The Karma Cup began in 2013 and is one of Canada’s largest cannabis and concentrate competitions, allowing Canadians over the age of 19 to judge, compare and score a variety of craft cannabis products, from flower, to edibles, concentrates and everything in between.
The infamous competition attracts Canadians from all parts of the country, of which most are from the east-coast given the Toronto location of the event. The Karma Cup offers craft cannabis producers and growers the opportunity to submit samples of their vape pens, extracts, flowers, or edibles for a blind judgement by the public. For a fee, the public can purchase a large judges kit containing samples from every cannabis entry in the competition as well as a scoring book, and a bunch of cool, free swag. People can also participate in the event either as a vendor, a volunteer, or simply as a guest to this popular weekend event.
I was first exposed to the Karma Cup quite some years ago and attended my first in 2017 where I also had the pleasure in taking part going through their judges kit filled with cannabis entries from every category (which was no easy feat!). I was very impressed with the marketing and organization of it all, with custom artwork on their promotional materials, a detailed scoring book, hundreds of cannabis entries from every category and a great weekend event that was packed with few issues.
This year was no different, and it seems as though no expense was spared to make sure this year’s Karma Cup was better than each previous year. Artwork and promotional materials were revamped, marketing was pumped out well in advance with solid promotion in both print and web, and even more custom Karma gear was included in every judges kit, such as custom Karma vape pens and even hand-blown Karma mini nectar collectors!
There were 15 entry categories for Karma Cup 2018. They were:
- Indica Bud
- Hybrid Bud
- Sativa Bud
- Pre-Rolled Joint
- Indica Shatter
- Hybrid Shatter
- Sativa Shatter
- Solvent-less Hash
- Disposable Vapour Pen/Cartridge
- THC Distillate
- Best Functional Glass
Winners of each category receive a beautiful custom-made and hand-blown glass trophy (as well as some great bragging rights!) for coming in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. For a list of the announced winners in each category, click here.
This year’s Karma Cup was held on September 8th and 9th with the address originally set at a large, converted parking lot on 217 Adelaide Street W in downtown Toronto, with the location being released only 24 hours prior to keep discretion to a maximum. Earlier on in the day, line-ups could be seen for almost a block, filled with eager cannabis enthusiasts looking to enjoy a day packed with live music, tons of cannabis products to purchase, free samples and giveaways, and of course, lots of cannabis consumption at the 420-encouraging event!
Guest pass tickets could be purchased for a single day or for the weekend, and the venue was packed with people from all around the GTA, Ontario and even out of province. Some of the vendors and competitors had come all the way from Montreal and BC! There must have been at least 50 different vendors all neatly arranged in their own booths around the venue, but it wasn’t long before the converted parking lot was packed to the brim with guests. This year certainly attracted hundreds of more people than in previous years. A first for this event, there was even the presence of 7 Acres, a Licensed Producer offering free swag and a neat popup garden area to smoke and relax in. It was nice to see an LP share the grey market space with us in support.
The atmosphere was filled with excitement (and smoke!), and somehow, despite all the cannabis regulatory drama looming over Canada with upcoming “legalization”, one couldn’t help but feel we were in some kind of safe cannabis bubble, high in the clouds and free from any politics or authorities. The entertaining and organized nature of the event can easily blind people to the legal reality which nevertheless affected the event. As I understand, at the end of the first evening, the property owner caught wind of the activities that were occurring on his land earlier in the day and refused the leaseholder to allow the event to continue at the same location the following day.
Something similar happened during the Karma Cup in 2016, where the advertised venue of Polson Pier had to be changed at the last minute, but now, on the verge of cannabis legalization it’s a shame that these problems still arise. Despite these issues, organizer and owner Sarah Sunday went into action calling upon her contacts and helpers to formulate a backup plan, and within 12 hours already had a second location at 512 Church Street lined up for the next day, the same location it was held at the previous year.
A significantly smaller parking lot, vendors were forced to have their booths cut in half and would have to share with the adjacent neighbour in order to fit everyone, but despite the last-minute changes and challenges, the public were none the wiser except for having to visit a new and slightly smaller location that happened to be in a more central area of downtown. The show must go own, and it did so successfully bringing lots of energy to that area of Toronto’s infamous Gay Village, which is usually very quiet at that time of the day. It’s amazing how many people this event brings out every year and how different this parking lot appeared after being “Karmatized”.
Sadly, at this year’s Karma Cup I didn’t get to partake in the judges kit, but even as a visitor I still walked away with a bunch of goodies and cannabis products, from free pre-rolls, to free bud and some rolling papers and swag, much of it given away by new online dispensaries and delivery companies looking for new clientele. It reminded me of the movie “Half Baked” and their marketing tactic of giving free joints with their business cards. Back alley weed dealers should know the cannabis game is becoming quite competitive!
So another Karma Cup has ended, and not long before Canada’s cannabis ‘legalization’. Given the proposed regulations and increased penalties, sought after events such as these will be far more risky and challenging to set up and get away with in Canada. Despite many of the craft cannabis products being unavailable through legal means, the Canadian government will probably not want anyone cutting into their profits, especially after their major rollout into recreational legal cannabis. It’s a shame, because after several years it is clear to see that these events do no harm, are strictly for adults (with ID verification and security on site), and last but not least, they offer tons of safe cannabis products that the public demand and cannot access through legal means. Until these needs are met, these events and the free (black/grey) market, will continue to survive in one way or another.
Regulations are still being developed and changed, and my gut tells me that there will be far more changes with the many months to come, especially as the Canadian government start to see the errors in their ways. In the meantime, I will enjoy the rest of the summer and hope I get to feel the Karma again next year.