Emerald Cup cancels 2023 Harvest Ball for cannabis cultivators

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Image of the words "Event Canceled!" printed on a blackboard that's draped in stage curtains

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The Emerald Cup’s marquee winter event that celebrates small craft cannabis farmers in Northern California and connects them with prospective buyers across the state is being canceled this year, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The Harvest Ball Festival, which has drawn more than 13,000 attendees to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds the past few years, will forgo this year’s installment as event organizers focus efforts and resources on the Emerald Cup’s 20th anniversary event in the San Francisco Bay Area in the spring of 2024, sources told MJBizDaily.

Harvest Ball organizers hadn’t announced specific dates for this year’s event.

Emerald Cup officials declined to comment on this story.

The Harvest Ball, held in December in Santa Rosa the past two years, marks the start of the Emerald Cup Competition.

The event, one of the oldest and most established awards shows and B2B gatherings in the cannabis industry, highlights organic outdoor-grown and indoor-grown flower.

Major sponsors have included Rebel Grown, a Humboldt County-based company that produces organic, sun-grown cannabis and other products, and Redwood Roots, a distributor that sources bulk marijuana from the Emerald Triangle.

The Harvest Ball event and the Emerald Cup were established by Tim Blake, an industry vanguard and key player in the rise of the Emerald Triangle, long considered the most fertile cannabis-producing region in the world.

His daughter, Taylor, is the associate producer.

The Harvest Ball cancellation is another sting for Northern California’s cadre of small legacy farmers, who have faced numerous challenges the past several years in the world’s largest marketplace, including fierce competition from unlicensed growers, wildfires, depressed wholesale prices and a lack of retail outlets.

Nearly six years after California launched adult-use sales, 61% of cities and counties still ban marijuana retail businesses, according to state data.

In Mendocino County, farmers and other cannabis operators have been exiting the industry in mass for years.

In 2020, more than 1,300 cannabis businesses were based in Mendocino County.

Today, fewer than 850 are operational, according to Michael Katz, executive director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance.

“There’s been such a long history of challenges and financial difficulty that it’s too little too late for a lot of people,” he said.

Forgoing the Harvest Ball this year could also be viewed as another sign of the times, particularly in California’s struggling cannabis industry.

Capital and cash flow has dried up for the vast majority of state operators, limiting expenditures on sponsorships, marketing and booth exhibits at trade shows and other industry events, according to insiders.

Northern California, despite its long history of producing quality cannabis, also has far fewer brands and industry resources than do its counterparts in Southern California – especially Los Angeles, which has developed its own ecosystem of industry events and showcases, primarily in West L.A. and West Hollywood.

“I have nothing but love for Tim and Taylor, and I’m confident that whatever plans they are making, they’re doing so with the community in mind,” said Katz, who has worked with event organizers to showcase small cannabis farms in the region.

“I certainly hope conditions for all of us improve.”

Chris Casacchia can be reached at chris.casacchia@mjbizdaily.com.