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California’s Cannabis Community Reunites

The Ball felt more like a reunion than an industry event, and in many ways it was.

When the Emerald Cup was forced to shift to a COVID-safe, online-only webstream for its annual award ceremony and festival in April 2021, its absence left a gap in the California Cannabis community. 

After nearly two unbroken decades of the annual gathering, the community was suddenly without the communal measuring stick by which to mark the march of progress. Then, in December, founder Tim Blake and his daughter, Taylor Blake, staged a comeback. They reassembled their team to throw the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, a celebration of the bounty of the California Cannabis cultivation community. 

The Ball felt more like a reunion than an industry event, and in many ways it was. Old friends hugged each other tight after years apart. Collaborators who began working together remotely over Zoom during the pandemic connected face-to-face for the first time. A diverse, powerhouse roster of performers soundtracked thousands upon thousands of conversations, adding a music festival vibe to the proceedings.

In many ways, it felt utopic. The Harvest Ball was the type of party that had people standing in the hotel parking lot at 3:30 in the morning, getting yelled at by hotel staff to disperse, trying to find the next place to keep the vibe alive. 

In one of the most powerful moments of the weekend, Origins Council founder Genine Coleman took the stage, along with Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake and a number of California’s legacy farmers, in a show of solidarity and resilience. 

Standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a sign-carrying crowd, Coleman spoke about the importance of the small farmer, casting a rebuke of the regulatory structure and tax code that continues to decimate the legacy Cannabis community and the small towns it has built and supported over the decades.

“I think it was a powerful Emerald Cup for the legacy producing community,” Coleman said when reached for comment after the event. “There was a certain electricity in the air that is present when communities are organizing, unifying and preparing to move as one.”

Through her work at the Origins Council, Coleman seeks to educate and advocate on behalf of the Cannabis legacy farmers and the towns and communities their efforts have built over the decades. She sees events like the Harvest Ball as being crucial and hopes that the state regulatory bodies allow for such events to continue, and for farmers to ply their trade and showcase their products without harassment. As it stands, not even the Cup – a beloved institution that beckons enthusiasts from all over the world – could pass by without instances of what farmers say amounts to harassment at the hands of the Department of Cannabis Control. 

“I think we are somewhat surprised sometimes by our community’s resilience,” Coleman said. “In short, we know how to long game. I was reminded just how true that is this past weekend.”

The truth of that statement was evident throughout the Harvest Ball, as legacy farmers, many of whom face extreme financial hardship and difficulty in the face of mass consolidation and increasingly unfavorable regulations, continued to energetically share their passion with the attendees. Walking among the booths, connecting with farmers, extractors, old friends and new connections, Coleman and the legacy farmers’ chant from the stage rang in our ears: 

“We are California Cannabis!”

About Tom Bowers

Tom Bowers is in this with all of you.

This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of California Leaf.

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