This year the California State Fair held its first-ever cannabis competition. To celebrate, they will host a 17-day cannabis exhibition right alongside the rides, food, and family fun that the fair is traditionally known for. Forward-thinking brands like MOCA Humboldt recognized this opportunity to merge into the mainstream and with curiosity about cannabis at an all-time high, they are committed to preserving and providing high-quality cannabis, culture, and education for both experienced and new consumers alike. Here’s why that matters.
What does the term “modern cannabis” mean to you?
For those in the know, it likely evokes thoughts of how rapidly our understanding of the plant is advancing after so many years of operating at such a high risk under the shadow of prohibition.
Last year we wrote an article titled 2021 Will Be the Year of the Terpene, and sure enough, the shift away from products that are strictly high-THC and toward those that balance elevated cannabinoid levels along with robust terpene profiles is well underway… albeit slower than we’d prefer to see.
From informed budtenders at retail cannabis dispensaries to organizers and participants in some of the world’s most prestigious cannabis competitions, we are all changing the way we speak about what’s really good.
With roots reaching back to the good ol’ days of Prop 215 and California’s highly successful and loosely regulated medical cannabis marketplace, MOCA Humboldt is raising the bar for what modern cannabis should look (and smell, and taste) like by retaining that old-school mentality of “we wouldn’t sell it if we wouldn’t smoke it”.
Matt Engel, the founder and CEO of MOCA Humboldt, explains it this way, “As a Prop 215 delivery service, I was growing everything on my own and creating a variety of different product types myself, just serving a patient base by crafting small batches of very high-quality products. This company is the extrapolation of that… taking that quality preservation and maximum presentation to the next level. These are the exact products that we, and people who appreciate the plant, want to ingest ourselves.”
Operating under a multiuse “Microbusiness” license in California’s regulated cannabis market has allowed MOCA Humboldt to vertically integrate in a much more organic fashion, granting them the rights to run a craft cultivation site (up to 10,000 sq. ft. of canopy), a retail dispensary and delivery operation, a hash and edibles manufacturing facility, and the distribution capabilities to handle their own logistics for all of the above.
This allows for unrivaled quality control at every stage from seed to sale and beneficially shortens Cali’s convoluted cannabis supply chain down to something much more manageable.
Having just launched in early 2022, MOCA Humboldt has quickly established itself as one of the region’s go-to spots for the good stuff, with a retail menu featuring many in-demand brands from up and down the state.
Perhaps more impressive, however, is how quickly they were able to establish their indoor, soil-grown cultivation operation, and how well they dialed it all in to start producing top-shelf buds beginning with their first harvests.
This is evidenced by the fact that those early harvests were what got entered into the California State Fair’s Cannabis Competition, and the six awards won by MOCA Humboldt, spanning three separate cultivars, speak for themselves.
Every time that MOCA Humboldt is recognized for their excellent weed so is the iconic cannabis-producing region from the world-famous Emerald Triangle – it’s right in their name, after all.
This uplifting of an entire community is just one of the many reasons that their recent success at the inaugural California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition matters, not just for their own brands, but for all who spent so many years enduring the risks to sow the seeds for the long overdue legalization and normalization of cannabis.
And the Winner Is… MOCA Humboldt and Cannabis Culture!
The California State Fair officially opens on July 15th and runs through July 31st. Traditionally hosted annually at Cal Expo in Sacramento, the fair returns after two years of Covid-related cancellations and expects to see over 120,000 attendees make their way through the event.
For the first time ever, tens of thousands of those attendees ages 21 and up will be granted access to a full spectrum exhibition of cannabis brands, education, and information surrounding the California-based winners of 70+ awards from the inaugural California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition.
Much like established cannabis competitions (the Emerald Cup, for example), this contest focused not only on the cannabinoid content of each entry, but on the variable terpene content as well, and the ratios between those two aspects.
Unlike most cannabis competitions, however, the California State Fair did not make use of any human judging, instead pushing one of the most important aspects of modern cannabis – analytical lab testing – to the forefront.
In a partnership with Santa Cruz-based SC Labs, the California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition was held this year for flower entries only, requiring no physical product to be submitted to the event organizers, but directly to the lab instead.
With that sample batch, SC Labs produces a full COA (Certificate of Analysis), including a thorough cannabinoid and terpene analysis that they refer to as PhytoFacts, which is then submitted to the state fair as the official “entry”.
Simply put, the numbers don’t lie.
Any potential for judges’ bias regarding “bag appeal”, strain names, or anything else is completely eliminated since there are no judges.
Entries are sorted into three main categories – Indoor, Mixed Light, and Outdoor.
From there, subcategories and associated Gold and Silver awards are created according to SC Labs’ testing data relating to the highest levels of specific cannabinoids, or terpenes, for unique terpene profiles, and more.
Finally, ten “Best of California” awards were granted, selected as the overall best (by the numbers) of the subcategories above.
Quantifying cannabis like this is not how us old heads always did things. We sniff, we pinch, we want to know who grew it and how, and most importantly, we smoke it. So it comes as no surprise that this competition format created a ripple of controversy when it was first unveiled.
