Now Reading
American Autoflower Cup Takes Autos to New Heights

American Autoflower Cup Takes Autos to New Heights

marijuana-event-recap-people at table of cannabis products

Cannabis cultivation has grown by leaps and bounds in the era of legalization – no pun intended. Advances in breeding and growing methods have led to more options on the market than ever before, seeing something for every type of consumer and gardener.

Autoflower varieties of cannabis have been rising in popularity as of late. The strains are especially revered by home growers, caregivers, and commercial growers seeking a simple way to cultivate quality buds in a quick and efficient manner. Autoflower plants are relatively easy to grow, with expedited life cycles and a short stature perfect for any environment.

marijuana event recaps table of brass awards
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

The American Autoflower Cup (AAC), recently held in Los Angeles, was a first-of-its-kind event in California celebrating some of the top autoflower in the country. Recognizing expertly bred and cultivated genetics in a category not often observed, the AAC sought to elevate the autoflower game by bringing together the best of the best.

The event was founded by Jeremy Norrie, a well-known fixture of the LA cannabis scene. Norrie’s events often shut down city blocks, with the Secret Cup and Chalice Festival becoming a go-to for canna-sseurs and newcomers. While in semi-retirement from event planning, Norrie and his partner considered doing another event centered around autoflower strains.

“I did some research, asking what people thought about it and where autoflower was at right now,” Norrie recalled when asked about his inspiration for the event.

He admits that a temperature check online was lukewarm at best but got the gears turning within.

“I got mixed responses—mostly negative, actually. And that made me kind of interested because the positive responses were very confident.”

Norrie thought back to another time when he was ahead of the times, compelling him even further.

“When I first started in the hash industry, I began with BHO, and everyone hated us,” he explained. “It was very similar feeling with autoflower, so it became interesting to me.”

marijuana event recaps man smoking joint
American Autoflower Cup

By launching the first autoflower contest in California, Norrie went out on a limb, but by all accounts, he hit a home run that could easily see a ripple effect across the country.
And while the American Autoflower Cup signified a historic leap for the category, it’s important to note the path that led to this point (feel free to skip the next section if you consider yourself an autoflower expert!).

Jeremy Interview Link:

marijuana event recaps man speaking
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

Autoflower Cannabis: A Primer

Sometimes referred to as the perennials of the weed world, autoflower strains do not rely on a ratio of dark and light periods, instead moving from vegetative to flower periods based on age. The varieties got their name because they flower automatically, unlike cannabis sativa and indica varieties that are photoperiod sensitive.

Autoflower genetics originated in the ruderalis variety of cannabis, native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. With colder temperatures and long periods of darkness, the ruderalis species evolved to survive what most landrace strains couldn’t bear. The subspecies developed an autoflower gene to ensure reproduction, even in harsh environmental conditions.

Since ruderalis cannabis is low in THC, modern autoflower varieties result from crossing these genetics with higher potency strains; today, autoflower regularly tests over 20% THC (test results in the AAC saw some entries test over 29% THC!).

Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

“The science has been progressing slowly, over the last, say, 15 years,” Norrie said of the evolution of the autoflower subspecies. “Over the last, say, decade, it’s really advanced, to where at certain parts of the world, it’s become competitive.”

Bill Levers, one half of the legacy grower and independent cannabis media juggernaut Beard Bros Pharms, explained the autoflower phenomenon from the unofficial VIP section of the AAC, where judges and influencers seshed the night away:

“Autoflowering cannabis varieties have come a long way from when Neville Schoenmaker began breeding ruderalis into classic cannabis strains in the 70s. Back then, they had a difficult time stabilizing the crosses. But today, the market for auto-flowering cannabis varieties has matured, with breeders from the world’s biggest seed banks using ruderalis genetics to create other auto-flowering varieties of many classic photoperiod strains.

“Thanks to this new experimentation with ruderalis genetics, the original concerns about the potency and yields of auto-flowering varieties have been mostly overcome. Today, top-shelf auto-flowering strains from trusted seed producers are considered by many to be almost as good as regular photoperiod strains.”

