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We lost the Emerald Cup. Not just the competition but the whole event. Last year, for the first time, the annual Emerald Cup Competition and Exposition was held here in Humboldt County, and since it launched a decade ago the event had never been held outside the Emerald Triangle — until last weekend. This year, the organic outdoor medical (cough!) cannabis extravaganza took place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Sigh.

Why the move? Put simply, the festival outgrew us. And like so many of our children, it up and moved to the big city. (At least it didn't go to Portland.) Event organizer Samantha Mik told the Press Democrat that the move was a no-brainer: "[T]here is just no way to compete with better weather and a bigger fairgrounds, room to grow. You can't grow in a space that doesn't allow it."

Ouch. That "no-growth" complaint has been leveled at Humboldt County for years — generally by business leaders, which just goes to show the business-mindedness of today's ganja growers. The Emerald Cup began as a post-harvest celebration among Humboldt and Mendo growers, but this year's event reportedly drew more than 4,500 vendors and attendees from up and down the state on both Saturday and Sunday. The "Flower" contest winner hailed from Monterey County, for crying out loud.

For shame! If Humboldt County truly wants to capitalize on its weed reputation, as we discussed in last week's column, then we should be straight pissed about this Emerald Cup move. It's like having our sports franchise sold to another city. The Emerald Triangle just got out-weeded by Monterey and Santa freakin' Rosa! Meanwhile, Humboldt County's big-ticket annual festivals showcase Dixieland jazz, bluegrass and reggae — which are about as local as the New Orleans Saints.

Legalization looms, and if Humboldt wants to transform its underground economy into an above-board tourism draw, this Emerald Cup departure doesn't bode well.


Teenage stoners may have memory problems for years, according to a Northwestern Medicine study released Monday. Specifically, the study found that teens who smoked a lot of weed daily for three years showed alterations in their brain structure and performed poorly on memory exercises, even more than two years after they stopped smoking. And the younger the kids were when they started, the more abnormalities in their brains.

As if anticipating this study, the Marijuana Policy Project this week released a statement highlighting the results of a new national drug use survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The survey reportedly found that teenage marijuana use has not gone up despite state laws legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use. There has actually been a downward trend for a while now. Between 2002 and 2012, the portion of people ages 12-17 who reported using marijuana during the past month dropped from 12 percent to 9.5 percent.

Last week, Uruguay's government voted to become the first country to fully legalize marijuana — growing it, selling it, smoking it, you name it. And investors immediately smelled profit. A blog called Wealth Daily, for example, briefly reported the South American country's news before saying, "let's get to the important part: investing in it." Among the advice: "Real estate is a good idea at this time before the economy picks up, and so are small businesses related to tourism."

A company down in Capitola called SC Labs is at the forefront of a new cottage industry: forensic safety testing of medical marijuana. The lab's customers — growers and dispensary owners — are having their product tested not to meet government regulation standards (which don't exist), but because it's good business. You can read about it on

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About The Author

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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