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Op-Ed: Talk about going mainstream: Cannabis has been invited to the California State Fair

After a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus, the California State Fair is returning in 2022 with a new competitive category: cannabis. Yes, the fair is going to honor the best bud in the state. It may be the most culturally significant moment for California agriculture since the famed Judgment of Paris, a blind tasting in 1976 in which a panel of mainly French wine judges scored Napa Valley wines above those of Burgundy and Bordeaux, a result that rattled the wine world and launched the craze for California wine.

California only legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2016. In five years, it has gone from being a lowly baggie of skunk purchased from the friend of a guy at work to being invited to compete among the jellies and jams at the state fair. It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch and moved weed into the mainstream.

From a purely agricultural perspective, the cannabis crop has earned its spot on the Sacramento fairgrounds. Marijuana and its growers have played a vital part in the state’s economy for decades, generating more than $3 billion a year in licensed cannabis sales. That means, as an agricultural product, it would earn a respectable fourth-place state ranking — right after dairy, almonds and grapes, and just before pistachios. Add in the illegal market for cannabis, and it is far and away the No. 1 crop in the state.

L.A. County D.A. George Gascón plans to expunge all cannabis convictions — and seal the records for all time.

Which means that cannabis is overdue to take its place at the fair alongside artisanal products such as olive oil, cheese and wine. Move aside goats and llamas. Stand back cakes and bread. The state where five high school friends coined the phrase “420” 50 years ago has a different kind of baking in mind.

Not that anyone is going to actually, you know, consume any cannabis at the fair.

Competitions to determine the potency and flavor of marijuana strains are not new. The pioneering Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, started in the late 1980s by High Times magazine, became so successful that it spawned a global industry of such contests. Growers come from around the world to present their unique strains — from heirloom “landrace” marijuana to genetically modified hybrids. Winning a Cannabis Cup is a big deal; the seeds of winning strains can be worth millions.

In Amsterdam, judging is traditionally done by a bunch of stoners seriously hotboxing a houseboat, but California is taking a science-based and decidedly high-tech approach. Instead of smoking to find the dankest flavor and effects, plants will be judged using laboratory testing — which is akin to putting a gourmet meal into a blender and then measuring how many calories it contains. I can’t help but envision a Roomba bumping around the house with a joint in its mouth.

The flowers will be given a complete physical as they are checked for levels of CBD, short for cannabidiol, a compound that is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory in ointments, creams and oils; and THC, the psychoactive component that gets a user high; and the five distinct terpene profiles that give cannabis its unique flavors and effects.

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Think of it as a Bill Clinton-inspired version of a tasting: No one will inhale.

It’s the terpenes — the hoppy scent of myrcene or the citrus blast of limonene —that can make smoking quality marijuana such a pleasure. And within the varietals loosely labeled as indica, sativa and hybrid, there are hundreds of combinations of these various terpenes bringing unique flavors, scents and sensations of euphoria, relaxation or an extra burst of energy. Remove the terpenes and you’re basically left with hemp. It’s perfect for making paper or rope, but not so great for listening to reggae.

If Sha’Carri Richardson had gotten drunk instead of ingesting weed, she’d probably have competed in the women’s 100-meter final.

In wine-judging competitions, the category of white wine contains dozens of distinct varietals that include Albariño, Chardonnay and Macabeo. Experts taste the wine and pass judgment, sometimes spitting it into a bucket. Actual human beings use their senses, knowledge and experience to determine quality.

California may be the tech capital of the world, but putting tech in the judging seat may be going a bit too far. A machine-based analysis can’t possibly appreciate the nuances of the flower the same informed way as an experienced ganjier — a cannabis sommelier. If you think wine lists in fancy restaurants are intimidating, try parsing a dispensary menu without expert guidance.

The proposed state fair cannabis judging and subsequent awards feels like an awkward compromise between people who enjoy smoking marijuana and those who are suffering from whiplash from the sudden acceptance and ascendance of weed.