Levers, a frequent judge of cannabis competitions, added that the AAC was a breath of fresh air for the space as it represents something new and different—an industry’s evolution.

Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

“Personally, I am thrilled to see events like this happening. In my opinion, auto-flowering varieties are fantastic for new cultivators and experienced home growers alike. I believe things like the American Autoflower Cup will help increase the visibility of these genetics and make cannabis more accessible to a wider audience.”

The Road to the American Autoflower Cup

Once Norrie secured the right partners to produce the American Autoflower Cup, it was game on. He immediately began spreading the word, inviting growers and breeders to submit their high-quality buds while simultaneously building an elite judging panel.

The judges who signed on represent various facets of the cannabis culture, from cultivation to business.

Famed cultivators Joey Burger, Daniel Morford, and @sincerelycali represented the growers, while Nick Bradley and Jenny-Beth Dills spoke for the industry side. Influencer Jessica Russo aka Pothead Princess offered a consumer perspective. And while organizer Norrie was also named a judge, he decided to have his longtime friend Eric Cooley pinch hit for true blind testing.

“My friend started losing his vision in our 20s. Now he is legally blind,” Norrie explained. “I went with his scores for smell and experience and then I scored the looks, and we kind of did a joint thing on the effect for the end result.”

Judge Nick Bradley, a longtime collaborator of Norrie’s, was immediately interested in seeing the potential autoflower has, having first tried the subspecies in Holland a decade ago.

“When I was first In Amsterdam around 2013, autoflower strains were really prevalent in the coffee shops,” Bradley said. “So it’s really cool just to see the progression and how far the gene pool has come.”

marijuana event recaps man smoking joint
American Autoflower Cup

Nick Bradley Interview Link:

By the time the event was set, a total of 21 entries were submitted, five of which failed the full panel R&D lab testing and were disqualified. All products were subject to testing at a verified lab in addition to vetting by the expert judge panel. Buds were critiqued on their overall appearance, color, structure, aroma, flavor, smokeability, and of course, effects.

marijuana event racaps jars of cannabis
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

When asked what stood out among the entries, Bradley said there were clear winners from the jump. He also was struck by a commonality between flavor profiles.

“One thing that I did notice that was kind of unique, was a lot of these auto flowers had a very similar terpene profile, similar to how the cherry pheno kind of came out in the first CBD strains that we saw in the recreational side,” Bradley noted. “We weren’t seeing a lot of the orange citrus that you get in a lot of sativas; I was getting a lot of apple and lychee—those lighter, real fresh notes.”

Dills agreed that specific samples were clearly a cut above the rest and was impressed overall by the leaders.

“All in all, autoflowers have come a long way,” she said. “I was surprised by the quality a number of samples had.”

After a number of seshes, smoking, smelling, tasting, and inspecting the individual buds, the judges submitted their scores. But whose autoflower reigned supreme?

marijuana-event-recap-people at table of cannabis products
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

The Main Event: AAC Meets Green Street

In downtown LA, the stage was set. Green Street, a hip cannabis-friendly event space and office building, was bustling the night of the American Autoflower Cup awards.

A throng of attendees lined up early, not wanting to miss a moment of the action. Once in the building, guests were ushered upstairs, the smell of cannabis smoke wafting through the elevator shaft. It was a non-stop party every moment as joint after joint was lit.

Wandering across the 7th floor of the iconic Green Street building on the night of the AAC awards presented a kaleidoscopic view of the culture. At one end, attendees rolled up and talked shop while enjoying the entertainment from afar. Meandering back toward the main event, you could grab a snack, play some NBA Jam or ping-pong, or enjoy offerings from a vast array of exhibitors.

marijuana event recaps people standing in line
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

There were plenty of dabs courtesy of Rosin Tech Labs, who had a number of Focus Carta 2 devices on hand at their table. Haggard Extracts sampled their renowned diamonds and sauce, while DeLaCreme Extracts offered hot hits off the rig with a side of their flavorful gummy confections.

