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California State Fair set to be the first to open up judging to cannabis


This summer at the California State Fair, cannabis farmers will get their first-ever chance to win the state’s top agricultural prize.

Cal Expo and the State Fair, which fall under the California Department of Food and Agriculture, are making a historic change by opening the door to judging cannabis.

CapRadio’s Randol White spoke with the person running the event, Brian Applegarth with Cultivar Brands.

Interview Highlights

I assume this did not happen overnight. What did it take to get the state on board?

It took years of discussions and education and talking through what was right for the first year, and that really started with the live plant in the ground. And what is that and what are the chemical compounds in that plant? What does it mean for medicine, to wellness, to adult use? And also discussions around the history of cannabis and hemp for the state of California through a cultural lens.

I understand the judging for this will be far more scientific than some of the other AG products at the fair. How so?

It's 100% science-based awards. We have an amazing lab partner with SC Labs, and this science-based testing was the obvious, right approach.

What will the main categories be?

The three divisions are guided by light source, because those are the three license types that exist in California. So you have outdoor, mixed light, and indoor cannabis cultivators, and there's thousands throughout the state. And then when we look at the categories, we have 10 categories. Seven of those are really guided by what we call terpenes, which are the essential oils of the plant. And one of those terpene categories is actually called a code dominant terpene category because in cannabis, it's truly about something called the entourage effect, which are looking at all of the chemical compounds found in the plant and how they work holistically together, and what that means from a medical wellness and an adult use standpoint. And then the three other awards are for cannabinoid acids or acidic cannabinoids, which are those cannabinoids that are found in the raw plant.

What will people going to the fair see? Will there be plants on display?

That's to be determined. There's a lot of regulations and laws around cannabis and how that shows up at events. We're currently still finalizing what is and isn't possible at the state fair itself. We are definitely looking at programing and speakers and information — and of course, bringing people forward that go above and beyond the awards that tells the history and the culture of cannabis in California, which is a story of not just the hippies, but the back to the land movement and the beatniks before that, as well as patients and patient access and the role that cannabis played on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic at the height of it in the 1980s. So all these conversations are important, including BIPOC communities and legacy communities in the war on drugs.

The only other state in the U.S. that seems to be doing something similar is the state of Oregon, where at the Oregon State Fair, they've had cannabis plants on display, but they weren't part of state fair judging. California appears to be the first by judging the crop alongside all of the others. What does it mean to have California breaking ground like this?

It's a historic milestone. Having California, the world's fifth biggest economy, really celebrate this as an agricultural crop and most importantly, really give it a platform to be educated around. Here we are in 2022 and it has its own place at the California State Fair alongside wine, cheese, craft beer and olive oil. And it's exciting.

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