Australia’s Underground Cannabis Cup: An Inside Look at Down Under’s Dankest

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The cannabis scene in Australia has been given a bad rap for such a long time that destigmatising the plant and its use has proven to be a bit trickier than initially anticipated.

While many Aussie cannabis users may consider themselves “weed connoisseurs”, there are a select few individuals within the Australian scene that have been doing some amazing work with genetics and breeding.

What this has meant for the Aussie cannabis community is better access to good seeds and clones, an active cannabis concentrate scene, and unfortunately, an endless pissing contest over who has the best buds.

The Instagram hashtag #wedontsmokethesame was one that was often seen pinned to the posts of would-be kush connoisseurs, and it did nothing but further bridge the gap between the everyday smoker and the guy with access to a high-level plug.

Why seemingly “chill” potheads felt the need to gloat to their cannabis subordinates is a mystery to me as #notsmokingthesame did little to foster what little there was of an Aussie scene.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t, in fact, smoke the same. While some Aussie weed enthusiasts are rolling up kush and skunk, the vast majority of Australian cannabis users are dealing with a far-inferior product, chock full of chemicals and PGR’s (Plant Growth Regulators).

In my first post for Greendorphin Media, I emphasised the severe lack of quality cannabis in Queensland that was available to the average consumer. Unless you were growing it or knew someone that was, the weed you were getting was likely mass-produced and full of chemicals.

Next Generation Canna Cup

Recently, while scrolling through Instagram funnily enough, I stumbled across a private page that appeared to be the mecca for underground cannabis genetics in Australia.

The page was everything the Australian cannabis scene lacked: a united stance on fostering the local scene, compassionate breeders, and no tobacco spin in sight.

Earlier this year at Sydney’s HHI expo, I got the chance to sit down with the Next Generation Canna Cup‘s founder and commander in chief, who—for obvious reasons—we’ll refer to as Dan.

Dan and I met up on a number of occasions and talked all things Aussie bud, breeding the culture, and the logistics behind running an underground weed contest. Come and join me on the journey that is the Next Generation Canna Cup!

Next Generation Canna Cup

The Next Generation Canna Cup: An Inside Look at Australia’s Budding Cannabis Scene

Matt: Man, I guess the first thing I want to touch on is what made you want to risk everything to get this competition off the ground and up and running?

Dan:  The high-end weed scene in Australia has always sort of been there, it’s just never been very active. There has been good genetics floating around for years here but the majority of the weed being sold was either mass-produced chem-buds or seedy bush weed that your dad’s mate grew. I’ve been active on Aussie weed forums for years, and in that time I would every now and then come across someone who knew what they were doing and would strike up a conversation. I always had a vague idea for what I wanted the cup to be, and thought that it would be an awesome first step towards breeding some sort of homegrown Aussie culture where we could share growing tips and genetics and the like.

Next Generation Canna Cup

M: So basically a hub for breeders and growers to show off their stuff and share trade secrets? I love the idea man, it reminds me of the Cali hippies that lived in the “Emerald Triangle” who got the genetics scene over there going.

D: That’s kind of what I was going for. I’ve actually been to the Emerald Cup in Cali a couple of times and what I see over there is that the guys who are killing it in the seed market are the ones who were there from the early stages like where Australia is in right now. What the Next Generation Canna Cup is, is a chance for these growers and breeders to showcase their skills and get their name out so that when legalisation does hit, they’ve already cemented their place in the market. Also, we get a chance to raise some money for some awesome charities!

M: It all sounds so perfect, but surely organising something this unique isn’t all punching bongs and comparing notes?

D: It’s definitely a lot more complicated than just passing billies around and seeing which sample makes us the most stoned. To make something like the Next Generation Canna Cup happen, there has to be a shitload of logistical processes that have to be put in place to make sure that it’s safe and fair to all parties involved. For the sender, 9 times out of 10 the risk is minimal. For us to receive the 20+ packages of weed in a relatively short amount of time, on the other hand, is a huge risk and a logistical nightmare.

Next Generation Canna Cup

The Growers

M: Obviously there’s a bit of a pissing contest when it comes to who grows the best reefer, but you guys still surprised me with the number of entrants you got for the 2017 Next Generation Canna Cup. Did you know a lot of the people entering? Or how were those connections established?

