Interview: Tim Blake on The New Rules of Cannabis

The founder of The Emerald Cup discusses the legalization of Cannabis and how it will play a major role in our daily lives.
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The founder of The Emerald Cup discusses the legalization of Cannabis and how it will play a major role in our daily lives.
Tim Blake Speaking

Tim Blake is the producer of The Emerald Cup – the world’s largest organic, outdoor cannabis competition. The Emerald Cup started out as a small event and competition for local farmers and has now grown into an event that attracts well over twenty thousand people and has over 700 entries.

He went from growing his first outdoor plant in 1975 to co-founding Healing Harvest Farms and multiple product cannabis product companies under the name, Emerald Cup products. He is also the founder of California Cannabis Policy Reform and The Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council and published a book entitled “The Cannabis Crusader”.

His personal goal is to help the world integrate cannabis, spirituality, organic food, and living into a holistic lifestyle. His dispensary, Healing Harvest Farms is located on an old campground he purchased in 1998 in which he coined “Area 101” that first served as a spiritual sanctuary and event center for all faiths. Tim has owned property in Northern California since the late seventies and has lived there since 1992. He has become an expert in the growth, cultivation, and innovation of the cannabis industry.

Magnetic Mag spoke with Tim on the recent approval of legalization of recreational marijuana in 4 states including California as well as the future of the cannabis industry.

In 2016, cannabis is now legalized for recreational use in 8 states and medicinal use in 26 states. Some growers and activists have shown opposition to Proposition 64 that was just passed in California recently. Can you explain why some would be opposed to what seems like a move in the right direction?

Fear. The small farmers and the people who have been doing this out here all these years fear the products they make are going to be taken over by the big boys and there is a legitimate reason to feel that way. But at the end of the day you have to move forward and end criminalization. I’m already hearing about all the cases being dropped in the courts and expunged everywhere. People will be able to turn back their felonies and be reintegrated into society – things are going keep being pushed forward. Patients are going to get better and have cheaper access to medicine – products are going to be regulated, tested, and made really clean.

Farmers who have been cultivating marijuana since 1964 are going to be able to come out and pay taxes and be part of the real world. They do want to pay taxes and they do want to be part of the real world and they feel like black sheep. For those reasons, there is no way you can go against it – it’s just time to move forward.

I know if it didn’t get passed this year, it wasn’t going to be put on the ballot until 2020. It’s definitely time to move forward!

Oh yeah! With all the other states that went forward, you can just imagine how it would look if California went backwards. Mississippi and Florida just legalized medicinal marijuana and if we were sitting here not going forward with recreational – that would just be absurd. I believe it’s the right choice. I see all the things that are coming and it’s a good thing.

Now you are located in California but have you had the opportunity to work with growers in other states that have legalized recreational?

I know a lot of growers in other states and I lived in Washington for a couple of years but I’ve not worked with them directly since I am not licensed outside of California.

Do you hear about other states running into complications and obstacles since the new laws and regulations passed?

Every state is different. In Washington they used the model of Alcohol regulation and made them all wards of the state – they lost a lot of the benefits of the medical side of things. That wasn’t a very good idea. Oregon did a lot better at regulating the sale of recreational cannabis but how many people live in Oregon? A couple million? In California there are 36 million people, we are 15,20 Oregons. There just aren’t enough people to sell cannabis to in Oregon. They make the products but have no place to sell them and last year sent them all back East. You could get Oregon bud in Chicago for real cheap because they just couldn’t sell it. California is the dominate state and is where everyone wants to be. Oregon, Colorado, and Washington rely upon their local population for the most part and there just aren’t enough people to support the supply. When the rest of the country legalizes medical and recreational, California will lose some of the market but overall we’re still in the sweet spot.

I’m sure the playing field is going to level out a lot once time goes by and Colorado’s profit is dented a bit. They aren’t going to see as much of a boom as they’ve seen since legalizing recreational. People are moving out to and visiting Colorado and other states from all around the world just because recreational marijuana is legal and I’m sure that is going to take place in California as well.

It’s already happening. There are a lot of benefits to Prop. 64 that the people who didn’t want it to happen are still going to be happy about.

What about the stricter regulatory measures on labeling and packaging? I know the FDA has still not fully stepped in yet on edibles. Have you seen a lot of edibles without the ingredients listed?

I think that everyone is seeing the writing on the wall at places like Care By Design and Absolute Extracts and some of our companies. We are already implementing proper labeling that will be dictated in 2018 and 2019. The good companies are already doing the labeling that needs to be done and listing very specific ingredients. That is one of the things that is part of our contest and competitions, proper labeling and packaging. How you present the product and the various filtrations all matter.

Have you seen brands that don't have the proper ingredients, labeling, or packaging? Do people not know what they are getting sometimes?

