It was 1995 and a special strain called White Widow took the Cannabis Cup by storm, causing a ruckus heard by many a budding young entrepreneur back home in the States. Seemingly overnight, every grower had to have it. Upon the arrival of White Widow, lovingly photographed for the cover of the 1996 HIGH TIMES Cup issue, a sea change in ganja-growing occurred. New genetics were capable of producing a bud prettier and shinier than those of the past. The amount of crystals on this Cup winner from Greenhouse Seeds truly made the flowers look white with resin.

For better or worse, extreme indicas planted themselves firmly onto the marijuana map, as well as onto the senses of anyone who tried these one-hit wonders. I sent away money for the seeds and, by the next year, I was one of many growing White Widow. Without even attending the Cup, it had a tremendous influence on me. I vowed that one day I would travel to Amsterdam and be the first to know and grow the “next big thing.”

At the Cup, growers and connoisseurs gather to decide what will be on people’s lips for the next year, from the newest strains and hemp papers to exciting inventions for growing, trimming and smoking. Innovative products often make their debut at the Cup before going on to become stoner household items. Consider the Sweetleaf grinder, which made its first appearance at the 2000 Cup, or the Volcano vaporizer, which won Best Product in 2003. The Cup is one of the few places to witness new leaf-trimming technology working on live pot plants or to test a new glass bong by actually using it for smoking pot or hash.

Grow techniques of interest also get a big boost at the Cup. Seedmaster Soma’s seminars always focus on organic methods of cultivation and pest control. His style of growing reflects his belief that cannabis should be cultivated with the proper respect and spiritual connection to the plant. His Cup-winning strains and hash are the benchmark for organic growers worldwide.