Celebrating Cannabis Culture: A Journey Through the Australian Cannabis Cup’s Legacy

Cannabis competitions like the High Times Cannabis Cup have been happening all around the world for years. They’re an excellent opportunity for growers to show off their crop and put their money where their mouth is so to speak. As with many things in life however, the best cannabis competition out there (in FAB’s humble opinion) is homegrown.

The Australian Cannabis Cup has been held alongside the Nimbin MardiGrass since 1995 and has only gotten bigger and better with each year since. Earlier events involved a lot of locally grown bush but now you’ll now find a multitude of high-strength strains, oils and extracts, all guaranteed to take attendees to new heights.

While we’re a while off from complete legalisation in Australia, the Australian Cannabis Cup offers an important glimpse into what we could all be enjoying one day. The 2023 Australian Cannabis Cup was held between the 5th and 7th of May, and was by all means a smoking hot success. Our friends at the Craze Collective were in attendance and put together a little retrospective of the event:

The judging process has always been the cornerstone of the Australian Cannabis Cup. Entries are all anonymised and assigned a number to remove bias. The judging panel then selects three of their favourites based on physical characteristics like the look and the smell. Afterwards, they sample the three entries and pick their most favourite. This isn’t a stage that everyone manages to complete, especially considering the quality and strength of the entries, but that’s all part of the fun.

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Day 1 of the 2023 Cup was all about the buds. Taking out the winner of the Best Bud Overall was Key Lime Pine, which was grown outdoors by Dr. Healsgood. Dr. Healsgood thanked his soil microbes for his win, which he reckoned helped him beat out many other hydroponically grown strains. Day 2 had two rounds, one for extracts and the other for hash. Dr Healsgood was the winner once again for the Extract Cup with his Muller Madness x Black Widow La Nina. Winner of the Hash Cup was the Sticky French Guy, whose Blueberry Muffin x Wedding Cake Indoor Bubble Hash beat out all the other entries by a country mile.

The 2023 Cup was the culmination of decades of hard work from its organisers, who have been tirelessly working to find Australia’s best weed since 1995. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile taking a look back on previous Cups to see how the event and cannabis in Australia as a whole has evolved.

The Cannabis Cup in the 2020’s

It was business as usual for the 2022 Cannabis Cup, which was very similar to the 2023 event:

The 2021 event was shortened to a one-day event due to the ongoing pandemic. You can see at the start of the video that the organisers had to be covid-safe:

Regrettably there was no 2020 Cup due to the initial pandemic lockdown, proof that the universe has a particularly cruel sense of humour at times, considering it was set to be 4/20 for an entire month that year.

The Cannabis Cup in the 2010’s

When you look back at Cups from the late 2010’s, you definitely begin to see how the then recent medical legalisation increased the strength and variety of the entries:

This period is where the Cup’s current three round format took shape. The addition of these rounds definitely made the judging process more challenging to finish for the panel considering how strong some of these concentrates are:

Compare that to Cups from the early 2010’s, where there was a separate round for outdoor and indoor grown buds and then a round for hash but not extracts:

The Cannabis Cup in the 2000’s

The Cannabis Cup in the 2000’s was much closer to its original format. No hash or extracts here! All the entries were all from domestic growers, many of which grew their crop outdoors.

When you look back on the 2008 event, you definitely do wish that legalisation was on the presidential election platform at the time:

The First Australian Cannabis Cup in 1995

Going all the way back to 1995 really lets you see how far the Cup has come in the decades since.

The 1995 event was a very local affair and was held alongside one of the earliest MardiGrass’. Back then, the MardiGrass had only recently grown from its spontaneous conception as a protest against police harassment. The news program 60 Minutes even did a story on the Cup and the MardiGrass Festival that year.

Today, only the most conservative of Australians would be shocked by what happens at the Cup and at MardiGrass. But back then, there was definitely a level of mystery, intrigue, and morbid fascination about both. Nimbin “ferals” were new arrivals to the town, making the older generation of hippies look tame in comparison or so the story goes. In reality, the way the people of Nimbin lived and the work that Cannabis Cup organisers and participants did was really quite prescient.

Nowadays, the “alternative lifestyles” of the Nimbin ferals would be considered odd but mostly harmless. The use of hemp in clothing, considered a novelty back then, is now a widespread practice. And yes, weed has also gotten better in this country because of events like the Australian Cannabis Cup.

The Cup has given growers the opportunity to experiment, hybridise, and innovate in order to grow better buds. We’ve gone from an indica/sativa binary to having an almost endless array of strains and derivative products to choose from. Events like the Australian Cannabis Cup have definitely contributed to the culture and helped make users a lot more discerning. With the Cup’s 30th Anniversary approaching, it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves next and what the winning entries will bring to the table.


Author: Quintin

Combining his lifelong love of journalism and marijuana, notorious local menace Quintin Low is passionate about shining a light on the stories that grow from the industry and culture.

Combining his lifelong love of journalism and marijuana, notorious local menace Quintin Low is passionate about shining a light on the stories that grow from the industry and culture.
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