No, I don't see too much of that anymore. At first, one of the challenges was that you still had people putting out some pretty heavy dosed medicine. People didn’t realize that the little bars had 200mg of cannabis in them and at one point 800mg. 800mg would knock a horse down. Eventually it dropped down to 300mg and they wouldn’t go over 200mg or 300mg. For me, 30mg would knock me down – I’m a lightweight. 200mg would put me in the hospital – if it tastes good and you take a few extra bites you can take too much pretty easily. Eventually it will sort itself out as we go along – they will have much more regimen. It is similar to how we consume alcohol.

Similar to wanting to take an aspirin and getting Oxycontin.

Oh yeah! In the olden days you would just put butter on the stove with some cannabis or hash in it and test it. People oded all the time! There is still some of that but since the jump in edibles for the last 3 years – it has evolved really quickly. There are companies who really want to put edibles to use – the people who are doing it at festivals and on the street you need to be wary. For our dispensary and majority of the dispensaries, it needs to be labeled and packaged right or it won’t be stocked.

What are the main differences between medicinal marijuana and recreational? Do the farms and dispensaries differ?

In California it was all medicinal until Prop. 64 passed. So there wasn’t any separation of the two in the legal cannabis market. Now there is going to be a separate pathway where you can do both or one or the other. It is going to be real interesting for all of us up here to figure it out. We are all constantly learning – we really need to hold onto medical because it’s important but we’re losing that in other states. It is already being setup in California – they have to get all these permits and regulation in place and get ready to do this. It’s going to be bumpy for a couple of years here while everything gets going.

Of course. I know concentrates and strains that are high in CBD are used mainly for medicinal use but what about concentrates and strains that are high in THC? What ailments and conditions call for high THC content and what calls for CBD?

Medicinal marijuana high in THC is mainly for cancer patients. I personally used it for skin cancer and it is a wonderful pain reliever. It is a balance – at first they thought that all CBD was best for medicinal use but later on found out that most patients don’t want just CBD. Most patients want a balance – they want a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1. It is a combination of getting the THC along with the Cannabinoids and Terpenes and making something unique.

Growing cannabis indoor will never be good for medicinal use because you can’t get the terpenes or cannabinoids with indoor lighting as you can with natural sunlight. You can get yields with high THC but that can cause anxiety – bud that gets you really high but causes paranoia. There are companies that are strictly CBD but the budtenders are primarily younger – they aren’t really taught or educated very well. There is a whole educational thing going on to teach the budtenders about the ailments and the products that are high on CBDs so they can better serve the patients.

Now that prop 64 has gone through, more people are going to want to come in and test things. There are a lot of elderly people that had stigmas in the past that are more comfortable trying and testing things to see what works for them.

I’m sure. I feel as if the general public knows what THC is but many don’t know about CBDs or terpenes. Most marijuana users know the difference between sativa and indica and that hybrids are a combination of the two but aren’t too familiar with CBDs.

Very few do. We think people do but they really don't. CBDs can help with anxiety and who isn’t anxiety ridden these days on some level? Older people who are dying can be given high CBD concentrates to help get over the fear – the pharmaceuticals screw them all up. The CBDs would act as a nice little relaxant, a calming thing. It is such a complex industry – you start with CBDs and then you learn about Terpenes and all the flavors and how it effects everything.

The board supervisor of the agriculture department came out recently to study a couple of nurseries on how to regulate it and he was just saying “you know what? We are going to need a lot of research on this!” This product is not like an apple or a pear – this plant is complex and there are a lot of different uses - clones and cutting and mother plants. He was just looking at this and going…”we are going to need a lot, a lot of people here.” He got the scope and size of what it was going to be on impact. When people open up and realize that cannabis is ok and the stigma goes away – the market is going to explode!

Cannabis was used in almost every aspect of people’s lives and it is going to become a part of that again. Right now it is being used at a rate of less than half of about 1% - that growth is going to translate into the billions and eventually trillions. It is going to be hard for the small people to hang on – the pressure of big business and big bucks is going to come heavily into play. You already have all these famous people becoming the face of all these brands and there are a lot of challenges. I would be worried if I was a farmer trying to do business in Oregon – not so much California right now – at least for a few years. There will be different issues for different cultivators and businesses but people making good products and working really hard will be ok – especially in California for years to come.

I’m sure! The hemp industry is a whole different industry as well. There are a ton of different things you can utilize hemp for.

Oil is one of them – you can get the oil out of it too. It regenerates the Earth so it isn’t like cotton. Soon we will be looking back at history and asking ourselves, “why haven’t we been doing this?” Explaining to our kids why we got rid of hemp for 80 years and demonized it. People are going to look back 200 years from now and go “these are the dark years, these are the dark ages.” Everything came over the earth and we decided to poison ourselves by taking chemical pharmaceuticals. What are they doing? What were they thinking? That’s what they will judge us for but we’re doing it to ourselves. We all allow it and we are actually going to be the ones to wake up and we are waking up to take back our planet.

