Bay Area Cannasseur: Cannabis lovers anticipate Emerald Cup

  • by Sari Staver
  • Wednesday November 6, 2019
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A judge examines cannabis at a previous Emerald Cup event. Photo: Courtesy Emerald Cup
A judge examines cannabis at a previous Emerald Cup event. Photo: Courtesy Emerald Cup

It's more than an hour away from San Francisco and tickets start at $100, but cannabis aficionados shouldn't miss the Emerald Cup, the longest running sun-grown contest, celebration, and farmers market in the world, according to its website.

The 13-year-old Emerald Cup, to be held December 14-15 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, is the gold standard for cannabis events, a place where you can smoke in public, see your buddies, hear industry experts and activists discuss the latest issues, and last but not least, taste and buy rare strains grown by some of the most prestigious farms around.

On a 200-acre indoor-outdoor facility, the cup includes hundreds of vendors as well as entertainment, and, of course, "tastings." You're allowed to bring your own cannabis or buy some there and enjoy it in designated spots throughout the grounds.

To find out why the event is so popular, we reached out to a handful of industry honchos, asking them what they like about it.

Elise McRoberts, director of marketing at Doc Green's Healing Collective in Berkeley and a longtime judge at several cannabis cups wrote, "MY FAVE. It's the BEST, REAL cannabis event ... You can actually buy and consume the best weed in the world! And then enjoy world class music, panels, art, and food (while high)!"

Jimi Devine, senior staff writer at Cannabis Now magazine, wrote, "It's not only the Oscars of outdoor pot, but certainly the most authentic cannabis event left. Especially in terms of being in touch with the farmers up north."

San Jose Mercury News science reporter Lisa Krieger wrote, "It's a terrific place to quickly learn about the latest trends in public policy, regulation, and land use."

Oakland cannabis entrepreneur Amber Senter, who is speaking at the event this year, wrote, "The best cannabis cup showcasing the best flower in the world, I wouldn't miss it!"

Sara Payan, public education officer at the Apothecarium and host of the podcast "Planted with Sara Payan," wrote, "Looking forward to going — it's the only cup I attend."

Kirsten Merit, account services director at EVB, an Oakland marketing and advertising agency that represents many cannabis brands, wrote, "Emerald Cup is not only a stoner's paradise (and yes, you WILL get a contact high), but also an amazing opportunity to see some incredible creative product branding in action and check out the newest offerings from all of the best cannabis companies in California. Lots of great cannabis swag, too. And did I mention the people-watching? A fun and enlightening excuse to visit gorgeous Santa Rosa."

Most city folks who I knew were going were wise enough to rent an Airbnb in Santa Rosa well ahead of time because at the last minute, everything was booked. I don't recommend the bus — it runs infrequently and takes more than two hours back to San Francisco. If you drive (limited parking is available onsite with shuttles to nearby parking lots), think about how you're going to navigate home.

Here's a rundown of this year's event:

First, the vendors — last year there were over 350 of them, including growers and producers of concentrates and edibles, and companies selling lots of cannabis-related products. You can purchase up to an ounce of flower or eight grams of concentrate, more if you have a medical recommendation. There is no limit on the purchase of seeds.

Music this year will include DJ Snoopadelic (aka DJ Snoop Dogg), Santigold, Steel Pulse, The Polish Ambassador, and the Expendables.

Sessions and talks are divided by category and include agriculture, policy, wellness, breeding and genetics, cultivation, farming, and culture. Among the more provocative panel discussions is one on cannabis and sex titled, "Igniting Your Spark Between the Sheets."

Cannabis celebrities who will be attending include entertainer and entrepreneur Tommy Chong, who will receive this year's Lifetime Achievement Award for spearheading the cannabis movement through advocacy of its benefits and accessibility. Hand-blown glass and psychedelic art will be on display and for sale.

Tickets are $105-$499 (for a weekend pass and special perks) and are available at or

People must be 21 or older. The event will be held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 15. The Emerald Cup also has a Facebook page with updates.

Update on cannabis tax law

After last month's column and article on Senate Bill 34, which exempts compassionate cannabis programs from state cannabis taxes when they provide free medical marijuana to people living with serious health conditions, a reader asked for details on availability. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill last month.

Most compassion programs had to shut down following the passage of Proposition 64, which required donors to pay tax on the products they donated, making it too costly for most programs to continue.

We asked Payan, who is in charge of the compassion program for the Apothecarium, how quickly she thought programs would restart.

"We are in the midst of figuring out the compassion program relaunch," she wrote in an email. "Two years pushing for this and now I'm deciphering everything to make sure we remain in compliance and we have a rich program that truly helps patients. The bill says the program will go live when track and trace is updated to support the program, or by 3/20/20, whichever comes first."

And Joe Airone, founder of Sweet Leaf Collective, which distributed over 100 pounds of free cannabis to low-income, terminally ill patients in 2017, said that his organization has been able to continue distributing free pot by fundraising to pay the taxes now required under law. Airone said that at the moment, the program is not accepting new patients.

Stay tuned for updates and a comprehensive list of available programs early next year.

Bay Area Cannasseur runs the first Thursday of the month. To send column ideas or tips, email Sari Staver at mailto:[email protected]