When asked why they decided to participate in the American Autoflower Cup, there were two central answers: a belief in autoflowers and respect for what Norrie has accomplished.

“The very first Secret Cup in Los Angeles was at my house,” said Tony, founder of DeLaCreme Extracts, calling Norrie a longtime friend and pointing to his passion for the culture as the main reason DeLaCreme continues to support his endeavors. “He provides community-driven events, not a corporate MJBizCon.”

marijuana event recaps people at table dabbing
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

It was a similar story across the room.

“Jeremy’s been in the industry a long time and was kind enough to have us out,” said Matt Grazko of extraction equipment manufacturer Across International. “It all stems from great relationships, and we’re here trying to do great things while having some fun.”

Over at the Mr. Nice Seeds table, the team was more than happy to participate in the event that aligned with their mission.

“We are here because we believe in the autoflowers,” a rep named John said. “We’ve been reproducing and creating new autoflower genetics for 17 years. It’s a big night.”

Guests were treated to sick beats courtesy of a DJ, complemented by two sets from singer-songwriter Kennedy Williams. Hosts Adam Ill and Angela Mazzanti kept the vibe going, offering giveaways to the crowd throughout the night in addition to the coveted trophies to the top three entrants in each category.

Many industry veterans in the room said the entertainment was among the best they had ever seen at a cannabis event, a true testament to Norrie’s expertise in curating an experience.

marijuana-event-recap people playing trumpet
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

After a few hours of dancing, dabbing, and dank conversation, it was time to announce who had taken top honors.

The Big Winners

Anticipation was at a fever pitch when co-host Angela Mazzanti announced the top honors. Trophies (and robust prize packs) were given out to the top three entries for sativa and indica, while best breeder was a solo affair.

And the winners are:

Sativa Category:

1st place – Strain: Fast Buds Strawberry Gorilla, Grower: Freegrow8

2nd place – Strain: Fast Buds Gorilla Punch, Grower: James Z.
3rd place – Strain: Twenty20 Durban Sunrise, Seedbank: Twenty20, Grower: Adam

Indica Category:

1st place – Strain: Fast Buds Banana Purple Punch, Grower: Dereck S.l
2nd place – Strain: Master Sensei Genetics Alien Smoothie, Grower: Russ H.
3rd place- Strain: Night Owl Marathon OG, Grower: Maxwell Pharms

Best breeder: Mephisto Genetics

To be honored at the first autoflower competition in California is a notable feat, setting the bar high for future contests. The historic moment was often emotional, with many top contenders expressing immense gratitude.

Grower Ryan G., also known as Freegrow8, was beyond humbled by his first-place win for Best Sativa. Taking home the award for the Strawberry Gorilla strain by Fast Buds was meaningful for the cultivator in myriad ways, affirming his path in a serendipitous manner.

“I’m speechless; I’m very thankful. This is my first cannabis award,” he said, adding that the honor came on his daughter’s birthday and two days before his 40th. “It’s surreal.”

Ryan G. later revealed he had owned a restaurant before beginning his cultivation career. Like many in his industry, COVID wreaked havoc on the company’s books, and while it was tragic at the time, he believes the struggle happened for a reason.

“I was forced to sell my business when I didn’t really want to. But thank God that he put me on this path. The whole world had to do like a complete 360 for me to change careers and to be in this position.”

marijuana event recaps jars of cannabis
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

Freegrow8 Interview Link:

marijuana event recaps first place winner Free Grow 8Freegrow-8
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

Grower Derrick S.I. (aka Good_Buddy_Flowers), also found his sweet spot growing autoflowers and was thrilled to win first place in the indica category for Fast Buds’ Banana Purple Punch.

“I still feel like I’m on cloud 9,” he said via text from Japan. “I started growing this plant as a hobby and it quickly became a passion. Autoflowers are starting to become some of the best genetics you can get and some of my favorite strains that I’ve grown have been autoflowers from Fast Buds.”

Sofia Denning, U.S. manager of Mephisto Genetics was stunned by the company’s Best Breeder award, saying the team’s hard work and passion for the plant is what led to the achievement.

