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Emerald Cup gets the Willies

Willie Nelson joins Gogol Bordello, Lyrics Born and Jay and Silent Bob — plus the best weed suppliers in the world — at next week’s annual Emerald Cup in Sonoma.

Jay and Silent Bob are the newest big names added to the lineup for the Emerald Cup 2018, as Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes will re-record their schtick in a new act called “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old.” Those jokers join an all-star lineup that already consists of Big Giant, Gogol Bordello, and Sound Stem Sector 9 at the 15th Annual Emerald Cup (December 15-16, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds), the largest and most respected outdoor cannabis competition in the world.

It’s so big and respected that Willie Nelson is also on its way to come again.

This year’s marijuana mega show also features appearances from Berkeley rapper Born Lyrics, New Orleans icons de Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and crabs DJ Cut Chemist, among many more. Emerald Cup founder and longtime Mendocino cannabis cultivator Tim Blake says: SF Evergreen how he books all these great acts every year.

“They are all excited about receiving jury packs full of cannabis samples from the competition,” he says.

That competition, a run of about two dozen prestigious Emerald Cup awards, awarded in categories from Best in Show Flower to Best Edibles, Topicals, Concentrates and Tinctures, began in 2003 as a secret underground competition between outlaw Emerald Triangle growers. Now it’s a public top bazaar that attracts 30,000 stoners. And yes, you can buy and smoke the products in competition.

“We have a legal license to allow consumption to take place,” says Blake, “and for legal sale of cannabis and cannabis products.”

The only other event that has enabled on-site consumption in the legal cannabis era is the High times Cup, but that event is a tour franchise, not a homegrown event. And before that event, the most recent Northern California permit was denied, demonstrating how difficult it is to get that precious on-site weed smoking permit.

Fat old festival goers may wonder what the problem is, considering we’ve been smoking at cup events for years. But the new recreational cannabis laws are a lot stricter for events, because literally anyone over the age of 21 can participate. Under the old pre-2018 medical marijuana ID system, anyone could enter as long as they had their card.

Just last year, Emerald Cup doctors lined up to issue and sell medical marijuana cards—cards that would only be useful for three weeks until adult use laws came into effect on Jan. 1. The price of doing cannabis events has gotten much steeper since then.

“We had to add a few hundred thousand dollars to the budget just to pay our lobbyists and to cover all the extra costs of producing a legally compliant event,” Blake said.

But the Emerald Cup didn’t need lobbyists or stacks of permits to get this year’s guest of honor, Willie Nelson. It is his first ever appearance at a major cannabis festival.

“We are extremely proud to announce that Willie Nelson will be joining us to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Blake. “Willie has kindly offered to allow us to permanently change the name of the award to the ‘Willie Nelson Award.’ ”

This year’s Emerald Cup caps off a chaotic 2018, a well-deserved celebration for the cannabis industry that has survived a mixed bag of potluck.

“Whether you’re a grower, product maker, manufacturer or distributor, this year has been a tough learning curve with the new ways to do business legally and keep businesses afloat as you wade through all the changes,” Blake recalls. “It’s been an expensive and stressful situation to live through.”

If you want to taste the best of business?sses who survived these ups and downs, look to the green grass of Sonoma County for the Emerald Cup 2018.

The Emerald Cup, Thursday and Friday, December 15-16, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, $65-$499; theemeraldcup.com

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