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Why the Grow Off is a whole different type of cannabis contest

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Pretty much anything that people like, they create contests to see what is the best. That stands true for horses, cars, produce, and so on. So of course there are contests cropping up around marijuana as it becomes more socially accepted.

The biggest name in marijuana contests is the High Times Cannabis Cup. But that's not the only game around. The Hash Bash Cannabis Cup kicked off a few years back. And just last week folks from The Grow Off were at Cobo Center for the CannaCon looking to get local growers involved in their contest. It's been held in Colorado, California, Oregon, and, they hope, soon in Michigan.

The Grow Off is a different kind of competition. The Cannabis Cup takes samples of cannabis for judges to try; they then give their opinion as to what is the best stuff in various categories. That's fair enough. The Grow Off goes at it differently. They give two exact clones of the same plant to each contestant in the competition. The contest is to see who can come up with the best measurable results using their growing methods.

"The Grow Off is a science-based cannabis competition," says Samantha Taylor, who co-created the competition. "We are challenging growers, both commercially and caregivers, to see who can take a plant that they don't know what it is and express the most terpenes and the most cannabinoids out of it."

The Grow Off also gives awards for the most weight of bud, and in Michigan it would be open to any adult who wants to grow a plant and pay the entry fee. This looks like a chance for a microbusiness type grower to compete with the big commercial outfits on a level playing field. The testing will be held at state-licensed testing labs. Those awards include cash and a boxing-style championship belt — in addition to the cachet of being a winning grower.

Assessing the quality of cannabis has, and will pretty much continue to be, a pretty subjective thing. In addition to the quality of the buds themselves, all kinds of things can impact the experience from your mood at the outset to what's going on around you to your level of experience, with cannabis to how long since the last time you used some.

That can be an issue. I've spoken to a few Cannabis Cup judges, and it seems that organizers of that competition don't really give them enough time to go through the number of different samples they must assess. One needs to test a few samples each day and, well, once you've had that first sample it's really difficult to have an objective opinion about the next sample after that.

Another thing about the Cannabis Cup is that none of the entries are from licensed growers. There are issues in the licensing laws that keep them from participating in a competition such as a Cannabis Cup. That goes for the vendors, too, as licensed businesses have strictures as to whom and where they can sell their products. At this point, that is only to other licensed businesses or to card-carrying patients. It seems like there would be fewer problems with participating in a Grow Off.

Over the weekend, Taylor and her partner, Jake Browne, a former Denver Post cannabis columnist, were scheduled to visit a nearby grow with potential to supply the clones for the Michigan contest. So it looks like things are getting off the ground here. A room full of a diverse group of growers gathered for The Grow Off afterparty at Grand Trunk Pub during CannaCon last week looked like they were ready. As the Grow Off travels around the country, the team meets growers of all kinds.

"It's fascinating because there is no universal grower," says Browne. "When we talk about cannabis, I think that growers are the phenotypes. They express so many different opinions on cultivation style, technique, and product, and we get a chance to highlight how they do what they do."

There are many different ways for people to approach marijuana. And there are many ways to have contests about them. The Grow Off approach represents where marijuana marketing is going. Cannabinoid and terpene profiles will tell you what it is you're getting — not poetic names like Gorilla Glue or Pineapple Express.

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