D: A few of the entrants were people I knew of, but the majority were just people out there growing good shit and looking to see how their prized buds compared on the national scale. Trust is obviously a big factor in getting someone to send you, say, $200 worth of their hard-earned weed. People that grow cannabis aren’t necessarily known for being the most trusting of people, and for obvious reasons. You know, in this country people that are growing weed to the extent that some of these growers are could serve pretty serious time if they were to be caught. And that’s a reality these people need to live with every day. With that in mind, we have gone to additional lengths to ensure maximum transparency and trust within the comp among those entering.

M: Considering all that, you guys still seemed to pull it off last year with a bunch of people jumping in.

Next Generation Canna Cup

D: Yeah it was amazing the amount of support we received. We got between 15 and 20 entries across the three categories; flower, edibles, and concentrate, and we’ve been told that all of those entrants are looking to reenter this year. Last year we experienced some minor criticism regarding the procedures of last year’s cup, however, these were superficial at best. We are stoked to say that the overwhelming success of last year’s event is almost like the best evidence you could have as an argument as to why you should jump on board this year.

M: Some of last year’s entries that I got a chance to see on your Instagram page were unlike anything I’ve seen in this country or in Amsterdam.

D: There was some amazing weed sent in, I won’t lie. Some people were critical with the results, though, and were saying things to the effect of: “It’s not the best weed in Australia, my shit is way danker!” As an answer to that I just kinda think, well, if you want to prove it then just fucking enter? Like, it just seems like the obvious answer to me. And this year it’s even easier to enter as we’ve made it less cost prohibitive by removing the entrance fee. Why make a big deal of bitching and moaning when we presented you with the open invitation to be apart of it?

M: Nut up or shut up, right?

D: Exactly. Thankfully that was one of the only real criticisms we were receiving. The other thing people would say, thankfully infrequently, was that the comp was just some sort of ruse for the judges to get free weed. It’s like, look at who the judges are. Most of them have a pretty decent supply of weed. They’re not the kind of people who are gonna be chucking up posts asking for weed. It’s just laughable.

Next Generation Canna Cup

The Rules

M: Say you’ve just copped all the packages from the entrants and are looking to kick off the 2018 cup; what are the first steps that you have to take to get underway with the testing?

D: Well firstly we’ve gotta individually bring the packs to a mutual location, then break them all open and divide it into sample sizes for the judges. A sample size for flower is 1.5 g, 1/3 of a gram for concentrate, and generally, two or three edibles depending on how many were sent in. All of the judges will get assigned a pack full of random samples that have been attributed a number for testing purposes. In terms of rules for the judges, we ask them to only try out one sample per day as we feel that’s the best way to get an accurate interpretation of what the strain in question is all about.

M: I know that in Amsterdam and even in the States they just sit there smoking a bunch of different strains at a time, and I’ve always sort of wondered about how they manage to get a proper reading.

Next Generation Canna Cup

D: That’s exactly the point I’m trying to make with the one-per-day rule. Like, what’re you gonna do, just sit there and smoke 20 cones in a row until you green out?

M: Of like the best shit ever (laughs).

D: Right? We’d be sitting there with drool coming out of our mouths. So to make sure that the competition runs smoothly and all entrants get a fair go we had to make some sort of compromise when it comes to actually testing the samples that are sent in.

M: I follow a bunch of the judges on Instagram and saw how stoked they were with the competition and what it meant for the Australian cannabis community. Were they stoked to be asked to enter?

T: Of course man, I mean for an Aussie that’s dedicated a part of their life to something that’s illegal to even posses, seeing the best of the best that Australia has to offer and being able to consume that is a real honor, I’m sure. As I said, I’ve been to California on a number of occasions and have tried the weed over there, and it’s amazing! But to see stuff of a similar quality being grown back home is beyond awesome. While we’re on that note quickly I want to say that one of the best things about this competition is that all of the entries are 100 percent Australian. If someone were to bring in a cut of weed from the States that was better than anything being grown in Australia that’d be the shittiest thing you could do, it’s basically sandbagging. I mean, obviously, weed that’s been growing strongly for 30+ years is going to stand more of a chance than lesser-known Aussie genetics that may still be in the testing stages.

