CHICAGO — The self-described "Oscars of Cannabis" are coming to Illinois next month for the first time, offering the state's marijuana enthusiasts a chance to crown the winners.
First held in Amsterdam in 1988, the High Times Cannabis Cup has evolved over more than three decades. After growing to annual trade shows with a large, festival-type atmospheres, the event moved to the United States over the past decade as states have legalized marijuana.
In the past, awards have been judged by a couple dozen celebrities and experts in the weed world. But with the first year of recreational marijuana legalization in Illinois coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, the competition is no longer being held in crowded convention centers.
The judging is now crowdsourced. According to High Times, the event will see the largest pool of judges in history. Hundreds of Illinoisans able to choose winners in eight categories, from specific strains of cannabis to pre-rolled joints to edibles. Only products already available on the state's legal cannabis market are eligible.
Participants who register to judge may pick up "judges kits" in their chosen categories between Aug. 17 and Aug. 20 at specified dispensaries in Chicago, St. Charles, Effingham, Sauget and Normal. Anyone over the age of 21, or aged 18 and up with a medical marijuana card, may register to take part.
Judging will take place through Sept. 23, with an award show to follow later that month, according to the competition website.
High Times built its brand as a lifestyle magazine and has since diversified, seeking to acquire retail dispensaries, delivery services and putting on dozens of conferences every year — it planned 35 prior to the pandemic. Now run by "Girls Gone Wild" owner Adam Levin, it has been spent the last two years trying to raise $50 million in a miniature initial public offering.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly ordered the firm to stop accepting investments in mid-June after missing the extended deadline to file an audited annual report. A website that continues to solicit investors says there are more than 30,000 existing shareholders. It offers shares for a minimum buy-in of $550 in shares and says the company "intends to own flagship retail experiences," including one in Chicago.
Last December, the company warned investors it had an accumulated deficit of more than $105 million and announced it might not last until the end of 2020.
"Because of recurring operating losses, net operating cash flow deficits, and an accumulated deficit," High Times Holding said in a filing with U.S. securities regulators, "there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern for one year from the issuance of the financial statements."