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High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition 2023

By Amanda Ferron

Long before Cannabis legalization, when most people were still hiding their Cannabis use, there was a publication that would grow to become a staple in the Cannabis community: High Times Magazine.

Over the years, it has become much more than a magazine. High Times now has its own product line, and stores across California, with partner stores in other states across the country. But one of the things High Times has really become known for: The High Times Cannabis Cup.

What started as an underground competition and morphed into a Medical Cannabis competition, is now widely recognized as one of the most prestigious awards a Cannabis manufacturer can receive. Win a High Times Cannabis Cup, and you are sure to get a LOT of brand recognition. 

The People’s Choice

When COVID hit, a large number of people in the Cannabis industry really felt the sting of “No more social interaction.” Folks in the Cannabis community love going to events like The Emerald Cup and the High Times Cannabis Cup… Places where we could come together and celebrate our love for everything ganja related, and not be judged for consuming Cannabis. 

With their usual Cannabis Cups out of the picture, the team at High Times had to get creative. Enter: The Peoples Cup. A competition where you don’t have to be a Cannabis industry professional or connoisseur in order to judge. While they do have judges like that, anyone can judge the High Times Cannabis Cup: People’s Choice Edition. You also do not have to LIVE in SoCal to purchase the regional (SoCal or NorCal) competitions Judge Kits. People from all over CA are welcome to participate in judging.

It’s as easy as finding your local High Times dispensary, and purchasing a Judge Kit. You can choose from different consumption forms: Indica, sativa, or hybrid flower, infused or regular pre-rolls, edibles, topicals, and more. The Judge Kits include multiple samples from different brands of the consumption form you chose, and a card with a code that you use to access an online Judges portal. You simply enter in your ratings for each item, and submit!

PayRio Judges

For the 2023 High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition, PayRio and For:20 Minutes decided to try our hand at judging, with 3 team members choosing different Judge Kits:

  • Aubrey Amatelli, PayRio Founder/CEO, chose Sublingual & Capsules + Topicals & Tinctures
  • Chase Nightingale, Digital Marketing Manager, chose Vape Pens & Carts
  • Amanda Ferron (a.k.a… me), Head of Community/Writer For:20 Minutes, chose Indica Flower


Aubrey really enjoyed the Yummi Karma “Just Peachy” 30:1 high CBD tincture. Though she is pretty experienced with Cannabis, Aubrey prefers the lower-dose options. “I liked the peach because it was only 2mg. It tasted fantastic and gave me the perfect little micro dose.”

Chase preferred the Rove vaporizers. “My favorite was the Rove Melted Diamonds Vaporizer. Sooooo tasty and the best high. I got two! The Skywalker OG was my favorite.”

As for me? My personal favorite was THC Designs Garlic Cocktail. Super frosty, dense nugs… Strong nose of Myrcene and Limonene… Topped off with a relaxing yet productive high. *Chefs kiss!*

Big Winners

Each of this years winners were awarded a beautiful trophy that was lovingly designed by Alex Grey and Allyson Grey, their digital artist Taha Alkan, and produced by Bennett Awards. The cup is adorned with symbols representing different elements of the Cannabis plant and community, like Indica and Sativa plant leaves, DNA helix’, Twin two-headed serpents, Chinese & Sanskrit, and more… all with special meaning. (Check out the description from the designers here.)

This years High Times Cannabis Cup Socal: People’s Choice Edition 2023 winners include:

  • Vape Pens & Cartridges: Stoney – Watermelon Live Resin Disposable Vape Pen
  • Topicals, Tinctures, Capsules, & Sublinguals: Mary’s Medicinals – 1:1 CBD:THC Transdermal Patch  

Find the full list of winners here!

The Advantages of Judging 

If you see this competition happening in your state, I highly recommend purchasing a judge kit and participating in the High Times Cannabis Cup: Peoples Choice Edition. It is a unique experience for Cannabis industry professionals, regular consumers, and the canna-curious alike. 

For those of us in the industry who may not get asked to judge competitions regularly, the Judge Kits introduce you to a plethora of new products and brands. And certain products, like the Indica Flower I judged, give you a chance to test your terpene-knowledge, which is always fun! Both regular consumers and the canna-curious get those same introductions, plus a little peek into how those of us who love the Cannabis plant judge our products in our everyday lives… 

Factoring in things like terpene profile, smokability, and focused effects are aspects of the Cannabis plant that the average consumer might not take into account. A lot of people who don’t consume Cannabis on an everyday basis are still primarily focused on THC% and “how high you are going to get.” The HT Peoples Choice Cup is a wonderful way to usher in a new way of thinking when it comes to Cannabis and the not-so-regular consumer. 

One Amazing Team

The High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: Peoples Choice Edition is just one of many Awards that the High Times will be handing out this year. If you live in New Mexico, Illinois, or Oregon, make sure you check out their upcoming High Times Peoples Choice Editions! New Mexicos is a live awards show that’s taking place on Monday, September 4th 2023. The show will include a performance by Method Man & Redman!

On a personal note, I am lucky enough to know a few High Times team members… From the C-suite to the Store Managers and Budtenders, they have a truly amazing team. Every time I’m at an event and I see the High Times crew, I know it is going to be a good night. I am consistently impressed by their professionalism, knowledge, and kindness.

Aubrey and I love the High Times team!

The Peoples Choice version of the High Times Cannabis Cup is like no other competition in the country. Allowing everyday folks to join in on the fun of trying to pick the best Cannabis brands and products their state has to offer. Truly bringing competitive Cannabis judging to the masses. It was an honor to be able to contribute to this years judging. We will definitely be participating again in 2024!