“One thing I can tell is you’ve got to be free,” sings John Lennon in the Beatles classic, “Come Together” – in the only line that actually makes any sense.
I felt free on a recent visit to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, to attend the second HomeGrown Cup. Hosted in a secret venue and organised by The Stoned Society, all soft drinks, tea and coffee and food were free for participants, thanks to the event sponsors – alcohol was not free, but tolerated.
What I experienced that night was a step beyond the feeling of freedom that comes from walking into a coffeeshop, ordering some cannabis and smoking it there and then. I was also free from having to deal with money.
It was the weekend before Christmas and I had a gloomy two-hour drive across Belgium Flanders to the Dutch city of Eindhoven. The sky was deep grey as I cut through the drizzle. The visibility was so low I couldn’t make out the upper blades of the wind turbines that lined the highway. The only thing that was clear was the fact that I was not going to be seeing any sunshine this weekend.
This is not atypical of what you can expect in December in Northern Europe. Thankfully, I was heading to what could quite possibly be the best office Christmas party ever; the common employer of those attending was The Cannabis Plant.
Here’s the deal… To attend the event you have to enter. The entry fee is an undisclosed (but within tolerated limits for home growers) quantity of dried flowers, concentrate or hash. As a participant you also become a judge. Entries are submitted, consumed, judged and awarded all within the same day. There are four categories: Outdoor (which includes greenhouse), Indoor, Concentrate and Traditional Hash. You get to be a judge in whichever category you enter.
I was attending the event with veteran cannabis journalist Derrick Bergman, who was entering his crop of “Doede Special”. We entered the venue after midday and people had already arrived and were chatting around the tables that filled the space. Derrick, who was helping the guys with the event, set about his work. I plonked myself down at a table with two English guys, who turned out to be from a city not far from where I grew up, and an Eindhoven local, who went by the name of Marcel. The Brits had entered the Indoor Cup with their aptly named Disco Biscuit – a zingy strain that started a party in your nose after smelling. After placing in every Cup they had entered, this year they were understandably confident they’d do so again.
It was Marcel’s first ever Cup and he had entered a strain named Royal Cheese that he had grown in his back garden. He didn’t seem to care if he won or not and was just stoked to be there.
Given that the bar was free I was happy to pop back and forth for the drinks in return for having people to chat with. Lunch arrived in the form of mushroom soup. Then each set of judges were called to gather the samples they were to test.
It turned out that there were more entries than had been expected for the Indoor category – 27 in total. Everyone’s bag had the sample they had submitted removed to avoid erroneous voting. The poor guys I was sitting with starred with trepidation at a stack of 26 sample pots of high potency indoor cannabis. At this point I was kind of relieved I had not entered. This looked like work. They had just over five hours to rate the look, smell, taste and effects of each. Like any other compassionate human being would, I offered to help out.
A little while later, Marcel’s selection of outdoor strains arrived. There were ten entries in that category – once divvied up everyone had seven or eight pots. Marcel had seven. This didn’t look like work, this looked like a rather pleasant way of spending a Saturday out from the rain. Again, I offered my assistance and we began looking at and sniffing the selections.
Getting it right
I’d brought my favourite portable vaporiser and noticed that the experts from Vaposhop – one of the event partners – were manning a table of incredible looking devices. Having loaded up my Firefly 2 with a radical looking purple bud, I asked them how best to use it. It turned out I had not been getting the most out of it. Since moving on from my spoon pipe, I had been treating my vape as a pipe. I was instructed to rethink my whole approach. I’d waited until it was hot and drawn away; I was short-changing myself. I was to heat the vape, draw a little warm air through the oven to melt the trichomes, give it a moment then activate again and draw a second time as the trichomes got vaporized from the heated air passing through the oven. This I did, and boy could I taste and feel the difference.
By now I was close to where Derrick had settled. He was working his way through the selection of outdoor strains he was to test – again I offered my generous assistance. It was one of the rare occasions where people seem to be relieved when others asked if they could try their weed. The one condition – you report back on the taste and effect.