Tim Blake and His Book

Now regenerative farming is starting to become more and more prevalent within the cannabis industry. Can you explain why regenerative farming is so beneficial and do you think that now corporate America and big companies are becoming more involved in the industry that farms that don't implement these practices are going to be emerging? How is the industry addressing the environmental concerns of mass grow operations and how is this being regulated?

The regenerative farming aspect is critical for not just cannabis farmers but farmers of all types of fruits, plants, and vegetables. We are using a lot of fertilizers and soil and using up energy. Even cannabis farmers are bringing in nutrients, green sand, and peat moss and we have to stop that as much as we can and regenerate our farms as much as we can – like the way they did for 1000s of years. Now we don’t have living soils, we have dead soils. Living soils are full of worms and have all sorts of biology happening. Life is abundant – it should be thriving.

We should be teaching and educating people – if you really want to be here for the long-term and you want to be a good steward for the land – you should be regenerating your farm. Our soils should be really true, strong, living soils – it makes better medicine. Less pesticides and nutrients – it is sad that the cannabis industry has to lead the way. You still can toxify a vineyard – they put pesticides on almost every vineyard in California. 90% of our agricultural crops are poisoned and toxic with big, giant 60 pound balls of blue fertilizer – just pesticide, chemical laid crap. Cannabis is being judged by a different bar and that’s ok, because we can handle that bar and lead the rest of the nation. We can have sustainable farming if we do these things – we’re already doing them.

The mountains up here in Northern California weren’t made to be farming land – they’re slopes, they’re mountains – it is not farmland. We came up here and basically picked out and dug out homes for ourselves so we can farm and live up here. San Joaquin valley was a giant marshland for animals and fish and fowl and everything living in it – they’ve bulldozed that and turned it into farmland destroying it. It was never meant to be farmland – these mountains were all organic, natural ecosystems and we came in as humans and completely impacted them.

The regenerative farm award at The Emerald Cup is an honorary award given to the person most having resembled the right qualities on their farm. There are a bunch of really good companies out there that are certifying farms at this level – OrganiCann, Cannabis Conservancy, and Clean Green. We will have everyone going through these companies to get their farms up to a certain level – this is what we are going to be teaching at The Emerald Cup this year. Whether it is cultivation, medicine, or the legal aspects – there is so much to learn in this industry – you can get a PHD in six different fields and spend your whole life studying one of them.

Emerald Cup Crowd

Amazing! Now what are some of the new trends that have emerged in the industry in the past few years and what is going to be new and unique in the Emerald Cup this year? What do you see emerging in the next few years and are there any game changers that are currently in development that we might see come about in the future?

Regenerative farming and many of the farming techniques that we talked about earlier are really coming in on the cultivation side of things. On the flowers and cannabis side, you are seeing concentrates take over – vape pens, CO2 cartridges, and vaporizers. People love their dabs – dab rigs are taking over and we wouldn’t get involved in that before because of BHO. I’m not against butane and solvent extraction if you are using pharmaceutical grade butane and tanks but not the cans you buy in the store. People are also doing it in garages and it needs to be done in acidic labs so you don’t blow up your house or yourself. Because that was still happening before, we couldn’t allow that into the cup but people love their dabs – people don’t want to use butane but they want dabs.

Recently these ingenious people figured out that with the combination of heat and pressure they could squish the oil out of hash and concentrates naturally – that’s called live resin. Resin has become the hottest thing since sliced bread in the cannabis world because people can take an organic solvent based resin and put it straight into the dab pipes and get a nice high without feeling bad, organically.

We started our contest with hash a couple of years back and last year we started with the resin – in one year we’ve had almost as many resin entries as concentrate entries. We might have as many resin entries as flower entries coming in over the next couple of years. It is such an amazing thing! You get the smell and there is no chlorophyll in it – it’s really clean with every hit. The days of smoking a joint where you are burning all that paper and hurting your lungs with all that smoke going in the air are now gone. Now people are taking a nice, clean CO2 vape pen and taking a couple of hits or taking a hit off a dab rig – it is totally clean and so much better for you.

They started out squishing for dabs using curling irons and now you have these 20,000 dollar, 200lb custom presses. It is just amazing what is coming out and the research that is being done on the medicinal side of things – every time you turn around, a new thing. Different forms of tumors, Epilepsy, Crohn’s disease – I have a friend that is patenting a strain that almost gets rid of Crohn’s disease. The research coming out over the last couple of years and what is expected for the next few years is mind-boggling.