Although in fairness to the judges, the analytics do even the playing field. The competition won’t be swayed by personal preferences, and the flowers will be contrasted against those with similar chemical profiles. As one future judge of cannabis at the state fair put it, “You wouldn’t judge a rosé against a cabernet.”

That approach might be based in science and wholly impartial, but as a judge I would drink the rosé. It appears the state fair wants to acknowledge the importance of cannabis to California — but doesn’t want anyone to have fun doing it.

Mark Haskell Smith is a Los Angeles author. His books include “Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup.”

The Higher Path Collective: Best Dispensary in Los Angeles

Named the Best Dispensary in Los Angeles 2016, The Higher Path Collective serves both medical patients and adult-use recreational consumers from our convenient location in Sherman Oaks.

Since opening in 2013, our focus has been on helping provide patients with the knowledge and medicine they need. We aim to educate our visitors about proper cannabis use and other alternative health approaches to supplement their medicine — and we are passionate about our mission! We believe that access to cannabis should be simple and that having the knowledge and tools to integrate it into our health care regimens or lifestyles is an important part of that.

Why The Higher Path?

Top-Notch Products

Our recreational dispensary in Los Angeles carries a curated assortment of flower, vape cartridges, concentrates, oils, wax, shatter, edibles, and topicals.

Excellent Service

We understand that a dispensary is more than just its products. We provide excellent service to all of our customers to make visiting The Higher Path an experience of its own.

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Community-Focused

The Higher Path is a collective that strives to support the community. We work hard to make a difference through education and compassion.

Compassionate

Our patient-first mentality was initially fostered by our history as a Los Angeles medical cannabis dispensary. We work hard to maintain that same compassion while serving both patients and recreational users.

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Save on your favorite products with our daily deals! The Higher Path offers a variety of discounts so you can stock up on the best flower, vapes, concentrates, and pre-rolls.

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November 27, 2020 2:39 pm

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Madison Ivy uses cannabis to get her life back

August 27, 2021 4:03 pm

• Vanilla extract
• Sweetener of choice (we used blue agave nectar!)
• 2-4 oz cold brew/instant coffee
• 2 oz Agua de Flor horchata
• La Familia churro krispie

➾ Combine all ingredients (except churro krispie) in a shaker tin, add ice, shake vigorously.
➾ Garnish with churro krispie
➾ Enjoy & elevate your life!

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Cannabis-Infused Cocktail | "Wake n Bake" Horchata

May 19, 2019 1:32 pm

On Saturday April 20th, 2019 The Higher Path celebrated 4/20 with an epic event–the Grand Opening of The Green Room, a 1000 square ft exhibition space right next door to The Higher Path featuring 100 of the top brands in the industry! Thanks to everyone who came out to enjoy this special day with us!

Filmed & edited by Mesmeric Films http://www.mesmericfilms.com/

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The Higher Path 4/20/2019

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Thanks for watching! It's been a long journey for us here at The Higher Path, but we're not going anywhere and we know how to roll with the punches. Our staff is 90% vaccinated and ready to continue to serve our community with in store, online, curbside, delivery, online consultations, video chat, text chat and more. Visit TheHigherPath.com for more info!

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The Higher Path Cannabis Dispensary Reopened With Vaccinated Essential Workers

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Veteran is helped by cannabis at THP (short)

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How to order while you wait!

August 27, 2021 4:10 pm

We are big fans of Cann beverages here at The Higher Path, and you can see why! Not only can you drink them as they are, but you can mix them to make a delicious mocktail that will make you feel relaxed and social.

Pick up a can of Cann at The Higher Path (you can place an order for pickup or delivery if you're in Los Angeles) at TheHigherPath.com/menu.

Here's the recipe so you can make this at home!

• 1 Blood Orgage CANN
• 2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
• 1-1.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2-3 muddled jalapeños
• Agave to taste
• Jalapeño garnish

➾ Muddle jalapeño
➾ Combine all ingredients (except CANN) in a shaker tin, add ice, shake vigorously.
➾ Add blood orange CANN & garnish with jalapeño
➾ Enjoy & elevate your life!

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