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Pot enthusiasts line up for chance to judge the state’s best weed as Cannabis Cup kicks off

“If it’s the only activity that we really can do during this period, it sounded like a good event to get involved in,” noted one judge, who hopes the contest will serve as a respite from the monotony that’s followed the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Customers line up outside of the MOCA Modern Cannabis store in Logan Square on Aug. 25, 2020, the first day testing kits were available for Illinois’ first Cannabis Cup.
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Dozens of eager pot enthusiasts swarmed a Logan Square dispensary Tuesday hoping to get a chance to judge the dopest dope Illinois has to offer as the state’s first-ever High Times Cannabis Cup kicked off.

Unlike previous iterations of the competition, which have boasted raucous parties and celebrity judges like Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong, homegrown Kush connoisseurs will vote on the winners from the comfort of their own homes.

By late morning, a line was already stretching down Milwaukee Avenue outside MOCA Modern Cannabis, the only Chicago store selling kits of pre-selected pot products submitted for consideration.

For one judge, the contest offers a welcome respite from the monotony that’s followed the COVID-19 shutdown.

“If it’s the only activity that we really can do during this period, it sounded like a good event to get involved in,” said Amanda, a West Loop resident who declined to give her last name. “It’s something to do … when everything else is kind of canceled right now.”

Given that she’s recently moved away from drinking and has instead been using infused cannabis products to unwind, Amanda selected the testing kit that includes a range of edibles. Judges can also choose from six other categories of products, including three types of cannabis flower, pre-rolled joints, concentrates and vape cartridges.

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The testing kits, which range in price from $80 to $300, were expected to remain on sale until Sept. 23 at MOCA, Zen Leaf in St. Charles, the Rise stores in Effingham and Niles and the Beyond/Hello locations in Sauget and Normal. However, High Times Executive Chairman Adam Levin said the early demand has been so high that all the testing kits may sell out before the end of the first day.

“People have waited for hours to get the best of the best, and our partners are seeing one of the best days they’ve had since their grand openings,” noted Levin.

Pat Hannigan, sales manager for the downstate Anna-based pot firm Aeriz, said he’s excited to grade some of the best hybrid strains on the market, including some grown by his company. Though he works in the industry, Hannigan has had a hard time finding “a choice selection of flower” as the state continues to grapple with a supply shortage.

Pat Hannigan leaves MOCA Modern Cannabis after buying a kit of pot products he plans to judge as part of Illinois’ first High Times Cannabis Cup.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

“It’ll probably take me more than one run to really sit down and give my best reviews,” said Hannigan, of New Lenox. “I’ll probably sit down, look at the smell, look at the structure, check them all out that way.”

Pat Hannigan shows off the hybrid strains included in his testing kit.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

High Times, the vaunted pot publication, hosted the first Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam in 1988. The event has since became a staple of stoner culture, with cannabis icons like Wiz Khalifa and Method Man performing at recent incarnations of the bacchanal. The winners of Illinois’ first Cannabis Cup will be announced during a virtual awards show on Sept. 27, though no performances or celebrity appearances have been announced.

Danny Marks, MOCA’s co-owner, lauded High Times as “a pioneer in cannabis culture.”

“As the industry and cannabis in general has evolved, it is exciting to be a part of the legal 2020 version of the famous Cannabis Cup event,” Marks told the Sun-Times. “And to see it happening in Illinois is almost surreal. We’ve come a long way.”