do so. While those airy sentiments still exist, they have steadily been replaced by big time Dutch Seed Co corporate interests. Hippies founding the Cannabis Cup was like baby chicks entering into a cock fight.

The Dutch have had 30 years of tolerance around marijuana and hashish. To them pot is like cheese, just another product to sell. “Yeah, it’s White Widow, how may grams do you want?” An extra 1,200 Cup judges in Amsterdam is barely noticed ? even if they walked around in a group. I’ve seen bigger contingents of Irish rugby players lined up in the Red Light District.

But what has made the Cannabis Cup valuable to the Dutch has been the seed sales. In the past, High Times magazine would dutifully report the winning strains and the rest of the world would scramble to get some. It was kind of like if Ford and GM had reported that Nissan and Honda had the best cars (that is, if Nissans and Hondas were illegal in the rest of the world). In other words, you could only get the winning seeds if you went to Holland. It wasn’t until Marc Emery starting selling seeds outside of the Netherlands that the outcome of the Cup became instantly accessible to everyone. Over recent years the proliferation of seed companies selling Dutch genetics has exploded. Do the math. Everyone is a big market.

Breakfast at Barney’s

The excitement around the Cup for me always starts when we touch down at Schiphol airport. I bade farewell to my seat mate who was on his way for the first time to Kiev on business. (Two days later, Kiev and the entire Ukraine exploded in a riot over shady election results. Shady elections? Resulting in riots? Bet that didn’t get much coverage in the States.) I, on the other hand, took a taxi into Amsterdam. It was 8:30 in the morning, so there was no place to be dropped but at Barney’s Coffee Shop to start smoking pot.

Barney’s wins the award for best coffeeshop year after year, largely because they serve a full American-style breakfast so everyone goes there. It is consistently the busiest shop in town and a great place to sit, smoke and have a constant flow of new people to talk to.

Amnesia Haze was my breakfast choice. The smoke was magnificent. Almost a full Sativa with a spicy, lemony flavor that teased my palate, and a rocketship Sativa high that crickled up the back of my neck. Yeah, I know, pretty poetic stuff, but the flight to Amsterdam is as long as I ever go without smoking, and this was more Sativa then I get at home in a month.

Now, sitting and smoking was about all I could do. My friends were supposed to meet me in half an hour, but it turns out that Barney’s has another shop at the end of the block where they were waiting, so the wait turned into two hours and more joints of Amnesia Haze than I can remember. One thing I learned: If you lose your friends in Amsterdam, just look two doors down.

An apartment had been arranged that was located right above The Blue Velvet coffeeshop, so when I dropped off my bags, the place was filled with the soft aroma of hashish. How perfect is this, I thought, but at the same time I realized that I would probably have to kill several drug dogs at the airport to get my belongings back home. Nevertheless, Amsterdam and the 17th Annual Cannabis Cup awaited.

Free smoke

This Cup will certainly go down as the smallest, having been reduced to only one venue, evidently because last year’s organizers forgot to pay for the rental space. So only half of the Melk Weg was available, and most of the vendors were housed in quarters across the street that required an elevator to get to. The vendors inside were not much better situated as they were required to share the space with all of the entertainment, making giving stuff away much less effective.

One thing I have concluded about these smoke fests is that promotion works ? a fact that anyone in sales already knows. At other conventions they call them hospitality suites, where prospective buyers are plied with alcohol and hookers. Apparently, you shop more if you’re drunk and have had sex. But at the Cup you get free lighters, stickers, keychains and (more so than in previous years) free smoke. All the vendors were puffing hard, filling your bag with trinkets and hopefully filling your head with the short term memory of their booth at voting time.

Free smoke is a good thing. Much of it was administered via the Volcano vaporizer, which was found amongst most of the vendors and in many coffeeshops. At one time there were 20 of them lined up across the stage. It’s not my preferred method of smoking ? you get really stoned but you don’t know why.

I have to say that the pot and hash were easily the best there’s ever been in Amsterdam. Haze was everywhere. Amnesia Haze, Arjan’s Haze, Jack Flash, Hawaiian Haze, Neville’s Haze, Mexican Haze, Mother’s Finest, Jack Haze, SAGE, Strawberry Cough and Ocean’s 12 Haze were just the ones I smoked.

They were all excellent, fully mature, keep-you-awake Sativas. They didn’t, however, vary in flavor much from each other and, with the exception of the Hawaiian and the Mexican crosses, they may well have all been the same strain. I’ve long suspected this to be the case. There are an awful lot of coffeeshops offering hundreds and hundreds of differently named pot and hash. It’s not like they are all producing this for themselves. I think they just buy the best they can and call it whatever they want.

Even knowing this, I still picked my favorite as the Ocean’s 12 Haze from De Dampkring, where portions of the movie were shot. Apparently, it was the preferred strain of George Clooney and Brad Pitt. I was smoking the same pot as two famous people who didn’t know I was alive. How cool is that?

The imported hash, on the other hand, is somewhat more diverse… or is it? Nope, the same rules apply. Not every coffeeshop is going to be in the hash smuggling business, so there would be a brokerage house where everyone buys from what’s available. Those who get there first get the best.

