I Tried To Rate All 100 Organic Strains Competing in the Cultivation Classic

The Cultivation Classic 100 was my Mount Everest, and I felt as though I’d trained my entire adult life for the ascent.

Portland's organic cannabis conference and competition, the Cultivation Classic, takes over Revolution Hall on May 12. The event will  bring together vendors, a dozen industry speakers and a flower competition for cannabis grown in Oregon using only organic nutritional supplements. No synthetic pest or disease management inputs or salt fertilizers allowed.

As cannabis critic at Willamette Week, which is presenting the event, and a soil-only cannabis grower, I was extra-curious about the competing flowers. As luck would have it, I was offered an opportunity not only to help judge the competition, but also to run the gauntlet.

Where other judges were given a dozen or so samples from one of nine categories—like Best Indoor THC or Best Greenhouse 1:1—it would be my job to try everything.

I was given 100 samples, give or take a few, and had just three weeks to taste the rainbow.

The Cultivation Classic 100 was my Mount Everest, and I felt as though I'd trained my entire adult life for the ascent. But it wouldn't be easy. If I was going to test all 100 samples in 21 days, I needed to do five a day.

And if was going to sleep, eat, meet writing deadlines, and perform the tasks of my day gig for five hours each morning, I'd have a maximum of six free hours a day for tastings.

Having recently tested and categorized roughly 50 strains shortlisted for picks in WW's Potlander magazine, I knew I'd need to go very small for each strain—just enough to get the flavor and characteristics of the high, but not so much that each strain would overlap with the next, resulting in compounded highs and skewed ratings.

I used the same Grasshopper vaporizer for every sample. This, I figured, would get close to standardizing my dosages, while keeping those dosages manageable.

I also resolved to keep a tight schedule: start my day job by 7 am, finish by noon, write until 3 or 4 pm, and then get to the tastings.

My first day with the samples was all excitement. So many smells! So many pretty flowers! So many tiny, numerically coded makeup jars filled with pot!

It was a level of variety I had never experienced, and I was a kid in a Day-Glo candy shop in downtown Nirvana.

The first week of tastings went off more or less without a hitch: I stuck to my schedule, did my tastings, and reassured my girlfriend and mom that I wasn't going to disappear into green plumes of smoke.

But it wasn't long before I started taking mornings off, writing at unscheduled times, and eating an irresponsible amount of Postmates delivery.

Weed naps also became the norm, because rolling the dice on anonymous jars of weed is unpredictable—the dots coming up indica or sativa, sleepy or activating, at complete random.

None of this was a surprise, though. It was pretty much like any weed binge, and exactly what I expected.

I was right on schedule by the 10th day, with 50 strains rated on taste, smell and effect, and I began to see snow-capped peaks through the clouds. But then things went terribly wrong.

What started as the sensation of "digesting an inflated balloon," as I had described it to friends and editors, ended several days later with a trip to the emergency room, at which time I hadn't slept or eaten in days because of severe stomach pain.

I was out of commission for nearly a week, recovering on a strict diet of soup broth, antibiotics and pain pills. As a result, I could no longer distinguish the defining characteristics of the samples I was testing, and I tapped out.

It just didn't seem fair to the growers or me to keep going, given that everything's a 10 when you're high as balls on pain meds, and that trading health for professional goals isn't worth it.

And so, through no fault of the conditions of my personal Everest, I lost my footing. I fell on my face. The powdery gusts blanketed me. I froze, and a comical block of ice formed around me like Encino Man.

But next year, I will thaw—and damn you, Everest, I will climb you.

The Cultivation Classic is at Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St., on Friday, May 12. Noon-8:30 pm. $25. Tickets at bit.ly/cc2017tickets.