WORCESTER — Less than a month after the debut of legal marijuana sales in Massachusetts, thousands of consumers from around New England descended on this city Saturday for the second annual Harvest Cup — an industry convention, product competition, and celebration of cannabis culture.
The large, diverse crowd roamed the floor of the DCU Center, where the two-day event is taking place. As many as 2,000 people attended on the first day, and as many as 5,000 could pass through by the time it ends on Sunday evening, organizers said.
The number of competitors and categories in the namesake Harvest Cup competition also grew, with 60 judges evaluating a wide variety of marijuana flower, concentrates, topical creams, edibles, and vaporizer cartridges.
“The standard is really getting higher now that more people have heard of us,” said Jeremy Borjeson, one of the Harvest Cup’s cofounders. “You have to have a pretty good game, no matter what you’re growing or making. No new grower is just going to come in and win this thing — it’s all experienced people.”
Competitors, Borjeson added, “come from every aspect of life. We have one guy who was a cop for 27 years and now he grows some of the best weed you’ve ever seen in northern Maine.”
Among the dozens of vendors were several state-licensed medical dispensaries, each preparing to enter the nascent recreational market. Others included manufacturers of CBD creams and advocacy groups that lobby for equity in the marijuana industry.
Tyeshia Cowans, the co-founder of Mother Flower, was chatting with customers about her firm’s CBD products, sourced from hemp grown in Maine. Cowan said her company is trying to find real estate where it can open a licensed marijuana growing or retailing operation, but progress has been slow.
“Even trying to find a commercial kitchen that won’t say, ‘Hey, you can’t make CBD stuff in here,’ is difficult,” Cowans explained.
Still, she noted that the Harvest Cup, where vendors were showing off jars of legally-grown cannabis, “would never have happened a couple years ago.”
“This is a huge thing,” said Cowans, who left behind jobs as a security guard and teacher to join the marijuana industry. “You’ve got lawyers, you’ve got doctors, you’ve got teachers — all kinds of people in this space.”
Kyle Camyre, a 35-year-old Palmer resident, took the prize for best outdoor-grown marijuana. His champion entry was a highly potent strain dubbed Green Venom, a five-way cross of different parent strains. He grew the crop outside his home and studio, where he makes and sells elaborate glass beads, checking on the plants frequently as he worked.
“I did it organically with natural soil and rainwater, and the buds grew really long and tall,” Camyre said. “It has a very sweet, pungent taste, and the high is very cerebral.”
Armed with the title of best outdoor grower in Massachusetts, Camyre said he plans to apply for a job at Altitude Organic Corp., which is working to build a licensed cultivation facility down the road from his home in Palmer.
“I took it really seriously this year,” he said, cradling his trophy, “and somehow it happened.”