Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Portland grower sweeps the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards with "Lemon Pledge," "Train Wreck" and "Dynamite."


A very mellow gathering of 100 medical-marijuana users got some delicious news at the seventh annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards on Saturday night.

"Apparently, the weed keeps getting better and better," announced Russ Belville, associate director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Oregon branch.

Belville based his statement on the scores this year's 27 entries received from a lucky pool of 28 judges who are medical marijuana patients. Each judge got a gram of each type to sample over six weeks, and rate on appearance, taste, aroma, potency, smoothness and medicinal effect.

This year's top entry received an 80 percent score. Last year's winner, 78.8 percent.

The crowd—many of whom made trips throughout the night to a courtyard set up outside the Ambridge Events Center in Northeast Portland for medical-marijuana cardholders to smoke and vaporize their stash—erupted in applause.

Paul Stanford, head of a Portland-based national chain of medical-marijuana clinics called THC Foundation (see "King Bong," WW, Dec. 12, 2007), dominated this year's awards. Stanford collected first, second and third prize for his Lemon Pledge, Train Wreck and Dynamite strains.

Stanford, who in past cannabis contests has never broken into the top three, chalked the victory up to better tilling in his outer East Portland garden. "We did a lot better job mixing our dirt this year," he told WW after collecting his glass trophies and ribbons.

David Verstoppen, the legendary Eastern Oregon grower who's won the past three years and fell victim to a violent attempted weed heist (see "High-Jacked," WW, Nov. 12, 2008), had to settle for an honorable mention in the "best aroma" category for his Medicine Woman strain.

"This man is living proof that you can't keep a good man down," Belville told the crowd as Verstoppen took his ribbon after making the five-hour drive from Long Creek.

The highlights of the evening were the cake table (chocolate, custard or organic carrot) and the keynote address by Allen St. Pierre, head of NORML's national office in Washington, D.C. He called for legalization as a matter of "cognitive liberty."

"Of course we want to get high. This is self-evident. But we can get plenty high under prohibition," St. Pierre said. "There's no moral reason why you shouldn't have access to this incredible plant."

St. Pierre bemoaned what he called the "Balkanization" of the marijuana movement, with hemp advocates, medical patients, pot decriminalizers and hard-drug legalizers all staking out territory.

He noted a new phenomenon where retiring baby boomers are returning to their youthful pastimes, including marijuana use, and contributing more money to NORML. But he also said the organization needs new ways of reaching out.

"What if we had marijuana dating services?" he asked. "How many of us are with our spouse or partner because of the commonality of cannabis?"

FACT: NORML's Allen St. Pierre hinted he may move the group's office to the West Coast, on the friendly side of America's "marijuana Maginot Line." He said Portland is high on the list of possible homes. One audience member promised plenty of "green office space."

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