Full flavored, old world Afghani and Moroccan. Caramella Cream, Maroc Sticky, Royal Cream Gold. Call it whatever you want, it’s still the finest imported hash in the world. The Nederhash or locally made hash would be about as diverse as the pot that is grown and sold. Most of it is Ice-O-Later or bubblehash made from all of the delicious Sativas and is some of the purest hash you’ll find anywhere.

The newest cannabis genetics floating around are coming from the Sour family. New York City Diesel, Sage n’ Sour, Sour Diesel and MK Ultra are all exceptional strains with tangy citrus flavors and heady aromas. The sour thing is really different and I would think we’ll be seeing that wading its way into the main gene pool very soon. I smoked lots of each one just to make sure. A couple of other strains of note came from DNA Genetics with their LA Confidential and Cannalope Haze.

Beyond those, I can’t say enough about Haze crosses. Haze is the best and most widely used breeding Sativa in the world. I smoked almost nothing but Haze for 10 days, and I got stoned. It didn’t seem to matter what the time of day it was or what current state of exhaustion I was in, a couple of tokes of any of the Hazes instantly picked me up and woke me up. I’m beginning to agree with DJ Short when he says that Sativas are the real smoking marijuanas, while Indicas are best used for making hash.

There was such a wide array of choices of hash, but my favorite didn’t come from the Cup entries, or even from Holland for that matter. It was bubblehash made from Power Plant, coming from a good buddy’s personal stash. The trim was freshly frozen, which captures much more of the flavor, leaving a heady lungful of smoke.

We were also treated to some of the finest Afghani, Moroccan and Nepalese hash, coming directly from the families who made them. There was Indian Ice hash, 15-year-old dry sift and a guy with unbelievable beaded bracelets and necklaces made totally out of hash! If it wasn’t for the Sativas, smoking all of that can make for a pretty short day.

Surprise winners

Because of the possibility of making lots of dough off of this event, past Cups have been fraught with, shall we say, voting irregularities? Nope, it was out and out cheating. This year Cup organizer Steve Hagar promised that the voting would be “transparent” and nothing like that would occur again. Funny how Americans don’t trust a secret ballot anymore.

Sadly, the solution bordered on the ridiculous. Prior to the voting a tally board was erected listing only the top three in each category. How they had narrowed these down without a vote being cast was beyond me. As voting progressed, the votes were updated on the board. Voters had to be influenced by who was winning before they voted. This is like an impulse buy at the supermarket cash register. It also meant that there wouldn’t be any suspense at the awards ceremony, or would there be?

Two categories are not voted on by the 1,200 judges. These are the seed company Indica and Sativa competitions, which are voted on behind the scenes by celebrity judges. I saw no celebrities in the crowd and never did find out who or how many judges there were, but this was the only competition that was not influenced by promos and could not be skewed by the tally sheet. These are the strains that you and I can buy and grow ourselves. These are the mother of all awards, where legends are created.

The awards ceremony was packed to the rafters. After the award for best product, which was The Original Buddy, a very nifty magnetic tool for cleaning the inside of your bong; everything was Barney’s. Best Expo Booth, Best Imported and Neder Hash, Best Eggs Over Easy. But the money Cup was still ahead.

I found myself nestled between the Sensi and THSeeds camps for the announcements. These big time seed companies and multiple Cup winners were visibly anxious. Arjan and Soma were already backstage ready to walk out. The Indica Cup was first. Third Place: LA Confidential from DNA Genetics… much cheering. Second Place: MK Ultra from THSeeds… thunderous cheering. Winner: God Bud from BC Bud Depot… silence.

When everyone recovered from that jab, the Sativa Cup delivered an upper cut. Third place: SAGE n’ Sour from THSeeds. Second place: Arjan’s Haze from Greenhouse. Both received much cheering. The Winner: Love Potion #1 from Reeferman Seeds. It was so quiet you could have heard a seed drop.

It was a good thing there were still two more categories that only the Dutch could win or that party would have ended right then. Arjan’s Haze took the People’s Cup and Amnesia Haze from Barney’s took the overall Cannabis Cup. Phew, that was close! But still, two BC strains just won the Cannabis Cup. This had never happened before. I got the hell out of there as I was pretty sure I saw the flash of a cheese knife.

All of this came as no surprise to me. It really was just a matter of time before Canadian bud would make a showing like this. We smoke God Bud all the time and the Reeferman brought in some Love Potion#1 before it went to Holland. I can easily say that they both deserve the honors bestowed upon them. No matter how it all worked out, on this occasion, these strains were judged to be the best ? a fact that both companies and the growers can be proud of.

Beyond all of the hoopla around who won the Cup, there were equally as important tasks at hand, such as smoking as much as I could. It wouldn’t be easy to remember. Evidently I smoked 32 different strains of pot and hash.

I’m glad the Dutch are so competitive. They’re not the sort to give up without a fight. So in spite of how poorly the Cup is run, it means that they’ll all be back next year. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s entries were strains like God Haze or Love Potion #1 Haze.

As for me? I’ve got a Cannabis Cup going on at my desk every day and I figure if the Dutch think they’ve cornered the market in good bud, well, we’ll see them July 1 at the Tokers’ Bowl.

? Marijuana Man can usually be found behind the desk at Marc Emery seeds: [email protected]