Back to Articles

History of the Cannabis Cup

Updated September 25, 2022

You may have heard of the Cannabis Cup, which is a major event in the world of marijuana. The Cannabis Cup offers prestigious rewards and is a big event, where the best of the best in the industry get to show off.

Founding the Cup

Steven Hager founded the Cannabis Cup in 1988, also known as the “High Times” Cannabis Cup. He created the Cup as a way for product manufacturers and cultivators of cannabis to show off their products. It also gives them a chance to compete to earn titles and status.

It Includes Everything

From the start, the Cannabis Cup has honored every single step in the process of producing and using cannabis. There is judging for plants, final products, and accessories. You can find a range of products related to marijuana during the expo, as well as various businesses that interact with cannabis in some way.

Participation Requirements

To participate in the Cannabis Cup, manufacturers and cultivators must submit their products for independent testing. This verifies their potencies for both THC and CBD.


In addition to showcasing cannabis and cannabis-related products, the Cannabis Cup also provides educational seminars. These workshops and seminars are perfect for spreading knowledge about cannabis to the public. Topics include everything from uses to history to growing.


No competition would be complete without judging, and the Cannabis Cup features judging for multiple categories. The event organizers gather a group of expert judges that come from various locations around the world. This diversity eliminates bias and provides multiple perspectives during the judging.


Some of the most popular categories of the Cannabis Cup include Best Sativa, Best Indica, Best Hybrid, Best Imported Hash, Best Nederhash, Best Hash, Best New Product, Best Glass, and Best Booth. Some categories encourage the attendees to vote on the winner, including those for Best Glass, Best Booth, and Best Products.


The first Cannabis Cup took place in Amsterdam, a city known for its openness to marijuana. Over the years, nearly every single annual Cannabis Cup occurred in Amsterdam, the last of which was in 2014. After27 years of hosting the Cannabis Cup, a decision to switch locations was made due to a combination of factors. Those concerns included uncertainty regarding the future of cannabis laws in the country and the improved climate towards cannabis in other areas of the world.

As cannabis spreads in legality, other cities have also started holding their version of the Cannabis Cup. Many of these events focus on medical cannabis instead of or in addition to recreational cannabis.

Some of the current Cannabis Cups that you may see include those held in Southern and Northern California, Jamaica, Las Vegas, Colorado, Rhode Island, Portland, and the U.S. Midwest.

Variations Across Locations

The first Cannabis Cup to take place in the United States was in 2010. The “High Times” Medical Cannabis Cup was created to celebrate states with legal medical marijuana. It provides the expected activities and products, but the focus is all on medical marijuana.

The U.S. Cannabis Cup is for those states that legalized recreational use of marijuana. It includes very similar events to those in the main Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. In other words, judges give out trophies for various categories after testing strains, and attendees vote for some categories.

The Film

You can experience the Cannabis Cup without attending thanks to DVDs made to document the events. Following the 2003 festival, producers made “High Times Presents: The Cannabis Cup.” During the summer of 2008, there was a film of the previous year’s event, which marked the 20th anniversary. That particular Cannabis Cup was hosted by Redman and Tommy Chong.

The 2010 Amsterdam Cannabis Cup Police Raid

In 2010, police raided the location of the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup for the first time. This experience did not end well and contributed to the location of the Cannabis Cup changing after 2014.

The raid was incredibly controversial and followed conservatives coming into power in the Netherlands that year. Those conservatives had already closed some of the country’s coffee shops, venues known for their cannabis in addition to coffee.

At the time of the event, most of the information regarding the raid came from tweets. The police told the authorities that they had seen booths giving out cannabis, which was against the rules. Based on that, they shut the event down and made everyone leave except the exhibitors.

Following the drama, one of the “High Times” attorneys released a statement. According to David Holland, the problem came down to a permit misunderstanding. No one was arrested, and the attendees were never in any danger of being arrested or otherwise harmed. According to him, the police were only ensuring that no vendor gave out more cannabis than allowed. The Opium Law required that all vendors be within a 500-gram limit at the venue, and only one was slightly over.

The police, organizers of the Cannabis Cup, and the vendors worked everything out amicably. The event continued the next day. Even so, the police presence brought a stigma and negative media attention to the event.

A Look at Past Winners

Many of the previous winners of the Cannabis Cup are still in business today, doing very well for themselves. If you look at the past winners of the Cup, you will also notice some repeat winners, showing which companies consistently produce quality products. Here are just a few of the winners over the years:

  • 1st Cannabis Cup in 1988: Skunk #1 – Cultivator’s Choice
  • 2nd Cannabis Cup in 1989: Early Pearly/Skunk #1 and Northern Lights #5/Haze – Seed Bank, Snocap – David Swenson
  • 3rd Cannabis Cup in 1990: Northern Lights #5 – Seed Bank
  • 4th Cannabis Cup in 1991: Skunk – Free City
  • 5th Cannabis Cup in 1992: Haze and Skunk #1 – Homegrown Fantasy
  • 6th Cannabis Cup in 1993: Haze and Northern Lights #5 – Sensi Seed Bank
  • 7th Cannabis Cup in 1994: Jack Herer – Sensi Seed Bank
  • 8th Cannabis Cup in 1995: White Widow – Green House
  • 9th Cannabis Cup in 1996: White Russian – De Dampkring
  • 10th Cannabis Cup in 1997: Peace Maker – De Dampkring 

The most recent Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam was in 2014. First-place winners at that event included:

