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High Times cannabis cup judge kit
Photograph: Courtesy High Times

Chicagoans can help High Times find the best weed in Illinois

Aficionados can purchase "judge kits," sample the products inside and cast their Cannabis Cup votes.

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Written by
Zach Long
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When recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois last year, stoner-friendly publication High Times was quick to launch its annual Cannabis Cup competition in the state, allowing locals to sample (and vote for) their favorite products in a variety of categories. The People's Choice Edition of the High Times Cannabis Cup launches its second Illinois competition on Saturday, September 11—and you'll need to act fast if you want to snag one of the limited number of "judge kits" that are distributed by a handful of local dispensaries.

If you want to make your voice heard in this year's Cannabis Cup, you'll need to be prepared to pay for the privilege. "Judge kits" are available for between $99 and $279 (before taxes, unfortunately), collecting samples of products that fall into one eight categories: indica flower, sativa flower, hybrid flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vape pens, gummy edibles and non-gummy edibles. Each kit comes in a High Times-branded backpack and is accompanied by a card that gives the buyer access to the High Times judging portal, where they can rank and leave comments about their favorite products.

"We encourage people to be very detailed and thorough in their comments. Not just 'Oh, it got me high,' but maybe, 'I opened it up, I smelled sour diesel-y aromas, it was bright green fluffy buds with orange hairs.'," said Mark Kaz, who is the director of competitions and events for High Times.

Consumer judges are asked to rank each product based on its aesthetics, aroma, taste, "burn-ability," effects and—in the case of edibles—its packaging and labeling. According to Kaz, the products included in the "judge kits" represent about "90 if not 100 percent of all licensees in Illinois," including brands like Revolution Cannabis, Ozone, Rythm, NuEra, Beboe, Aeriz and Cresco.

Judges will have until November 7 to cast their votes, and the winners (and various runners-up) will be revealed during a digital awards show on November 14. Kaz says that High Times would like to revive its in-person Cannabis Cup events in years to come, but that won't be happening in 2021.

Want to cast a vote in the High Times Cannabis Cup? The biggest challenge may be securing one of the "judge kits." Just 2,000 of the backpacks filled with product are being sold at 12 Illinois dispensaries—and only three of those dispensaries are located within Chicago city limits: Ascend by MOCA River North 216 W Ohio St), The Herbal Care Center (1301 S Western Ave) and Zen Leaf West Loop (222 S Halsted St). Kaz estimates that 90 percent of "judge kits" were sold within the first day of distribution in 2020, and noted that "there are people camping out as early as 6am" in front of dispensaries to secure their kits.

While it may be difficult to snag a kit, those who do get their hands on the backpacks filled with cannabis products seem to reflect the changing demographics of those who partake in recreational weed.

"We're getting the OG cannabis connoisseurs who have been enthusiasts for 30 years and we're also getting the soccer moms who are trading out their glass of wine at the end of the night for a joint," Kaz said.

Check out the High Time Cannabis Cup website for more details about the competition and product pricing.

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