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By Michael Kinney
In 2016 Daniel Lewis took a trip to Santa Rosa, Calif. While the views of Sonoma County are amazing and touring the wineries can be enjoyable, that’s not why he took the 1,600 mile trip to the West Coast.

Lewis was attending the Emerald Cup, which he describes as the biggest Cannabis Championship and Harvest Festival in the nation.

“I had a great time and really enjoyed the environment,” Lewis said. “I said it that weekend, when Oklahoma legalizes cannabis, that this is what I want to do. I wanted to throw a cannabis championship. I liked the business model. I liked the atmosphere. I loved the camaraderie that it brings. To be able to finally smoke cannabis in front of everybody and not be this thing we’re trying to hide is huge, Oklahoma needed an event like this.”

Lewis had only one problem. At the time cannabis was still illegal in Oklahoma. But he knew at some point that would change. He just didn’t know when. The moment came sooner than Lewis expected when State Question 788 was put before the people in 2018.

“I knew we had a really good chance of passing it when we got it on the ballot,” Lewis said. “I just didn’t expect that it would have happened so soon in Oklahoma. We’re a pretty red state, we’re a conservative state, and the fact that we did it here, I mean, that speaks volumes for medical cannabis.” As soon as Lewis got over being stunned, he knew what his next move needed to be: bring a cannabis festival to Oklahoma as soon as possible.

That idea spawned into what is now the annual Cowboy Cup. It was held for the first time in 2019.

“We hosted the event the first year we could do it,” Lewis said. “They passed 788 in October of 2018, so we didn’t have time to do it that year. So we started planning for 2019. We set it in December to include outdoor. It’s not a comprehensive state-wide competition without outdoor flower.”

The 2nd Annual Cowboy Cup is set for Dec. 4-5 at the Tumbleweed Dance Hall in Stillwater.

Lewis and the other event sponsors didn’t want to settle for just a one day showcase. When they put together the festival, they wanted it to be, as their tagline suggests, ‘A Cannabis Event Oklahoma Can be Proud of.’

Sativa Prophets performing at the 2019 Cowboy Cup, photo by Rick Weldon

In addition to naming this year’s champions, the Cowboy Cup offers a variety of entertainment throughout the weekend, including glass blowing expositions, live art, cannabis-ed seminars, food trucks and live music. Friday night’s line up includes music from Big Smo, Jack Waters and the Unemployed, and TJ Mays. Saturday features several acoustic acts on the Herbage Lounge Stage, and the Full Flava Kings and Rousey on the main stage starting at 7 p.m.

“The Cowboy Cup is an inclusive celebration for all that support the choice of cannabis. The music, food, and people are diverse and last year’s event blew me away with how many people come together to celebrate,” said Chet Tucker of Arcadia Brands.

“There’s a vendor tent with cultivators, processors, dispensary booths, and other goods and services for the cannabis community. There’s a lounge tent to take a load off and have a bite to eat, a drink, and smoke if you choose. And most importantly, within the iconic Tumbleweed, you have the clean dance hall, a stage for live music, artist booths, and even seminars to learn about products and services. The staff and volunteers of The Cowboy Cup are there to ensure everyone is enjoying their time and their level of dedication to serving vendors, sponsors, and ticket holders are second to none. Put simply, it’s a two-day celebration of enjoying what Mother Earth naturally provides us.”

Arcadia Brands is one of several sponsors who have dedicated their time, products and money to making the Cowboy Cup a success. Others include Express Toxicology, Escalated Greens, Bros Grimm, Oaksterdam, Simply Green Farms, Golden Trends, Ruby Mae’s, Argent, Green Green Expo, Kosmik Brands, Green Mountain Farms, Zenoa Cannabis and Red Sky.

“On top of working with our excellent sponsors, we pride ourselves on partnering with media and marketing companies, like iHeartMedia, Herbage Magazine, Custom 420 and HotBox Digital to promote medical cannabis and all of the great folks in this industry,” Lewis said.

2019 Cowboy Cup at Tumbleweed dancehall in Stillwater, OK

“Who doesn’t love a great event? Daniel and his team work year-round to make sure the Cowboy Cup is just that, a great event,” said Kaylen Newbury of Express Toxicology Services. “It ties together patient advocacy, education, competition, community and a deep-rooted love for cannabis.”

One of the main goals of the Cowboy Cup is to spread the word about the importance of cannabis in the medical industry.

With the passage of SQ788, it gave Oklahoma a chance to be a major player in the medical marijuana field. And it’s an opportunity the people of the state have taken advantage of so far.

According to Cannabisreportworld.com, Oklahoma is second to only Oregon in the number of dispensaries per capita at 15.6 per 100,000 residents. There were nine Oklahoma cities listed within the top 30 rankings as well.

The rankings were introduced at the start of 2020. So undoubtedly the market share has increased.

“If you want to go get a grower’s license in California, it’s somewhere around a million dollars,” Lewis said. “You can do that same thing with unlimited plants in Oklahoma for $3,000. That’s an open market that helps keep out all the big businesses because we’ve got plenty of little businesses supplying the market. We don’t need big stores coming down here. Our medical marijuana industry is growing to be the biggest one in the nation. We’re not ranked yet, but that’s coming.”

Golden Trend’s Celina Harrison agrees with Lewis.