However, even the most rut-stuck stoners are coming around to the science of cannabis lab testing, and for the “canna-curious” new consumers, seeing the industry trending away from arbitrary strain names and toward easily identifiable expected effects is certainly more inviting.
Just more reasons why these next two weeks matter so much in the bigger picture of cannabis reform.
Having had their hands in the soil since way before Prop 64, the cultivation team at MOCA Humboldt was eager to enter the 2022 California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition and the result was six separate awards spanning three separate cultivars honoring their commitment to craft cannabis, including two of the highly coveted “Best in California” awards.
Cultivator: MOCA Humboldt
Awards: Gold for Highest THCa, Best of California – THCA
Cultivator: MOCA Humboldt
Cultivar: Grape Cookies
Awards: Gold for Highest CBGa, Gold for Highest Ocimene, Best of California – CBGA
Cultivator: MOCA Humboldt
Cultivar: ZOG (Zkittlez OG)
Award: Silver for Second Highest Beta-Caryophyllene
This earned recognition certainly represents the valuable cultivation experience that the team at MOCA Humboldt brings to the market, but it also highlights how valuable their grassroots version of vertical integration is.
CEO Matt Engel says, “We have a very strong team here. We have put a lot of time and effort into what we do, and this is not something that just comes overnight. So to be able to hit the quality and levels that can actually be called ‘Award Winning’ is a testament to the hard work we are putting in and we look forward to what’s to come.”
Not only do they intentionally grow and harvest ‘Award Winning’ cannabinoid and terpene-rich buds, they are also committed to preserving those essential but volatile compounds to ensure an optimal experience for the consumer.
One of the ways that they do this is by storing all harvests at 55 degrees. Those buds are exposed to room temperatures only long enough to be hand trimmed before being returned to that low temp controlled environment to stall the natural conversion, degradation, or evaporation of the precise cannabinoid and terpene ratios that make Wookies, Grape Cookies, and ZOG so special.
Grape Cookies, for example, remains a best seller at the MOCA Humboldt dispensary location in Eureka, California based not only on its respectable level of THC but on its award-winning levels of rare cannabinoids and terpenes like CBGa and ocimene.
“That flower has a strong intersection of two therapeutic values,” says Aaron Salles, the VP of Marketing & Sales at MOCA Humboldt, adding, “the budtenders have something to talk about with it, we offer something more than just THC, and it’s a starting point for education about plant medicine so when people hear us talking about Grape Cookies they are interested in giving it a try.”
Judging by the amount of mids on the market, it’s pretty clear that not many brands are doing this. Most can’t, even if they want to, due to the need for additional (and costly) licensing for processing (trimming) and distribution (storage/logistics).
This commitment to cannabinoid and terpene preservation sets MOCA Humboldt and their brands, MOCA Flowers, Basic Bubble, and Mz Frizzles apart and raises the bar for the rest of the industry.
It would be hard to find a better brand, in our opinion, to represent the best of California cannabis at the California State Fair than MOCA Humboldt.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why this all matters, beyond any one brand or award winner, is that for the first time in history, our beloved cannabis plant will be on proud display sharing the fairground with the California State Fair Farm, a lush three-acre activation “celebrating the importance of agriculture and food production in California”.
“Adding cannabis cultivation, alongside wine, craft beer, cheese, and olive oil was a perfect fit with the CA State Fair’s history of celebrating California’s rich agriculture history,” said California Exposition & State Fair Board of Director Chair Jess Durfee in a recent press release.
However, cannabis, as you may know, is not considered an agricultural crop by the powers that be in our state capitol who instead see it purely as a commodity. This may seem like a minor distinction, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to regulation, taxation, disaster relief, and so much more that Cali’s cannabis farmers currently struggle to overcome.
To their credit, the organizers of the California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition recognize this hypocrisy and have encouraged the propagation of the hashtag #CannabisIsAg to raise awareness and affect change.
Touting itself as “the best place to learn about California Agriculture”, this year the California State Fair even produced an “AG Awareness Activity & Coloring Book” including worksheets, fun facts, games, and more.
We’d like to send a few of them to the Department of Cannabis Control and a few more to the Governor’s office.
The California State Fair and its landmark cannabis exhibition runs from July 15th through the 31st and will feature educational speaker panels, booths staffed on certain days by award-winning brands like MOCA Humboldt, video presentations, and more. There will not be any cannabis for sale at the event, nor will there be consumption areas provided or allowed.
Still, this is a huge step in the right direction.
Not only is there space in our culture for multiple cannabis competitions, the California State Fair proves that there is a need for multiple approaches as we all work to shed decades of misinformation and share the truth about the cannabis plant and the culture at her roots.
Much respect to MOCA Humboldt for their success at the California State Fair Cannabis Awards & Competition, and for their ongoing efforts to raise the bar for high-quality craft cannabis.
You can find MOCA Flower, Basic Bubble, and Mz Frizzles edibles on the MOCA Humboldt website, at their storefront location in downtown Eureka, California, or at select cannabis retailers statewide.