Cultivation Classic is already one of the world's biggest annual organic cannabis competitions.

Now, it's aiming to be something more.

Over the past three years, the event—organized by Willamette Week—has judged nearly 400 unique cultivars of organically grown cannabis from across the state of Oregon. In the past, the judging involved ranking samples on a scale of overall enjoyment.

For the upcoming 2018 edition, the questioning is going deeper, getting into specific details of each strain's effects on body, cognition and mood.
It sounds simple. But according to Dr. Adie Poe, that information gathering is critical.

Poe is co-founder of the Portland cannabis research organization Habu Health and a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis. She presented the keynote address at last year's conference about her research into how cannabis can treat opioid addiction, and was impressed enough to formally partner with Cultivation Classic this year.

The Potlander spoke with Poe about the competition, and how the feedback gleaned from it can help researchers like her better understand one of the planet's most complex plants.

Potlander: What role does Cultivation Classic play with regards to your research?

Adie Poe: My line of research has always focused on the interaction between opioids and cannabinoids, stuff like oxycodone, morphine and cannabis. I'm also extremely interested in cannabis pharmacology writ large—how this extremely complex plant interacts with extremely complex cannabinoid systems within the human body to produce unique effects for each individual. These hypotheses are really where Cultivation Classic comes into play. Rather than in previous years, where we've asked judges, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you like this particular sample?" we're going through and really quantifying the experience—how it affected their bodies, their mind, their emotions. If we can really understand what plant characteristics produce what effects, then we'll have a basis for consumers to have a better experience as time goes on.

One of the goals of Cultivation Classic is to create a new cannabis taxonomy. Why is that important?

Everyone knows what kind of beer they like because we have different classes of beer. No one knows what kind of cannabis they like because we don't have a classification system. We used to have two groups of plants, indica and sativa, which we know are a complete myth. They were based in the morphology, or the shape of the plant, and that doesn't have anything to do with pharmacology, which is how the ingredients in the plant affect you. What we'd like to do for the consumer is build them a scaffold or template to say, "I like this kind of cannabis." We don't necessarily know what that's going to look like yet, but it is an exciting endeavor to be able to develop a framework for saying, "This constellation of chemistry reliably produces this kind of experience in a human being."

Once that framework is in place, how do you see that spreading through the consumer base?

I would love for it to be a grassroots movement. I'd love for consumers to be walking into their dispensaries saying, "Why don't you have terpene results available for me?" I'd love nothing more than for the consumers to be the most educated person in the transaction.

Can you speak about how your work with Cultivation Classic might help with your research into opioid addiction?

The National Academy on Sciences and Medicines did a pretty exhaustive review of all the studies conducted since 1999, and they definitively concluded, lo and behold, that cannabis is safe and effective for adults that have chronic pain. But it doesn't say what kind of cannabis, what the potency of the cannabis is, what the ratio of cannabinoids to terpenes are. I think there's absolutely the potential for a particular constellation of cannabinoids and terpenes that'd be the best kind of treatment we can get for daytime pain relief without intoxication, or the best kind of sedative for nighttime pain relief so people can sleep through the night. All these possibilities are definitely here. It's just a matter of characterizing what works for these folks. What's in that tincture that allows them to sleep through the night? What was in that flower that allowed them to get through the work day without feeling too intoxicated?

What do you see as the major problems within the emerging cannabis industry?

My biggest problem actually isn't with the industry itself, it's with cannabis's standing as a Schedule I substance. When Schedule I goes away, we're gonna get rid of a lot of the issues, like the 280E tax burden on these small businesses, not being able to ship products across state lines, not to mention the research barriers, the ability to conduct research about cannabis that has not just to do with the addictive effects but also the beneficial effects.

Do you see scientific research as the path toward federal decriminalization?

I think decriminalization on a federal level is only going to happen when those decision makers up at the very top get over their fear-based thinking and start looking at the will of the people. Jeff Sessions clearly doesn't care about the evidence at all. More evidence and more research is not going to convince these people to change Schedule I. You can throw people numbers all day long, and they can't get over their generations-long, fear-based belief system—and I don't blame them. That's what they were raised thinking. This drug was demonized for so many generations in this country. But it's just not the case.

How would you pitch Cultivation Classic to the average cannabis consumer?

What I've seen from judges' feedback so far is that even th seasoned stoner has so much room for optimization and improvement. You may be incredibly experienced, have great tolerance, have consumed many different types of cannabis, but using a rigorous process to truly track the different kind of things we're tracking—it's an entirely different ball game.

Cultivation Classic 2018 is May 12 at Revolution Hall. See cultivationclassic.cc for tickets.