“With its free-market approach, Oklahoma is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the county,” Harrison said. “To other states with more restrictive licensing, Oklahoma represents the financial future of what cannabis can become. It’s a new industry that is highly entrepreneurial in nature. Standardization, quality control and continuing research will benefit the citizens of Oklahoma immeasurably.”

The objective of the Cowboy Cup is to get all of the facets of the Oklahoma cannabis industry in one place so they can strengthen their position nationwide.

“It’s about getting everyone together in one place. Growers, processors, dispos, patients and the canna-curious,” Lewis said. “It’s a harvest celebration, party and overall great time, but at its core, it’s a good competition that helps the industry. A lot of collaborations come out of this. We do provide a festival environment, but at the same time, we want to provide a good networking environment. The competition helps set the standard for quality cannabis.”

Oklahoma-based, Desarae Gibson of Escalated Greens says “The Cowboy Cup means everything to this industry. It’s a patient-focused event celebrating Oklahoma’s cannabis companies wherein the industry gets to indulge in the community; sharing ideas and trade secrets. The man behind the event is an Okie with a passion for this community and the businesses within it and this event will be proof of just that.”

Gibson reiterated, “We want to share what we’ve learned along the way and learn from others companies what they’ve discovered, but the most exciting part is educating the patients and learning from them what they like and what they’re looking for in their medical marijuana.”

The Cowboy Cup features two divisions for growers to enter their products for competition. They are Sun Grown Flower Entry and Sun Grown Light Assists Flower Entry.

Growers and processors compete in 19 different categories, including sun-grown flower, sun-grown light-assist flower, indoor flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, edibles, tinctures and topicals.

“I believe the Cowboy Cup puts a spotlight on the best products in the state,” Chet Tucker said. “Those that submit their products are vetted through two phases of testing and independent judging. To me, it means transparency and a celebration of the freedom of choosing plant-based medicine.”

Winners in each category are awarded high quality sterling silver, gold and brass belt buckles custom made by Montana Silversmiths.

The winners also receive a $500 scholarship to Oaksterdam University that is transferable to whomever they wish. Oaksterdam University is recognized as leader in academic rigor and applied learning in cannabis education. “The overall winner, The Grand Flower Champion receives a special buckle and a full ride scholarship to Oaksterdam,” Lewis said. “This winner is chosen between the winners of indoor and outdoor flower categories. Competitors who rank high in our competition find their products selling more rapidly and at higher profits due to increased demand. This competition lets consumers know who has the best products in the state.”

Since the inception of the event, Lewis focuses on the integrity and legitimacy of the competition. He has seen other festivals fall prey to cheating scandals and biased results and he doesn’t want that to happen in Oklahoma. Their motto is “You Can’t Buy our Buckle”.

“Our judging is and always will be completely fair, unbiased and educated. We will gather judges from across the state. Some of which will work in the industry and some will simply be patients,” Lewis said. “This year we have made some big changes to our judging. We not only have expanded our judging panels from 10 to 20 judges per category, but also we have partnered with the world-renowned Oaksterdam University to assist in setting our judging criteria and scales. On top of that, they are providing a training workshop for all of our judges. Our judges will receive blind, coded samples for each entry with the exception of the edibles and tincture categories, which we have changed to “branded” categories this
year.”

“I am so proud to associate with Daniel and his team of experts that are bringing the true nature of our loving cannabis community together,” James Bridges said. “Herbage Magazine and all of our team are very pleased to team up with positive and caring people and their brands.”

Because the championship is known for its honesty and transparency, companies want to be associated with it.

“The Cowboy Cup increases visibility and highlights the professionalism Oklahoma producers are bringing to the medical cannabis industry in Oklahoma,” Harrison said. “At Golden Trends we were eager to throw our support behind the state’s first cannabis championship by being a Gold Sponsor. We encourage everyone to come out and support the efforts of so many within the industry. Whether you are already a patient or just cannabis curious, you should attend this event and enjoy the music, food and competition.”

The Cowboy Cup has the ability to affect several areas at once, according to Newbury with Express Toxicology. “Oklahoma is so different from other states in how we operate our Medical Marijuana program,” Newbury said. “Master and novice growers have the opportunity to enter and show off their babies. They put their hearts behind their products and patients’ health and well-being first.”

According to Lewis, the first Cowboy Cup had around 130 total entries vying for the championship titles in various categories. He is expecting much more this year.

“I think we had 50 or 60 flower entries last year. We have 81 of them this year,” Lewis said. “The concentrates went crazy. The edibles went crazy. The numbers really went up in those categories. So we’re at 175 total entries so far, and the sun-grown flower won’t be in until mid-November. And I imagine we’ll get another 40. So I think I expected a number over 200 this year and I felt if we got that, we’d be on target. If the outdoor growers show up like the other categories, we’ll easily meet that goal.”

In many ways the Cowboy Cup is a reflection of the cannabis industry in the state. Despite its youth, it has gained national attention and continues to grow unprecedented. The same can be said of what is taking place in Oklahoma. In just a few short years the state has made its mark in the world of cannabis, and
the future seems to be even brighter.

“The cannabis industry in Oklahoma is continually evolving and growing. We’re a central piece within the United States and we’re being heard loud and clear across the country,” Tucker said. “We’ve had some amazing cross-pollination of people from states that have had a jump on the legalization of cannabis and I see it continuing. I do love, however, how Oklahomans are learning about the locally built companies and supporting them while also learning which medicinal offerings best suit them. I believe it’ll continue to grow as we support those producing the best cannabis and products in the state.

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