We are kicking butt on the legal side – one state after the next. We are going to do this blueprint across the country and people at the cup will be talking all about it and I love that! I love all that is coming through and the people that are working on educating those within the industry that are finally becoming real businesses as well as the rest of the country and world. People are asking the questions “how are we going to do banking? How are we going to get insurance? How are we going to become real businesses?” There is a giant educational forum going on for people that have been involved with cannabis who are all used to operating in the black market. These people all used to be underground and didn’t even go into town – now they are going to have to pay their taxes and have CPAs and have to get permits. It is going to be a 180 and a lot of people won’t be able to make that 180 – they are going to be replaced by those who can change and evolve.

Now it is still illegal to import and export from and to other countries. Although majority of cannabis in the US is grown in California, there are growers that go through extreme lengths to get the best seeds and grow the best strains. Do you believe this presents a threat to those trying to do things legitimately?

No, not really. People go looking for some landraces that have really solid phenotypes and don’t have any variations. They still travel the world and bring back a few seeds. Most of the genetic breeding was done in Europe until the last couple of years. Most people think of Amsterdam and The Netherlands but that is just where people go to sit in coffee shops and smoke bud. Where the real breeding and work is done is in Southern Europe – Spain and Portugal and throughout there. They are all coming to the triangle in Northern California to get their genetics and rightfully acknowledge that Northern California has the best genetics in the world. There isn’t a huge market there – Europe is doing some hash and small amounts of cannabis but it isn’t heavy. California is heavy on cannabis and we lead the world in that – there are 30,000 growers up here. Farmers have been coming up here breeding for the last couple of decades creating some of the best strains in the world – Aficionado, Jackson, DNA, MGA, MGP – there are all these genetics companies that are amazing.

Europeans are coming over here looking at our genetics and we are exporting seeds all over the world. People come to the cup and they want every seed they can get their hands on – we have the best strains and the best genetics and are going to for the next few generations. There is just too much history and breeding and too many strains everyone wants – none of the landraces from around the world are going to hurt us, we just keep doing it. We have 10,000 farmers looking for the ultimate hash strain and our generation just dropped two – Durban Sherbert and Durban Lime – they are just stunning. They are amazing! I guarantee that it is better than anything they got in Medellin or Bogota. California has the finest flowers and concentrates in the world – no doubt about it!

Awards at Emerald Cup

How many vendors are there going to be this year at The Emerald Cup and what are the various categories for the competition? How many entries did you get this year and how many presenters are in each category?

It’s still going on so I am not entirely sure. We had about 700 entries last year and I am not sure how many categories we have. We have flowers, concentrates, edibles, and then concentrates are separated into three categories – resin and dry. Then we have edibles, tinctures, and topicals on the adult use side and CBD on the medicinal side of things. There are flowers, concentrates, topicals, and tinctures as well as the best breeder award. The person with the highest score in all the flowers that bred their own strain gets an award for best genetics. There is also the life achievement award in which we give two out. I am not sure how many that adds up to but we have many awards from when we just started out with flowers – it’s amazing how many we have! There is over $55,000 in hand-blown glass prizes for the contestants and it’s just mind-boggling!

Now last but not least how are you personally attached to cannabis and what benefit has it provided for you? What is your preferred method of consumption and how often do you use it? What ways has it helped you and your friends and family?

Cannabis has saved me from dying of cancer – I’ve had 12 skin cancers that have metastasized into my bone – one ate an inch of my bone. I use it as a lotion on my face to kill the skin cancers. I still expose myself to the sun and I really shouldn’t – it is just chewing me alive. I don’t have a strong immune system and I’ve had a lot of health challenges and cannabis has done miraculous healing for me. I vaporize it instead of smoking it and it has a truly wonderful and inspirational effect on me. I have been doing transcendental meditation for over 45 years and I combine meditation with cannabis to dive me into my own spiritual thinking. I have family and friends that use it for arthritis, cancer, stress, and anxiety – I have family members that use it for all kinds of things. Cannabis is integrated into my family and used by those that are blue collar, cops and former cops, and attorneys – not just stoners. It is really a huge part of my life and it is becoming more and more prevalent as my family and friends get older. Cannabis is finding uses for more and more illnesses, cancers, and various other conditions and ailments and it is just amazing! You see all the products coming into the cup and they get judged and rated – you see the quality of what California creates. If you head out to The Emerald Cup, you will really see all those products and all the educators, growers, entrepreneurs, and patients mingling together – everyone comes together as one big family!

You see all of the products that come into the cup and then they get judged and rated. You see the quality of what california creates considering all these patients and what we do. If you come to the emerald cup and you really see all those and all the pride and all the patients and all of them mingling together. Everyone comes together as one big family.

For more info on The Emerald Cup and tickets visit theemeraldcup.com