“It’s an honor,” Denning said of taking home the trophy. “It’s the definition of hard work, dedication, and putting your whole heart into something that you really care about. Our founders, they started from nothing—I’m really proud.”

She went on to say that being recognized in the category was especially memorable, understanding the unique and nuanced nature of the space.

“It’s always a remarkable feeling to accept any type of reward for doing something that is notable, especially in a Growers and Breeders community,” Denning exclaimed. “Breeding takes time, an immense desire to learn, and patience. Knowing that all breeders and growers go through the same emotions and dedication produces humbleness.”

Sofia Interview Link:

marijuana event recaps 1st place winner.
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

Examining the lab test results, many of the entries tested over 20% THC with some almost reaching 30%. Myrcene and caryophyllene were the dominant terpenes, but limonene and terpinolene were the leads on a couple of entries. Limonene and humulene numbers were also considerable.

For the judges, the awards were well deserved and ushered in a new era for autoflower genetics.

“There’s so many different seed companies, so many different clones available, and all the dispensaries—autoflowers have kind of been left aside,” Bradley noted. “It’s really exciting to see that there are people still dedicated to really growing really good products.”

Norrie agreed, seeing the awards as kicking off an autoflower renaissance.

“It’s kind of a unique subject matter that nobody really knows that much about—but people showed up, they were passionate, the learning was there,” Norrie observed. “I think we’re christening a new generation of autoflower in the United States.”

For Derrick S.I., the AAC was a major step forward for the genetics he has dedicated himself to.

“I thought it was great to let autoflowers shine!” he exclaimed. “I felt like this competition leveled the playing field.”

Grower Ryan G. was thrilled to see a competition for autoflowers, saying he’ll definitely enter again next time.

“It’s very cool to see autoflowers finally getting the recognition they deserve,” he said. “I’ll be back every year!”

Ryan G Interview Link:

marijuana event recaps two guys
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

American Autoflower Cup: Here to Stay

By all accounts, the inaugural American Autoflower Cup was a rousing success. Blending legacy cannabis with modern appeal, the contest and awards were a rare breed in that they honored the culture’s heritage with the industry’s future.

“This event had an authenticity that is missing from other events—I’m very proud of that,” Norrie said. “The old legacy aspect of cannabis was felt, with farmers being recognized—these are people who have legitimate achievements, not just social media followers.

“It was also unique because it blended different perspectives and cultures,” Norrie added. “There was an international feel to this event that hasn’t really been a part of all of my other events. I think it really sets a classy vibe that represents the new era of cannabis.”

marijuana event recaps guy and girl with trophies
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

The team at Mephisto sang the event’s praises, noting a perfect execution with high vibes all night.

“The event was a blast, to say the least,” Denning proclaimed. “It united high-class specialists, both growers and breeders of the cannabis industry, to be recognized. The event was well organized, presenting a good flow. I believe that the goal of planning and executing the vision of the event with innovation and tribute left an outstanding impression on all guests.”

Ryan G., who said the AAC was his first cannabis event in LA, recieved a warm welcome from everyone at the event.

“I was blown away by the community—the overall feedback has been unreal.”

marijuana event recaps people at table
Photo Credit: American Autoflower Cup

The American Autoflower Cup reinvigorated Norrie’s passion for events, saying the response from attendees has inspired him to kick off a new chapter.

“I had numerous people that have been to many of my events, some of the ones that are 30,000 people, some of the ones that were the most special to me. And they felt the same way that I feel: that this is a new beginning,” Norrie said of the response, who added the AAC injected new life and perspective into his work.

When asked what’s next for AAC, Norrie said there’s definitely more to come. And while he couldn’t make any official announcements just yet, he encouraged people across the country (especially on the East and West coasts) to stay tuned.

“The AAC was like a rebirth of events—a phoenix rising again. We set a new milestone—I think the future is bright.”

Share Skunk Magazine With Your Friends

© 2022 Skunk Magazine. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.