  • Best Coffeeshop Strain: Cookies Kush – Barney’s Coffeeshop
  • Best Sativa by a Seed Company: Tangie Crockett’s Cut – Crockett Family Farms
  • Best Indica by a Seed Company: Colorado Bubba – The Vault Genetics
  • Best Hybrid by a Seed Company: Larry OG – The Vault Genetics
  • Best Import Hash by a Coffeeshop: Super Lemon Haze Cream – The Green House
  • Best Import Hash by a Seed Company: Super Lemon OG Concentrate – Loud Pack Extractions & Greenwolf, LA
  • Best Nederhash by a Coffeeshop: Barney’s Coffeeshop – Cookies Ice-Cream
  • Best Nederhash by a Seed Company: The Kong 73 Non-Solvent Hash – The Vault Genetics
  • Highest CBD – Concentrates: CBD Simple: CannaVest
  • Highest CBD – Flowers: CBD Rene by House of the Great Gardener
  • Best Product – The Loud Seeds Gift Bag
  • Best Glass – Roor – Sublimator

Looking at the winners from the 2014 Amsterdam Cannabis Cup gives you a good idea of how much the various categories have expanded over the years. There were a dozen categories, each with honors for first, second, and third place. Only two of these categories, the highest CBDs, only had a single winner. This shows that the Cannabis Cup was sizable enough to attract enough vendors to justify requiring so many winners and categories. It also indicates enough diversity in products and offerings. After all, the Cannabis Cup did not give honor to every vendor, so offering 36 titles shows significant participation.

Some of the categories that are up for judging in the Cannabis Cup include:

  • Best Indica Flower
  • Best Hybrid Flower
  • Best Sativa Flower
  • Best Indica Concentrate
  • Best Hybrid Concentrate
  • Best Sativa Concentrate
  • Best Non-Solvent Hash
  • Best Edible
  • Best Topical
  • Best CBD Flower
  • Best CBD Concentrate
  • Best Medically Infused Product
  • Best Vape Pen Cartridges
  • Best Preroll 
  • Best CBD Edibles
  • Best CBD Cartridges
  • Best Booth
  • Best Product
  • Best Glass
  • Best Vape Pen

The wide range of categories, once again most with winners for first, second, and third places, indicates a high level of participation.

The Counterculture Hall of Fame

In addition to the Cannabis Cup, there are other cannabis-related events and honors throughout the world. The Counterculture Hall of Fame is designed to honor those who influenced the shaping of the cannabis industry. This Hall of Fame began in 1997. Bob Marley was among the first to be inducted, with his induction occurring that same year. In 2012, Steve Hager was inducted. Other inductees include Louis Armstrong, Peter Tosh, Tommy Chong, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Cheech Marin, Tom Forcade, Coke La Rock, Jack Herer, John Grigs, Ben Dronkers, Alexander Shulgin, and Ann Shulgin.

Other Cannabis Events

It should come as no surprise that the Cannabis Cup is not the only major marijuana event. There are various events around the world throughout the year, with a focus on countries with more marijuana-friendly laws.

Cannabis Business Summit and Expo

The next of these annual events will be in June 2020 in San Francisco. It is a business-to-business event that provides commerce and education to empower the industry. The National Cannabis Industry Association hosts this event.

Cannabis Conference

This year’s Cannabis Conference was in April in Las Vegas, but you can already get a super early bird ticket for the next year’s event in April 2020, also in Las Vegas. This event offers insights into cannabis business operations and cultivation, customer engagement, and retail management. It also began offering insights on cultivating and selling hemp and products derived from hemp.

Cannabiz Expo

May 2019 also saw the most recent Cannabiz Expo in Sacramento, California. This was the second time the annual event was held. Instead of focusing on the plants and products like the Cannabis Cup, the Cannabiz Expo focuses on businesses in the marijuana industry. It is an opportunity for networking and connecting with legal experts, grow operations, dispensary owners, and anyone else in the industry. The next event will be in May 2020, also in Sacramento.

CannaGrow Expo

The most recent CannaGrow Expo was in August in Palm Springs, California, with the next one planned for November 2020, marking the tenth year of the expo. The expo dedicates itself to the science and art of growing cannabis. It prides itself on being open to everyone over 18 years old. It tries to appeal to cannabis growers, grow managers, grow enthusiasts, and extractors. There are dozens of cultivation-focused educational sessions, a vendor expo hall, and plenty of networking opportunities.

HempFest Cannabis Expo

HempFest Cannabis Expo is a Canadian event with multiple events in cities like Winnipeg, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Halifax, and Edmonton throughout the year. It is a chance for people to learn about and try products as well as an opportunity for businesses in the industry to connect. Upcoming events include October dates for HempFest CUP and Calgary and 2020 dates for Edmonton and Saskatoon.


MJBizCon is one of the biggest cannabis events, greatly appealing to marijuana businesses. There are more than a thousand exhibitors, networking events, and high-profile speakers. This convention is more expensive to attend than other events, but those in the business agree that it is worth it. The next event is in September in Toronto, with others planned for September and October in Bogota, and December in Las Vegas. There will also be at least three events in 2020, including the MJBizCon NEXT, MJBizDaily’s European Cannabis Symposium, and The Hemp Industry Daily Conference.

Some Events Include Awards

Some of these other cannabis events also include awards and competitions. MJBizCon, for example, honors companies and individuals that have strong market influence or success, or have made significant advancements in the industry.


The Cannabis Cup was created in 1988 as a way to honor those who participate in the cannabis industry while also spreading education. The event began in Amsterdam and now occurs in multiple cities throughout the world, still going strong. While the Cannabis Cup is an important event in the cannabis industry, it is far from the only one.

Grow with us.

Get articles like this and cannabis seed deals.