Tuesday marked not only the start of Illinois’s inaugural High Times Cannabis Cup, but also a completely new iteration of the venerable event. For the first time ever, the general public will be judging the entries and deciding the winners, prompting eager marijuana enthusiasts to line up literally around the block to buy “judge kits.” The “judge kits” are broken down by the seven categories of marijuana in the competition: Indica flower, Sativa flower, hybrid flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vapes, and edibles. While sales were slated to remain open until September 23, it’s probably too late to get in on the judging action. High Times Executive Chairman Adam Levin expressed concern that the judge kits might be sold out by the end of the first day. “People have waited for hours to get the best of the best, and our partners are seeing one of the best days they’ve had since their grand openings,” Levin told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

According to the High Times Cannabis Cup website, The Cannabis Cup was founded in Amsterdam in 1988 by former High Times editor Steve Hager. Early versions of the event involved underground judging, but that has since evolved into the “limelight-driven expert-led competition of today”—essentially a touring festival that offers attendees bountiful marijuana options and a place to gather with other marijuana enthusiasts, as well as enjoy musical performances by cannabis-friendly performers such as the Wu Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg. Until this year, this “Battle of the Buds” was blindly judged by approximately 30 hand-picked industry experts. After the judges’ rankings were tabulated, the top three products in each category were recognized and the top earner was awarded the coveted Cannabis Cup trophy.

The Cannabis Cup—like most other large-scale, in-person events—could not proceed normally this year given the global COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than cancel the Super Bowl of Weed, High Times pivoted and decided to open up the judging process to the general public for the first time ever. According to an article by High Times Vice President of Content Jon Cappetta, the company “realized that there was a unique opportunity in front of them—an opportunity to expand this exclusive competition into a much more inclusive and informative way for the general public to learn about the best products in their respective regions, all from the safety of their own homes.” Illinois’s competition will conclude with a virtual awards show on September 27, when the winners of the state’s first-ever Cannabis Cup will be crowned.

We applaud High Times for finding a way to continue this cherished event in the face of unprecedented circumstances. Arguably, an event like this is needed now more than ever. As one Illinois judge aptly said, “It’s something to do … when everything else is kind of canceled right now.”

Please check out our blog for developments in the cannabis industry. Also, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for up-to-date information to help you stay informed of the legal issues related to COVID-19.