WORCESTER — Thousands of people gathered at a convention hall Saturday for the first-ever Harvest Cup, a friendly if spirited competition among home-growers of marijuana that doubled as a convention for the burgeoning cannabis industry and its consumers.
The event, taking place this weekend at the DCU Center, came the same week that marijuana regulators began drafting rules for the scheduled July start of recreational sales in Massachusetts. Many participants Saturday were overheard debating various policies and what they will mean for the small-scale cultivators at the heart of the Harvest Cup once millions of dollars of investment funds pour into the state.
But mostly, the Harvest Cup was a chance for enthusiasts, businesspeople, and the merely curious to mingle before their world bursts into the mainstream next summer.
“A lot of these people are coming out of the shadows today,” said Peter Bernard, president and director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Growers Advocacy Council, which organized the event. “This is a safe place to be public about marijuana. Here, it’s normal, like it should be across the culture.”
More than 50 marijuana home-growers submitted 73 samples of their best buds to the Harvest Cup throughout the fall, using an elaborate “blind” drop-box system that kept their identities hidden from the 21 judges. The entries were scored on aroma, taste, ash, cure, effect, and appearance on a scale of zero to 10.
Prizes were awarded Saturday for the best edibles and concentrates, but the prize for best flower — the premier category — and an overall winner will be announced Sunday.
Bernard declined to release the identity of the top grower early, but said the judges were unanimous in their verdict.
“It was a no-brainer,” Bernard said. “Nice dense little nugs, nice trichromes, obviously hand-trimmed, not machine-processed — everything about it was exceptional.”
Vendors at the event showed off glassware, trimming machines, gadgets for making pot-infused edibles, plus lights and other cultivation equipment. Also represented were medical marijuana dispensaries and laboratories that test samples of the drug for potency and purity.
Perhaps the star attraction, however, was a 100-foot-long joint. Containing 2 pounds of weed and assembled in about 100 hours by Beantown Greentown, a marijuana apparel company and cannabis-growing club, it snaked across more than a dozen long tables. A crowd of onlookers cheered wildly when it was unveiled from underneath a black cloth — at 4:20 p.m., of course, in accordance with a tradition of marijuana culture — then jostled to take pictures of the 100-foot mark on the measuring tape that had been laid alongside.
The joint was not consumed — the DCU center doesn’t allow smoking, and besides, even the best horn-player in the world wouldn’t have enough lung capacity to get a draw. Instead, 1-foot sections were given away to attendees who posted about the joint on social media.
An attempt by Beantown Greentown to have the joint certified as the longest ever by the Guinness World Records failed; the records organization is based in the UK, where marijuana is illegal, and declined to participate.
But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who helped roll it. Andrew Mutty of Beantown Greentown said the company is gearing up to enter the recreational market as a licensed cultivator, and stunts like the giant joint will help it build its brand.
“I was 15 when I dropped my first seed,” Mutty said. “The chance to become a professional craft cultivator and make some really high-end products — that’s the dream.”
While some attendees fit various stoner stereotypes, others said they don’t even use the drug.
One, 39-year-old Melva James, can’t smoke pot because she works for MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory defense research center, which is federally funded. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and so she is forbidden from using it.
However, James, who holds masters degrees in chemistry and computer science, said she has found herself increasingly fascinated by the business and science of the plant — especially its medical uses. She wishes her mother had been able to access the drug while suffering from breast cancer, and she described grilling vendors about use of the technology in their devices or laboratory protocols and equipment.
“I’m surprised by how many people are coming to it from a place of love and compassion, for themselves and other people who are in pain,” James said. “There are a lot of people who are not just potheads. The stereotype is Shaggy from “Scooby-Doo,” and Shaggy’s here, but everyone’s not Shaggy.”