We visited Portland for the first time last year, to attend the inaugural Cultivation Classic. That event revealed an unparalleled caliber of thoughtful innovation and dedication, and we left feeling profoundly inspired.
The second Cultivation Classic took place on May 12, 2017 at Revolution Hall, where cannabis consumption was not allowed. The lack of smoke in the air made for a more academic and businesslike atmosphere, and though there was a bar serving drinks, with so much fascinating information being dispensed by the panelists, we rarely left our seats in the auditorium.
We were particularly keen to hear Dr. Ethan Russo speak about “making cannabis safer and better.” He emphasized the potential health risks associated with smoking, insisted that “smoking of anything will never be FDA-approved as a pharmaceutical,” and added that these risks are reduced but not eliminated with vaporization. Dr. Russo warned about shockingly high levels of dangerous pesticides detected in cannabis sold at dispensaries, pointing out that none are considered safe for inhalation and some are known carcinogens that can also cause seizures as well as contributing to honeybee colony collapse disorder. He noted that cannabis plants absorb heavy metals present in soil and that this should be monitored for public safety. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Russo discouraged dabbing, explaining that in addition to the likelihood of increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, too much THC slows the heart and deprives the brain of blood, causing sudden fainting that could result in serious head injury. Finally, he raised concerns about vape pens containing propylene glycol and glycerol. These substances are considered safe for oral consumption, but when heated they produce formaldehyde, which, when inhaled, is more likely to cause cancer than cigarettes.
Dr. Russo went on to outline a cannabis typology system wherein cannabis is considered one single polymorphic species with three types: high THC, mixed THC/CBD, and CBD-predominant. Rather than referring to “strains” as either “indica” or “sativa,” we should identify “chemovars,” or chemical varieties, according to their cannabinoid and terpene content. Displaying lab test results for different chemovars, he delved into the specific aromas, flavors, effects, and medical applications associated with each cannabinoid and terpene profile.
In a second keynote, Dr. Adie Poe shared compelling research about the neuroscience of opioid and cannabinoid interactions. Other highlights included Jesse Dodd’s impassioned exhortation to build living soil and regenerate our ecosystems, accompanied by a slideshow of stunning garden photography. Adam Smith introduced the Craft Cannabis Alliance, newly formed to define and promote authentic craft cannabis in Oregon, with a focus on clean product, sustainable methods, ethical employment practices, local ownership, community engagement, and continued commitment to ending the war on drugs. And Jeremy Plumb spoke about the Open Cannabis Project’s work to protect cannabis diversity by establishing existing genetics as public domain in order to prevent them from being patented by wealthy corporations.
At the awards ceremony, winning flowers in nine competition categories were announced along with unique insights from Mowgli Holmes as he located each of the winners within the Phylos Galaxy. There was also an Innovation Award presented by the Resource Innovation Institute, recognizing Cascade High and Pilot Farms for their commitment to sustainability.
We helped judge the THC outdoor flowers, so were eager to find out the results in that category but disappointed to discover that while our favorite sample, Purple Hindu Kush by High Valley Organics, came in second, the winning entry, Blueberry by One Family Farms, was not included in our judging kit.
We have been critiquing cannabis flowers for many years, but this was our first time judging a competition. We approached this task by ranking our 13 samples according to aroma and visual appeal, then smoked a tiny bit of each and assigned scores for aroma, flavor, and effect, and then retested the remainder of each sample in both a Firefly vaporizer and clean glass pipe in reverse order from lowest to highest preliminary score. Having striven to be meticulously fair, we were aghast at the realization that any judge who scored their entries more or less generously than average would unknowingly skew the results.
The Cultivation Classic was designed this way to ensure that judges would have plenty of time to evaluate each sample. But perhaps a better process would allow for multiple rounds of judging, so the highest scoring entries could all be compared together in the same group. And to make it more interesting, I’d like to see what would happen if the categories were condensed from nine to three, with indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse flowers all competing against one another.
Regardless of how the competition evolves, we’ll be looking forward to the next Cultivation Classic, which will almost certainly continue to epitomize the sophisticated fusion of art and science that makes Oregon’s cannabis culture so special.