Tim Blake grew up in the 1970s, when people smoked cannabis from stems, to leaves, to buds, to seeds. Television and films were rich with people representing the cannabis industry, such as the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, whose hippie-themed shows and films made them posterboys of the cannabis culture. For Tim, it was his earliest jab at being an entrepreneur.
“Our family moved from Sunnyvale, near San Jose, to Capitola in Santa Cruz County, when I was a freshman in high school. Santa Cruz was the second-most liberal county in the country at that time—1971—and cannabis was everywhere. I started out buying kilos of compressed Mexican and Colombian weed and selling them at high school every Friday. Outside of working a newspaper route and doing small odd jobs, my career began as a cannabis dealer at the age of sixteen.”
In retrospect, Tim was a hyperactive child. Cannabis calmed him down in his teen years, keeping him from being given Ritalin or other pharmaceutical drugs.
“Years later, I had my first of three rounds of skin cancer that metastasized into my bone. I have many serious health issues. I now use the wellness tincture from Rosette (formerly Treatwell) daily. Harry Rose is the brilliant man behind that product, which I believe is by far the best in the world. Because of my personal health challenges and the miraculous healing and benefits I’ve received from using cannabis medicinally, I’ve gone from being the one who smoked everyone under the table to being an evangelist for folks like Mitch, Harry and the rest of the best dedicated medicine makers.”
Today, he is the founder and producer of the Emerald Cup, which is the longest running, naturally grown outdoor cannabis competition and celebration of the fall harvest in the world. Tim grew up enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of local county fairs. The idea came about when he and a group of friends started talking about organizing a cannabis-themed county fair.
“Well, this year’s Cup will be our fifteenth,” Tim told me. The first year, we only had a couple of dozen entries, and the first- and third-place winners didn’t show up to pick up their prizes … and we were just grateful for not getting busted. At that time, we were the only cannabis competition and consumption event in the country.”
The Emerald Cup started out with only a flower competition. At some point, local hash makers asked to be allowed to have a hash contest. Back in the day, solventless concentrates and rosin were still in their earliest stages. Nowadays, they have become developed into a new market. Tim decided to add the medicinal category two years later. Cultivators in The Emerald Triangle pioneered the finest adult-use cannabis strains and developed the cannabinoid side of the industry.
New categories have been added to the competition every year. As of now, those who wish to participate may choose from 27 categories. A bonus of getting their products known and gaining a bigger market has had everyone in the industry wanting to join. A state cannabis license is required for participants.
“Over the years of competition, one thing has held steadfast and true. The winners are always the finest cultivators and product makers who are dedicated to growing the highest possible grade of naturally grown flowers. The same folks often win or place year after year. Doug (back in the old days), Derrick (he prays over his plants as he waters them by hand with a bucket), Brandon, Jackson, Maya and Harry Rose, to name a few. They all treat their farms and craft with reverence and are beautiful souls. The judges only get a sample—no name, strain or identifying marks (at least until recently with the new laws and regulations), and yet the cream always rises to the top. We wouldn’t allow cannabis products that were produced with hydrocarbons until this year. We felt it was still technically illegal (everything was), but the penalties for making hydrocarbon products were stiff, and as long as people were using butane out of cans (nasty) and making their materials in unsafe conditions in garages and other non-bombproof buildings, we had to stand down. Now that this is a legal aspect of our industry, with proper safety rules, we’re welcoming in our brothers and sisters who toil to create the finest shatter, live resin and sauce.”
The prizes began under $5,000 but have gone up to $80,000 for this year. Tim is ecstatic to announce that glass artists Banjo and Darby will be showcasing their crafts once again.
“We’re going to honor Bob Snodgrass for his tremendous contributions in the field of stained glass. The best of the best will be working overtime to churn out one-of-a-kind stained glass creations worthy of honoring our winners. We spare no expense. These pieces are museum quality, and the artists are the finest in the world.”
The Emerald Cup keeps a tradition of giving back yearly to local organizations in need through the Emerald Cup Charities. Cannabis-related nonprofit organizations are given booths during the contest. The Emerald Cup also advocates social justice and supports the release of all nonviolent prisoners who are currently incarcerated for cannabis offenses. Tim has maintained a personal correspondence with a cannabis felon who is serving a twenty-three-year sentence for transporting cannabis interstate.
“Eric McCauley left the Cup ten years ago and disappeared. I finally heard about his plight and have been in contact now for years. Everyone should choose a cannabis prisoner and take the time to write them. It means the world to them to receive a simple thing, such as a regular letter.”
Tim also makes every effort to support cannabis-related events, but he emphasizes that they should showcase the industry in a positive light. The Emerald Cup is also creating a nonprofit cannabis-events trade organization to help establish best practices. “Red Light Management and Starr Hill Presents, my new minority partners in the Emerald Cup, are world-class event producers. We’re happy to lend our expertise to other producers so that cannabis events maintain a good reputation in the business. This helps everyone.”
This year’s competition will include speakers and panelists on various topics. There will be comedy shows, musical acts and more art. The Emerald Cup will be bringing together the finest cultivators and product makers and elders of the industry. Tim aims to teach the rest of the world about regenerative farming, organic living and opening one’s spirituality, leading to self-empowerment. He believes it’s all inside of us. He believes in the fortitude of the cannabis community, which has been unfairly stigmatized by the War on Drugs. The competition is a way to show the authorities that cannabis is a natural healer and is here to stay.
Tim concluded, “It’s been a challenging and trying year for everyone in our industry. We’re finally completely legal in regards to cannabis. But as we are all aware, this newfound and hard-fought victory has brought in a whole new set of challenges—excessive taxation, too many restrictive regulations, the high cost of entering and competing in the legal marketplace—it’s all been a tremendous burden on everyone concerned. Whether you’re in cultivation, manufacturing, dispensaries, product making or distribution, the difficulties have been overwhelming. Just producing this year’s Emerald Cup has been a giant intricate puzzle to piece together. The upside is that we’re not being hunted on the roads anymore. We can freely transport our products, patients have much greater access to medicine, and the public is now more comfortable interacting with cannabis. Over time, things will settle down, and they’ll rewrite many of the poorly thought-out laws and regulations, and in a couple of years the folks still standing will be in good shape.”
For everyone who is excited for this year’s competition, The Emerald Cup can be reached through their website, theemeraldcup.com or their Facebook page.
TIM BLAKE ON THE 15TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL’S NEWEST HIGHS