A New England Cannabis Cup and Competition Primer

Zach Taylor of Bountiful Farms with his Cultivators Cup trophy from this year

With so many green events these days, we thought we’d help fill in your calendar for the next year

First, a disclaimer—we’re not sure if this list is exhaustive, but we’d like it to be. So before trashing us on social media for not knowing as much about cannabis cups as you do, drop us an email at editorial@digboston.com. Then trash us.

If we have forgotten anybody, that may be because it has been one heck of a couple of months on the Mass cannabis front, and frankly, we have been perpetually stoned around here. From the Boston Freedom Rally and Boston Cannabis Week to Croptoberfest and the HighLifeStyle Show to upcoming events like Hexpo and the Harvest Cup, it’s been hard to keep up. Yet we soldier on.

While there is an increasing number of events, for now we just wanted to focus on those which involve the submission and evaluation of cannabis products for the purpose of determining whose trees are tops. These competitions take various forms, and are judged by different standards, but basically all follow the cup format introduced by High Times in the 1980s.

Remember, there’s always next year too, and we wouldn’t want anyone to miss a party that somehow dodged their radar. Grab your calendar or at least prepare to make some mental notes; in Mass as well as some of our surrounding states these days, our cups runneth over.

NECANN Canna Cup

Already the largest cannabis event in the region, with everything from industry awards to a crypto component to a showroom floor that takes two days to traverse, NECANN also features a cup competition at their Maine and Boston conferences. Last year’s Boston categories included: THC Flower, CBD Flower, Edible, Topical, Non Solvent Concentrate, Solvent Concentrate, Vape Pen, and Pre-Roll. As a testament to fairness and the diversity of competitors, no brand or grower tends to steamroll over all the others, though in their most recent Boston cup in March Commonwealth Alternative Care and Northeast Alternatives made impressive showings with two and three medals apiece, respectively.

In 2022, between Maine and Massachusetts, this cup had more than 350 entries. For 2023, the NECANN Canna Cup will be split onto two tracks for each category—one for licensed growers and dispensaries, and another for home growers. 

The Harvest Cup

This year’s Harvest Cup will take place in two weeks at the DCU Center in Worcester and is an absolute must for people with interest in any side of the industry—growers, consumers, etc. For categories, judges are currently evaluating the best: Sweet Edibles; Savory Edibles; Beverages; Syrups, Sauces, and Condiments; Topicals/Therapeutic; Topicals/Cosmetic; CBD Flower/Extract; CBD Edibles; Tinctures & Capsules; Concentrates; and Flower, which this year will be “broken down into six categories based on terpene-dominant profiles as provided by lab results: limonene, humulene, pinene, linalool, caryophyllene, and myrcene.”

“Our original goal was to find the best cannabis and cannabis related products in New England and to bring the cannabis community together,” event organizer and the Harvest Cup Director of Communications Jenn Blakeney Borjeson said in a recent Dig interview. “I feel we have done a good job with that and continue to learn, grow, and change each year.”

Boston Freedom Cup

A newer cup that just had its first incarnation at the 2022 Boston Freedom Rally on Boston Common, this competition is hosted by the Canna Maniacs podcast. 

Massachusetts Cultivators Cup

This year’s second-ever Massachusetts Cultivators Cup was held in September in Worcester. 

As they put it, the “experience was designed to include great food, good drinks, high-grade connections, top-notch entertainment and an accessible way for adult consumers to become informed judges of what the industry’s top cannabis producers have to offer.” While the “Cultivators Cup is entirely centered around celebrating, and building community for cannabis culture” for “enthusiasts, consumers, and supporters of cannabis.”

Zach Taylor, the general manager of cultivation at Bountiful Farms which took home the Best In Show and Best Grass In Mass awards at both of the first two Cultivators Cups, said of the competition, “We are humbled and honored to have won this coveted award once again, and we couldn’t be more excited. This award is truly a testament to our entire team at Bountiful Farms who pours our lives into growing the best, highest-quality cannabis possible. We live, eat, breathe, and sleep cannabis at Bountiful Farms and this blind competition is truly all about the love and the art of growing.”

High Times People’s Choice

Cup originators High Times started this contest during the pandemic in which their team and partner operations collect samples from participants and distribute them as kits. Members of the public can purchase these boxes and give scores and feedback through an online portal. The system has been overhauled and streamlined over the past two years.

For their second such cup in the Bay State, High Times took in input from 2,200 people judging 175 product entries (255,000 grams of cannabis total) from 55 brands. The categories: Indica Flower, Sativa Flower, Hybrid Flower, Pre-rolls, Concentrates, Distillate Vape Pens, Non-Distillate Vape Pens, Edibles: Sativa Gummies, Edibles: Indica Gummies, Edibles: Chocolate non-gummies, Edibles: Fruity non-gummies, Edibles: Beverages, Topicals + Tinctures + Capsules.

“The people’s choice model is more democratic—it’s not just a small circle of homies who know homies, growers, and everyone else like that,” Mark Kazinec, High Times director of events and competitions said. “We have all these other people who want to be judges and their opinion counts too.”

The Headies: Vermont Growers Cup

Started in 2018 by the awesome folks at Heady Vermont, the mission of the Vermont Growers Cup is “to showcase and celebrate Vermont’s most talented cannabis cultivators and product makers” with a competition that “culminates in the announcement of the winners” at a kickass awards party. Their most recent event in April featured “music by members of Dopapod, Moe. and Aqueous, all entries on display, giveaways and raffles galore, and plenty of craft, food, and drink vendors.”

High 95

This new Maine event recognizes “the East Coast’s leading growers,” and in 2021 took in more than 380 entries in the following categories: Indoor, Sun Grown, Organic, Greenhouse, Hash, Rosin, Solvent, THC.


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