The Cowboy Cup

By Pamela Jayne

“You can’t buy our buckle.” This simple statement speaks volumes about the community’s skepticism of cannabis competitions. If patients can’t trust that the winners are actually providing the best products, everybody loses. When the Cowboy Cup Cannabis Championship and Arts Festival entered the scene four years ago, they quickly became known for being an honest and fair competition that featured Oklahoma’s best cannabis. This year they have added another level of integrity to the competition by partnering with Ganjier. Herbage wanted to know more about this elite group of cannabis professionals and their involvement in Oklahoma’s most respected “cup”, so we called up the Managing Director of Ganjier, Derek Gilman, who gave us some insight into what a Ganjier is, what their Cannabis Sommelier Certification Program is all about, and their recent partnership with the Cowboy Cup. 

“A Ganjier is a cannabis professional whose job it is to assess the quality of cannabis flower and concentrates, as well as guide consumers in their choices”, Derek Gilman, Managing Director of Ganjier, told Herbage. “There are trained professionals in every gustatory based industry- wine, chocolate, cheese, coffee, cigars. Each of these industries that are based off of the interaction with the senses- the appearance, the aroma, the flavor. Each of these industries has trained professionals that assess the quality and guide consumers in making their choices. Effectively, we didn’t have this in cannabis until we developed Ganjier.” Unlike in other epicurean trades, the effect of cannabis is crucial to the overall experience. It’s the whole point, really. This is why a Certified Ganjier is also trained in how to use specific criteria to communicate what the patient will experience physically and cerebrally when consuming cannabis. Being able to effectively convey this information to novice patients and folks who are simply curious about this beloved plant is crucial to successful career in cannabis, and is also an important part of moving the industry even further into the mainstream. 

To become a Certified Ganjier, students must complete three steps. The first step is taking ten rigorous, multidisciplinary online courses featuring instruction by all eighteen members of the Ganjier Council. The ten courses include 31 lessons that cover everything from cultivation and genetics to managing inventory and curating menus to developing a cannabis palate, and everything in between. (See ganjier.com for curriculum information.) These courses, a complete education in and of themselves, prepare the student for their trip into the heart of the Emerald Triangle for step two where students attend a two day live training session located on 250 acres of wilderness in legendary Humboldt County, California. As Gilman passionately explained, “Part of the magic, part of the special sauce is bringing students here to experience Humboldt for the two day live training portion of the curriculum. There is no place like it and people really need to come here to experience it.” Whereas the first portion of training focuses on knowledge, the second portion teaches the skills necessary to be successful in the cannabis industry. The in person training emphasizes two things- service and assessment. Service is taught via the Customer Interaction Protocol (CIP) and assessment is taught via the Systematic Assessment Protocol (SAP), which will be implemented at the Cowboy Cup. The SAP was developed by the 18 members of the Ganjier Council. The SAP is made up of four categories that align with the four senses that interact with cannabis- appearance, aroma, flavor, and the experience of the sample. There is also individual criteria within each of those main categories. The familiar hundred point scoring system the SAP uses to grade cannabis samples was adapted from a similar system used in the wine industry. The final step of the process is to pass a 100 question written exam with a score of 90% or higher, a service exam, and an assessment exam. The service exam is 20 minute role play scenario where the student will apply the Customer Interaction Protocol (CIP) to make a product recommendation to a “customer” played by an exam administrator. The assessment exam has the student utilize the Systematic Assessment Protocol (SAP) to assess an unidentified and blindly selected flower sample that has been pre-assessed by Ganjier instructors. Just like the Cowboy Cup cannot be bought, neither can a Ganjier certification. The program and testing are tough, and it takes significant time and financial resources to complete, but that is by design. A student enters the program filled with enthusiasm and passion for cannabis, and leaves with the knowledge and skill set to match. Of the 143 certified Ganjiers around the world, 42 applied to judge the Cowboy Cup and twelve were selected for the panel based on their application responses. Those twelve will employ the Systematic Assessment Protocol to choose the top three entries in the indoor, outdoor, and light assist categories from the top fifteen that were previously selected by Cowboy Cup judges. The December event will be the first time the Ganjier SAP will be officially used to judge a cannabis competition, although it has been unofficially used by some Ganjier Councilmembers in their judging duties around the country, including the Emerald Cup.

The origins of the Ganjier/Cowboy Cup partnership came about quite organically. Patrick King aka the Soil King, who is a member of the Ganjier Council, has been attending the Cowboy Cup since the beginning, and told its creator and THCeo Daniel Lewis about the Ganjier program. The rest is canna-history. Lewis enrolled in the program and became a Certified Ganjier in June. “What I love about Daniel is that he took the partnership and the relationship seriously enough to go through our program”, said Gilman. “It demonstrates a true commitment to quality, in my eyes, because the program itself is a commitment of time and resources.” The feeling of respect is mutual. Lewis told Herbage, “We are honored to have the wonderful folks at Ganjier jump on board with us this year. To have certified Ganjiers select the top 3 winners from our judges top 15 not only adds to our promise of a fair and honest competition but it also puts the hard task of judging the best of the best cannabis in the state on some of the most qualified judges in the world.” 

The 4th Annual Cowboy Cup Cannabis Championship and Arts Festival is a two day event featuring live music, vendors, giveaways, an artist colony, seminars, and much more. It will be held at the legendary Tumbleweed Dancehall in Stillwater, OK  December 2nd and 3rd. Follow them @thecowboycup for updates and information, and go to ganjier.com for all the details about the Ganjier Cannabis Sommelier Certification Program. 

By: Pamela Jayne (@pamelajayne)