Next Generation Canna Cup

The Scorecard

M: Mate, there’s obviously heaps of different varieties of cannabis out there. How were you able to develop a scoring system that made it fair to all involved?

D: One thing I was pretty adamant about was developing a scorecard that was relevant to all three categories, this way even scores could be attributed across the board and it would be a lot easier to pick a winner. The scorecard we went with (shown above) uses a holistic scoring system to rate the sample and assesses four key elements, including: aesthetics, aroma, flavour, and overall effect.

M: So it’s not just about the bud that gets you the most messed up?

D: (Laughs) Nah man, the holistic approach makes it a lot fairer in my opinion. The strongest strain isn’t necessarily the winner. We’re looking for a bud that’s been treated with respect, that’s hopefully been grown organically, and has been nicely manicured. So basically like something you’d expect to see in a dispensary. Last year we had some amazing entries, both outdoor and indoor, and the prizes they took home means that they can continue to hone in on their skills and make crosses and blow us away again this year!

Next Generation Canna Cup

The Prizes

M: What sorts of things can the eventual winners look forward to? I know that all of the proceeds go to charity, so what kind of prizes can the people who enter expect?

D: All the prizes are cannabis genetics of some kind, and everyone that enters the Next Generation Canna Cup walks away with a prize at the end of the day so you can’t lose, really. The large majority of the prizes are seeds, and hemp seed is legal in Australia, man! Topical, edible, you name it! Just don’t germinate them. (Laughs). The prizes come directly from the overseas breeders themselves and they’re all in breeders packaging, so you know that there’s no shady shit going on. The proof is in the pudding really. We’re definitely very selective of the breeders we approach for prizes. We want to make sure that what we’re giving out is sourced ethically and will give the receiver some awesome genetics to play around with.

Next Generation Canna Cup

M: Establishing those connections with high-end US breeders and getting them to send you free shit doesn’t sound like an easy gig by any means. How were you guys able to establish those connections with the breeders? Coming from Sydney I might add.

D: A lot of it transpired just like the cup itself: through Instagram! I’d spend time finding out about who the best breeders were, followed them, and just tried to reach out to them from there. They could sort of see that I knew my shit, so to speak, and would reply to my comments and we’d just go from there. Most of the big breeders over in the US are just super nice dudes. There’s no egos or celebrity status or any of that shit. Another way we got onto some of these dudes was through The Pot Cast, which I host in my spare time. He had been interviewing some of North America’s best breeders, and we sort of brought the idea of the cup up with them and they loved it!

M: I guess for a lot of the breeders over there that have been growing legally since the 90s, it’s pretty cool to see the start of the high-end genetics scene over here. For them to be at the forefront of that and be behind you would be encouraging to say the least.

D: It’s been a lot of years of hard work putting myself out there and building up a bit of a following, but The Pot Cast has helped a lot as I said, and a lot of the breeders that would agree to be on the show and send us some genetics would actually help to get the word out! There’s nothing better than free ‘Word of Mouth’ marketing from some of Cali’s best weed growers. I love going over there and hanging out and seeing how their cannabis market runs. I can’t wait for a similar thing to eventually happen back home. Someone actually asked me a couple of weeks back if I’d want to move to the States, and I’m like: “I could’ve already like ten times over!” But I don’t want to. I want to help build the scene here at home.

Next Generation Canna Cup

Why All the Risk?

M: Obviously helping to grow our local cannabis scene is one of the major goals of the Next Generation Canna Cup, but the charity angle is one that I find intriguing. How’d you guys come across the idea to incorporate that?

D: So the whole thing sort of came up when I was looking to source some prizes. One of the guys we’d had on The Pot Cast was a highly-successful Californian breeder who goes by the handle “MaddFarmer Genetics”. The MaddFarmer, who has been living with a debilitating form of Lupus (SLE), uses cannabis to help deal with the afflictions of his disease. He is a huge supporter of the genetics scene in Australia and was one of our biggest donators, sending over 30 packs of beans for us to use as giveaways for the Cup. We decided it was only fitting to donate all of the proceeds to the MaddFarmer to help with further treatment for his SLE and were stoked to be able to raise over 10k for this great cause. This year we’ve gone with two causes that are a little closer to home. The first of these is South Australian woman Jenny Hallam (pictured above), who has been dealing with a bunch of cannabis offenses relating to the manufacturing of oil for patients. Jenny was responsible for helping over 100 patients obtain cannabis oil that helped to save their lives, and she’s currently on trial after being raided last year. I reached out to her about donating some of the proceeds of the Next Generation Canna Cup and she was really grateful.