As if by magic a plate of delicious vegetarian Indian food arrived and we tucked in. The cacophony of spicy flavours was immensely satisfying. I was one of the lucky ones sitting in a comfy chair as the others sat around tables completing their score cards.
After dinner I had a chance to soak up the convivial atmosphere and snap a few pictures. The Cup was busy enough to create a great vibe, yet not so busy that you had trouble moving around, ordering drinks or – in my case – taking photos. I had been briefed to be respectful of people’s privacy whilst snapping away and didn’t engage my flash.
Growing is illegal in the Netherlands and the last thing I would want is for any of the nice folks I was celebrating the plant with to get into trouble as a result of my documentation.
The testing was done and the jovial participants were awaiting the results. I was invited by my new British friends, who were representing UGORG (Underground Originals), to sample some of their UGORG Cookies Shatter by Stone Circle. Being a dab virgin I was a little apprehensive, but I’d jotted down my notes and taken enough photos so I took them up on their generous offer. We tweaked the setting on my Firefly to concentrates (very hot), inserted a dab pad, added a grain-of-rice-sized ball of shatter and fired it up.
It was tremendous. I could feel the thick vapour in my mouth with the wonderfully concentrated taste of the Girl Scout Cookies strain. I’d expected it to completely wipe me out but instead, I had full function of all my faculties topped with a crisp, clean high.
We finished a few more and I made my way back to my comfy chair to take in the announcement of the winners. Introducing the master of ceremonies, one of the crew said that they “just wanted everyone to smile and be happy on the way home”. They achieved that for sure, by now everyone had the look of content folks who had been hanging at their mate’s house all day.
The MC took to the mic to say a few words and present the prizes to the winners. He reminded us that we were all here “thanks to the plant” and we should all stand up for our right of having “freedom to farm”.
I’m happy to say my new friend Marcel came in third in the Outdoor category. He looked ecstatic. Unfortunately, UGORG didn’t place in the crowded Indoor category. On further analysis of the scores everyone was placed so close to each other there was really very little in it.
Derrick just missed out on a prize, too – he came 4th in the outdoor category. The plant he grew out on his balcony was actually started by Doede de Jong – a biological marijuana grower from Friesland in northern Netherlands – and had been displayed on the stage of Cannabis Liberation Day 2016. Each year, Doede donates his best looking plant for this purpose and Derrick – as event coordinator – gets to take it home. I’ll make sure I look out for the next plant on Cannabis Liberation Day 2017 in Amsterdam’s Flevopark. This plant had a tale to tell.
One other contender – who did not even know they were contending – was Bedrocan. Their dried cannabis flowers, that are available to Dutch medical cannabis patients under the strain name “Cannabis Flos”, had been included in the Indoor category to be blind judged by the connoisseur grower/judges in the Cup. They came 20th out of 27.
Small is beautiful
It was an interesting experiment, although Bedrocan’s remit is to produce a consistent, safe, pharmaceutical grade product, as opposed to the other contenders who were aiming for a product that delights our nose and tickles our taste buds – although I’m sure it’s also very safe. This is great example of why recreational and medical cannabis are two very different beasts and should be treated as such. It’d be like slipping a pharmaceutical grade alcohol into a whiskey tasting cup. That wouldn’t fair too well either.
I think whoever’s idea this prank was had definitely made their point. If you want soul – keep it small. Derrick put it like this: “There’s no other industry where you could produce a product at home that is better than something you would buy in a shop”. Home growing is a craft and the culture around it should be preserved.
The prizes were a fun way to wrap things up. But the day was so good you couldn’t help but feel everyone was a winner just for participating. It was the ideal way to celebrate the plant and everything about it was perfect.
A bunch of like-minded individuals came together for a harvest festival in a warm and cosy atmosphere and enjoyed amazingly tasty food and shared wonderful homegrown products, tips and tricks. I don’t see how the bigger, commercialized Cups will ever be able to capture this magic.
As I was reflecting on the weekend during my drive home, “Come Together” played on the radio. I had a beautiful epiphany of what we can achieve when we do just that.
Weed Maps, Spliff Seeds, Amsterdam Genetics, Dutch Passion, Greengo, VapoShop and Sensi Seeds.
Coordinated by The Stoned Society