Next Generation Canna Cup
Source: Blue Mountains Gazette

(continued)Another Aussie cause that we’ll be supporting this year is the Taylor family from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. The dad, Steve Taylor, is currently up on cultivation charges after NSW Police raided their house last year and found a bunch of plants that he’d been growing for his daughters. Both Morgan and Ariel Taylor suffer from Crohn’s Disease, which is an immune disease that has seriously affected their lives, causing them to lose weight rapidly, and has almost killed them both on several occasions. Their dad started juicing raw cannabis to help with their conditions and helped to bring both girls back to reasonable health, but has since been raided and is facing a hefty sentence. So we want to help them out as best we can with half of the donations as well. I’m a huge supporter of this family and reckon that they could benefit from seeing some of this money. Going off of last year’s successes, we’re pretty hopeful that we can raise a fair bit of money for these two causes and get these guys some help.

M: Being able to quantify what you guys have done is testimony enough. I know that you guys donate all of the proceeds to charity, but are there any significant investments that you’ve got to make to get an event like the Next Generation Canna Cup off the ground?

Next Generation Canna Cup

D: If you’re going to be doing something like this there are certain costs that you’re going to incur. That’s just a fact. Organizing everything to be packaged, and shipped, and moved around; that’s money coming out of my pocket. Some of the prizes come directly from my own collection. All the risks associated with running something like this. But it’s worth it to know that to know that we got some great genetics out into the hands of the right people that will help to continue to grow the scene. On a more personal front, it’s humbling to know that we were able to raise $10,000 for people that actually needed it. This year I’m hoping to do $20,000. That may be a bit ambitious, but hey. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than saying: “We as a community have done something good, and I can show you the results right here.”

M: Through cannabis.

D: Cool, huh? I feel like that’s a huge component and I want charity to be a pillar of the Next Generation Canna Cup each and every year.

Next Gen Canna Cup

On the occasions where I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dan and his mates in person and talk about the Next Generation Canna Cup, the thought that what they were doing was highly illegal never once left my mind.

Even though Canada and so many US states have flipped and now allow the regulated sale and distribution of recreational cannabis, in Australia, guys like Dan face the possibility of long prison sentences every day of their lives.

The typical Aussie cannabis user is a far cry from the Ice Break bong-toting bogan that most politicians want to use as the poster child for keeping weed illegal in Australia.

Events like the Next Generation Canna Cup are vital steps towards an Australia without draconian cannabis laws and will prove to be a further breeding ground for an active genetics scene within our own shores.

To some, it may seem like what Dan and his mates are doing is a crime, to me and likely many of you, he just seems like a nice bloke who wants to make some money for charity and enjoy some good cannabis in the process.

For the most part, cannabis use is so prevalent because it’s a relatively harmless way to unwind. For some of us, like the Taylor family and the patients Jenny Hallam was supporting, cannabis use becomes a lot more serious.

I writhe and seeth at the way these people are treated and have nothing but the utmost contempt for those who still choose to turn their nose to the clearly-defined medical benefits of this wonderful healing plant. There is nothing more egregiously wrong than keeping someone away from something that will allow them to feel like a normal human being.

At the end of the day everyone should be allowed to feel healthy and in control of their body without being labeled a criminal, right?

Matt Buchanan

Matt Buchanan

Cannabis advocate, activist and enthusiast. I've been studying Cannabis and its counterculture extensively since 2011, and am extremely passionate about medicinal cannabis due to my family's relationship with cancer. My role at Greendorphin involves interviewing members of the Canna-community and sharing their story, as well as writing some personal pieces. When I'm not blogging you can find me playing basketball, reading books and listening to East Coast Hip Hop. My favourite food is pizza, my favourite strain is Sour Diesel.

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